The great scientist and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Einstein stated, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the right question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
In my experience, there is no ‘cookbook’ that I know of to teach individuals how to become leaders. There is, however, much material extolling the need to be leaders and the behaviors associated with leadership. We tell people that they need to become leaders and set examples for others, but how does one achieve the goal of leadership that we set for them? How does one know if they are a leader? If they are utilizing the right skills? Who actually determines the guidelines for leadership?
Leadership can be complicated, but my mission has been clear from the beginning. I believe that when determining guidelines to leadership you should begin with teaching people how to ask the right questions – not providing answers. Thus, asking questions is the primary skill of leadership.
They must also develop a true understanding of the real work of leaders. Those who have made it their life’s work to study leadership often remark that enabling others to succeed and thrive is the true mark of the leader. If this is the case, then how do we empower our employees to feel successful in their work? You do this by creating an inclusive environment where their opinions are solicited and valued, in other words, you ask questions.
How do I begin to help leaders develop their skills in asking the right questions? The search can be quite straightforward. I advise the small business person or entrepreneur to begin their search at the most logical place:
- Scrutinize those areas of his or her business environment that he or she would like to address;
- Conduct surveys with anyone who touches his or her business – clients, customers, managers, employees, etc.; and
- Study the avenues open to inquiry
But, more on this later.
This is a start which should allow you to create questions – pertinent questions — that will get to the depth of any issues that are requiring change. Voltaire and I agree, you should, “judge a man (or woman) by his questions rather than his answers.”