The other day I was leading a meeting with our church staff.  Near the end of the meeting, I presented an idea of something that I thought we could possibly try as a church.  The idea was met with mixed reactions.  Some thought it was a great idea, others weren’t all that crazy about it and still others where in between.

As we sat around the table discussing the idea, and the varying opinions that came along with it, I had a moment of discovery.  I came to realize that I personally didn’t care about the idea as much as I did about the question that spurred on my idea.  I was looking for a great answer to my question but I failed to explicitly ask my team that question.

This got me thinking, when it comes to leading perhaps it’s better to lead with questions rather than ideas.

1. When you lead with an idea there are only two response.  Either, “That is a good idea;” or, “That is a bad idea.”  It creates little to no space for further discussion or for potentially better ideas to emerge.

2. When you lead with an idea it inhibits the creative process for others. When an idea is presented, people have little buy-in to the idea.  The idea was put together without them and they are simply being asked to either approve or disapprove.  In order to allow the creative process to flourish, good questions that stimulate thinking and creativity will draw people in, in order to find the best possible answer to the question at hand.

3. When you lead with questions you will be more successful.  Over the years I have come to find that I’m not always the smartest or most creative person at the table.  When drawing on the expertise of the entire team you are more apt to get a better solution than simply drawing one up on you own.

The result of our conversation was that everyone was shortchanged.  I was shortchanged by not having the experience in working with our team to answer my question.  The answer to my question was shortchanged because other potentially better ideas weren’t explored.  And our team was shortchanged in that they weren’t given the opportunity to really engage with the question behind my idea.

1. Where have you seen effective leading done with questions rather than ideas?
2. What else would you add to my list above?


One Response to “Leading through questions”

  1. Dan Martin

    Really good thoughts, Bryan. I don’t know that I have anything to add, but you are definitely onto an important leadership concept.


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