Leadership Perspective: Reverse Paradigms, Having All the Answers versus Asking Good Questions

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. – Voltaire



Transformational Leaders Lead with Good Questioning Skills

In Monday’s blog post this week, Leadership Skills: Transparency  I started sharing ideas about how transparency creates trust and also allows team members to function at a high level.

If the leader has all the answers and claims to be the only one with the right answers, it shuts down group energy and engagement. Mentoring leaders on teams to grow their skill is empowerment.

In other posts, I have written about listening skills and questioning skills. Asking good questions is an art, as well as a skill. The other part of questioning is listening carefully to answers and observing how people respond to the questions. Asking questions allows the leader to have insight into how people think, how they solve problems, and how they work together. Ask, listen, and then observe. That’s leadership.

Answering the questions yourself is a form of over-functioning. The reciprocity of over-functioning is under-functioning. The more the leader does, mostly with good intentions, the more under-functioning will occur in others. This is the single most troubling topic new clients share with me – the claim that the team does not accomplish what’s expected. Most of these leaders are totally unaware that they have set up this situation.

Here are my points to master in setting this dynamic of being sure that your team is right:

  1. Define and share values and principles: Be sure that everyone is using the same rule of measurement. Define the principles for making decisions that benefit the organization. Core values are the foundation, and principles are the guidelines for functioning.
  2. Define guiding principles for yourself: Management of self is the key to top-level leadership. If you want to change how others behave and function, begin by changing yourself. Others respond to what you do.
  3. Learn to listen: Most of the time, we as leaders talk too much. Observe, listen, think, and pause before responding. It’s amazing how powerful a leadership tool that is! Listening is a top-level leadership skill.
  4. Let others learn from their mistakes: Mentoring is different from micromanaging. Allow people to learn from small mistakes and then they are able to make bigger decisions. Delegation is multiplying your work.
  5. Learn to affirm: Many times we assume that others know how we feel about them and about their accomplishments. Be intentional about celebrating success and affirming people – be authentic and affirm what is true.

Invest in others and they will invest in you and your vision.


Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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