Sunday, March 9, 2008


Questioning is powerful. It is subversive, bold, and not always welcome. In years of working with business leaders, I have found the simple question why? to be an effective tool to fetter out assumptions and beliefs that need to be challenged, re-considered, dispelled, or retired. I am amazed by the number of times when asked why he/she did something in a certain way, I am told the person before me did it this way or it's just the way it is done around here, or simply, I don't know, I never thought about it. For me, this is a huge red flag because it tells that the person-in-charge has not thought for himself and does not really take ownership of what is being done. That person-in-charge is a disengaged, not-reflective conduit, more of a manager than a leader.

A leader is reflective. A leader is hyper-aware of what she is doing and how she came to make the decision that she made. A leader is aware of all of the perspectives that he has considered in reaching a plan. A leader uses the power of questioning to reach full, expansive decisions that are as void as possible of faulty assumptions and myopic thinking. A good leader uses the power of questioning to push himself and his team to new heights. A good leader welcomes being questioned because it creates space for reflecting, re-grouping, and re-committing oneself to a course of action.

Notice the questions being asked around you, of you, out of your earshot. Do they question authority? Do they question outcomes? Do they question assumptions and priorities? Do they question process? Notice what questions are there but not voiced. Notice who questions after the decision is rendered. Notice who never questions. Notice who is defensive upon being questioned, and who welcomes a question. Notice how elucidating noticing is. Why does your group behave like this? What is lost due to lack of questioning? What would be possible if everyone valued questioning?

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