Why asking questions could make you a great leader
Source: World Economic Forum
Most of us can agree on some of the qualities that define great business leaders. The best leaders are decisive, inspirational, and insightful. They’re practical, but also capable of taking the risks necessary for success.
Yet, there is another trait that is shared by the world’s most innovative CEOs that do not fit easily into our common perceptions of leadership: curiosity.
“For 30 years I’ve tried to figure out how great leaders do their work exceptionally well,” says Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center. “I found they were all exceptional at asking better questions — questions that are catalytic, that transform something from what is to what in a very amazing way might be.”
Asking questions has always played a role in leadership, but it’s more vital than ever in today’s fast-changing digital landscape, says Gregersen, who is also a senior lecturer in innovation and leadership at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Only by asking the right questions can leaders achieve innovation, which he calls “pivotal” to success.
His newest book, “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life,” to be published later this year by HarperCollins, dives deep into active questioning, one of five skills highlighted in his prior best-selling book, “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators” (co-authored with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen and Brigham Young University’s Jeff Dyer). Based on research interviews with over 200 of the world’s most innovative leaders in business, technology, government, and social enterprises, Gregersen found that great questions have a catalytic quality — that is, they dissolve barriers to creative thinking and channel the pursuit of solutions into new, accelerated pathways. Often, the moment they are voiced, they have the paradoxical effect of being utterly surprising yet instantly obvious.