“Some leaders talk too much and listen too little”

I’ve had potential leaders tell me they could never be a good leader because they don’t like telling people what to do. Telling people what to do is more like what a boss does, not a leader. Great leaders ask questions before offering possible options. Good leaders respond to questions by making qualifying statements. Poor leaders have all the answers and seldom like their answers challenged.

During times of crisis or confusion, there is not time or opportunity to ask questions and have a discussion. Leaders need to provide answers and direction. However, if that is your prevailing leadership style, or at least your team’s perception, you cease being a leader and are now a boss. Correct this, or accept losing good people on a regular basis. Learn to ask questions and appreciate people’s answers.

Seven questions coaching-type great leaders like to ask:

1. Brief
2. Clear
3. Focused
4. Relevant
5. Constructive
6. Neutral
7. Open-ended

Seven types of questions all leaders should be asking:

1. Factual – How many?
2. Explanatory – Tell why?
3. Justifying – Says whom?
4. Leading – Is there more information I need?
5. Hypothetical – What if?
6. Summary – Is this the bottom line?
7. Alternative – Would you rather do something else?

Three suggestions to remember when asking questions:

1. Give them time to think. Silence is often golden.
2. Inform them of the consequences before they answer.
3. When you finish asking the questions, stop the monologue and listen with your heart and your head.

One key sign of a great leader is they keep asking questions until their team discovers their own answers. It’s called maturing future leaders. Poor leaders constantly defend their own biases, which are usually uninformed and many times irrelevant statements that confuse and demoralize their team.

Great leadership is not about having all the answers, but encouraging people to think on their own and develop maturity in building relational and operational equity. Fast food and fast answers are both unhealthy and create long-term problems.

How healthy is your leadership? Not sure? If you’re mature enough, ask the person in the mirror. If you’re brave enough, ask your team. If you’re ready to change, listen to both.