One Simple Habit that Elevates Leaders

A friend of mine, who knows I interview top leadership experts from around the world, asked, “Had any great interviews lately?”

I told him about a call from Buenos Aires and a conversation with Claudio Fernández-Aráoz.

yellow flower

I told him the title of Claudio’s recent book “It’s Not the How or the What but the Who.”

I was ready to share what I learned from one of the world’s top talent experts. But he didn’t ask and I didn’t say.

Any fool can ask the first question; wise leaders ask the second.


Perhaps he thought he already understood the importance of getting the right people on the team. Maybe he was too busy or didn’t know how to ask the second question.

I feel sad, not just for him but for me.

How many times have I moved forward in blissful ignorance because I didn’t adopt the second-question habit?

You stood face to face with pivotal opportunities and missed them because you didn’t ask the second question.

5 reasons we stop with first questions:

  1. Image protection. We don’t want to look like we have something to learn.
  2. Time pressure. We don’t have time to gain wisdom.
  3. Curiosity deficit. We just aren’t curious.
  4. Respect shortage. The person talking is “below” us. They’re younger, less successful, or less experienced.
  5. Self importance. Big headitis destroys leaders.

No one makes you wise.

Second questions:

  1. What are you learning? — How are you changing because of what you’re learning?
  2. What are you doing? — What’s important to you about that?
  3. What problems are you solving? — How are you solving them?
  4. What frustrations are you feeling? — How are you solving your frustrations?
  5. What’s working for you? — What have you done to produce success? 

What heights might you reach if you adopt the second-question habit?

What second questions elevate leaders?

How can leaders develop the second-question habit?

Want to elevate your leadership? Claudio Fernández-Aráoz is speaking at the World Business Forum in NYC on Oct. 7-8. Use the discount code: LEADERFRK for a $200 discount on registration.