I am sure you have met leaders who have a better answer to any and every question you ask and know a better solution to any problem you can come up with. Their answer is always the right one and their solution always the best. I certainly have met my fair share of folks like that. I must also confess that I have been that kind of leader more often than I would like to admit. That kind of attitude shows a closed mind and unwillingness to listen to other people’s opinions. Unfortunately, knowing all the answers doesn’t make for good leadership and can seriously limit one’s influence.
The Alternative: Asking Questions
The problem is that we all have an opinion and can provide answers and solutions. A better way to lead is hold our answers for a while and ask questions instead. Here are three reasons why I believe it is much better to ask questions than to provide answers – even when we have the right one (or think we do).
Asking questions displays humility. When you ask a question, especially an honest, open-ended one, you send a powerful unspoken message to those you are communicating with, that their opinion matters and you are willing to listen.
Asking questions values the other. The simple fact that you are willing to listen implies that the other person has something to say to you, and that their opinion is at least as valuable as yours. We all want to be valued and heard. That is empowering.
Asking question doubles the chances of success. Pragmatically speaking, two heads thing better than one. When you ask questions and looks for other answers than your own, you unlock the power of synergy, where two (or more) minds thinking of the same problem become much more than the sum of the parts.
Of course, there is a very important aspect of this leadership style that we cannot overlook. When you ask questions, you must be willing to listen to the answers with an open mind and willingness to change your own thinking when necessary. That is when your humility is really displayed, the other person is really valued and your chances of success becomes real.
How about giving it a try? The next time you have a leadership interaction, hold your answers back, ask questions, and listen. Then watch as God uses you to help His Kingdom come and His will be done on Earth as it is done in Heaven.