How to Avoid Dangerous Questions and Become a Real Leader

Look for leaders with forward-facing curiosity.

“The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions.”  Peter Drucker

The right questions:

  1. Confront wrong thinking. Search for root causes, not just symptoms.
  2. Explore commitments. On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you?
  3. Begin with what or how.
  4. Move from the big picture to the small.

A truly dangerous question:

Why aren’t we achieving our goals?

Smart people become dimwits when leaders ask why-questions. They don’t know the answer. If they did, they’d be doing it. It’s not likely they have enough information to answer such a broad ambiguous question.

People’s minds shift toward blame when managers ask why something isn’t working.

Use ‘why questions’ when exploring purpose or broken processes. Other than that, begin questions with what and how.

Powerful questions:

  1. What is the goal?
  2. Why does this goal matter?
  3. How would you know if you reached your goal?
  4. If someone saw you working to achieve this goal, what would they see you doing? (Get to behaviors or nothing will happen.)

A question at the leadership table:

What are the people around this table doing to ensure that we reach this goal?

The answer to the question isn’t, “We’re sitting in this room having a meeting.” Real work happens before and after meetings, not in them.

Leaders who avoid responsibility blame others for their own incompetence.

Modeling behaviors that achieve goals is the difference between leadership and blabbership. Anyone can proclaim, “Our goal is a 10% increase in sales.” What must “I” do is the first step toward real leadership.

Focus on behaviors, not ambiguous numbers.

What are some useful leadership questions?