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January 19, 2022

You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers to Be a Good Leader


Whether or not you’ve spent some quality-time with a child as of late, you’re likely familiar with the “why” game. No matter the topic at hand, the adult shares information and the child responds with “why?”—it can be a never-ending and sometimes maddening exchange. Still, it does serve an important purpose in development for both children and in the workplace as well.

Even the most skilled leaders can benefit from taking the time to understand why “why” matters, and the importance of asking questions and getting feedback. Questions drive understanding and smart problem solving while also revealing the all-important context that informs decision making. Before you can solve a business problem or achieve a goal, you have to understand what the situation is. Asking questions is the best way to come at a problem from varied perspectives:

  • Is this really a problem or just the symptom?
  • What else could be behind this? Contributing to this?
  • What are the other stakeholders going to ask? Going to be concerned with?

Leaders Rarely Have All the Answers

You’re limiting your effectiveness if you problem solve from assumptions or just the information at hand. And, rarely do good leaders have all the answers. Good leaders are comfortable saying “I don’t know” and then:

  • Asking questions to gather more data and to test the data they have
  • Asking questions to get a variety of perspectives
  • Engaging other smart people in developing the best answers
  • Creating input mechanisms for frequent, two-way communication

It’s a trap in business that leaders think that they should have all the answers or that they do have all the answers. Encouraging dialogue not only helps gather information and ideas that help find answers, it engages employees in the process.

Asking questions also serves another important purpose—it helps us know ourselves. Good leaders know that how well we understand ourselves has a profound impact on our ability to navigate in the social realm. In some areas we know ourselves well; in others, we are biased. Part of asking questions also is about getting feedback about yourself—whether through informal conversations or more prescriptive diagnostic tools; knowing change begins and ends with you.

How are you doing when it comes to engaging employees in dialogue and asking questions to understand, make smart decisions, and get to know yourself better?

—David Grossman

Armed with these 15 practical tips, you’ll be able to increase employee feedback, enhance collaboration, increase productivity and then reap the benefits. Click the image below to download your free tip sheet today!


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