Saturday, June 1, 2013

An Inquisitive Leader: Leading by Asking

The Future Of Leaders Lead by Asking.  –Peter Drucker

The business and world becomes over-complex and hyper-dynamic, how can leaders become more comfortable and confident in asking questions rather than giving answers?  As in many, if not most instances, there is a perception that leaders "should" be the most experienced and thus have all of the answers.  That's a fallacy. Confidence comes from being comfortable in your role as a leader, acknowledging that your job as a leader is NOT to provide answers but facilitate solutions.

  1. Why Should Leaders Ask Good Questions 

During the leadership interaction, disagreements will arise naturally. So asking questions means you truly want to know the answers and there is a certain honesty about it which propels you forward as a leader, so you become a leader when you are already comfortable and confident with questions. While in reality, when leaders don't know the answers, they sometimes go silent and stop communicating, much to the detriment of team engagement, it is partly due to the fact that many leaders' success is based on expertise and so the thought of not having the answer can be quite threatening.

  • Effective leaders want to understand the issue, so they ask. Leaders are great thinkers, visionaries, and analyzer of the situation. They will always ask questions to people around them, get views of everybody, learn about the subject when necessary and then use their leadership qualities to resolve the situation or make decisions which would be appreciated by everybody. Only when they see and understand the problem from the other person's perspective, are they able to give an answer that makes sense to the team.  
  • Effective leaders always ask tough questions It is almost like confusing true leadership with position or rank as they need input from a variety of sources before making decisions. Leaders could gain MORE trust and respect by asking the tough questions. By doing so, the team feels that the leader is interested in helping get the work done, The more interactive the conversations can be, the more valued everyone feels.  
  • Effective leaders ask by looking for options: Third, leaders may be inflexible about the goal but they are extremely flexible with the strategy for attaining that goal. They will embrace different strategies if they will get to the goal quicker and more effectively. As a result, they are always looking for options and the only way to discover options is to ask.  

2.    How to Help Leaders get Better at Asking

A leader asking better questions can be perceived as assessing the ability of the asked when the leader is attempting only to understand a visionary opportunity. This is where a leader must exercise their cognitive and sociological sensitivity when asking better questions. For some, this is a natural approach. For others, it is a matter of practice. They need to see that they do not lose respect by not having all the answers but rather are able to knit together a higher functioning team. This is also related to the ability to delegate effectively

  • There are two things that help leaders get better at asking. One is to have an understanding of why this is important. That includes understanding something about the benefits of thinking through problems, identifying solutions that can work and verbalize actions that will lead to goals. And even more importantly, it includes helping leaders trust the people they wish to lead and make an objective decision via the state, ask, decide, act approach. 
  • The attitude behind the questions is also very important. Is the attitude behind questioning of seeking involvement? Whether it is sincere enough of respecting co-workers knowledge & inviting contributions? True leaders have a lot of sincerity behind their questions, developed with a lot of patience & practice. 
  • Practice is always a good idea. So, practice asking questions and being quiet for a while, get input before providing opinions and listen before you speak. All good qualities of leadership  require practice, some practical tools, and ideas. Even five examples of questions that can work in a variety of situations can be extremely useful. (What do you think might work? Tell me more about your situation. What’re your most concerns about this?) These can be used by leaders to get them into the practice of asking rather than answering. Then the more they ask, the better they get at it and the most refined they can make their questions. 
  • 5W+1H Inquiry Navigation: Start with why questions, as why questions lead to people sharing their opinions. When they have a staff meeting and there are actions that need to be accomplished, they ask:
    - What needs to be done?
    - Who is responsible for what?
    - When will you begin working on this?
    - What resources do you need to be successful?
    - When will it be completed?
    - How will you measure success?
    - How will you provide feedback (to the leader, group, customer or?)
    - How will continuous improvement be accomplished?  

 3. Questions and answers are two Sides of the Same Coin 

It's not a matter of whether you should ask or tell more. It's important to do what is right in a situation; discussing things as appropriate. That way you maintain a professional integrity that works to control questions on your authority or gratification with power.
  • The Paradox of Asking vs. Answering: There is a real political effect that occurs in social organizations. Part of this is representing the vision and operation of the business. It's just human nature that many people have an initial reaction to questions like these. The asking can come across as weakness, confusion, and desperation for leadership. On the other hand, people are just as inclined to deny absolute authority to those in positions of leadership to them. Just because they are in that position, doesn't always mean they necessarily know what is best 
  • All leaders need to ask questions, but they also need to assist in providing answers. Good leaders will do both naturally. Confidence comes through experience. So make sure you ask good questions that elicit the best out of your employees. True leaders have always been intrigued and they have always asked questions - to themselves, to circumstances, to books, to experiences, and to other fellow people. A good attitude of a leader should aspire to confidence in both asking questions and giving answers rather equally 
  • Improve Leadership Maturity: How can those in authority evolve from their current ego-centric sense of self toward developing a greater (more human) sense of self? In doing so, coupled with the development of their critical thinking ability, all of these wonderful ideas like caring about the development of others, listening & developing trust, respecting others, engaging the minds of others...etc will naturally emerge. How can all of us learn that answers are not ends, but the means for greater inquiry? If there are no questions, there will be no answers. The more we question, the more we know, we learn and thereafter we teach and spread our learning.  
Future leaders need to become more comfortable and confident in asking questions. Think one of the fundamental capacities of a leader, with or without role authority, is that they are open learners, meaning that are willing to engage the ambiguity of the context in service of what contributes to the long-term health of the system. Since curiosity is a natural aspect of learning, confidence in asking questions would be one measure of one's capacity to learn. Asking questions tells us that we are still curious, still willing to learn, which is one of the characteristics of effective leaders at the age of information abundance.


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