Good leaders challenge, inspire, and guide others, great leaders learn from them.
From Steve Jobs to Richard Branson, some of the greatest entrepreneurs have cited the power of pointed questions as critical to their success.
To quote Carl Sagan, “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.”
Rejoice inquisitive minds, you are the world’s future great leaders.
Here are 7 reasons why people who love asking questions make awesome leaders:
1. They Can Empathize
At its core, leadership requires emotional intelligence and empathy- you have to understand others to lead them. People who love asking questions have a thirst to better relate to those around them. This demonstrated empathy allows you to learn people’s strengths and weaknesses, which in turn allows you to put them in the best position to succeed.
2. They Aren’t Afraid to Get Help
When Steve Job was 12, he personally called Bill Hewett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, and asked for spare parts for a frequency counter. Hewett not only agreed to send him the parts, but gave him a summer job at HP assembling frequency counters.
“I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help,” said Jobs.
The willingness to ask for help that gave Jobs the nerve to look up Hewett’s name in the phonebook is evident throughout his time at Apple. From Woz to Jony Ive, Jobs always knew when to rely on extremely talented people to help him execute his vision.
There’s only so much you can do – even for Steve Jobs, it never hurts to ask.
3. They Never Stop Learning
If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Those who ask questions understand how critical it is to be a student of life. No matter how much information is accessible via our adjacent smartphones, the best way to learn anything is to just ask someone. Inquisitive minds are sponges that never stop soaking up the world around them.
Sound like an informed person that you’d want to lead you?
4. They Are Confident But Humble
To ask a question is to admit that you don’t know everything in the world that there is to know. But guess what? Nobody does.
Humble leaders that are willing to admit they aren’t all knowing deities don’t show weakness, they earn respect.
When you ask a question you actually end up displaying confidence that you are secure enough to admit there is something you don’t know.
5. They Are Able to Frame Problems (and solutions)
Albert Einstein once remarked that if he had an hour to solve a problem and his life depended on it; he’d spend the first 55 minutes determining the question to ask, because once he had the right question it would only take him five minutes to solve the problem.
There is a tremendous power in asking why? in order to get to the heart of a problem and determine what it is you are really trying to accomplish.
Innovation is born from leaders that understand how to look at problems differently by reframing them with questions.
6. They Are Great Listeners
Great leaders understand the breadth of insight gained from asking the right questions and truly listening to your team’s answers.
The first thing on Richard Branson’s blog list of 5 tips for starting a successful business was that you should listen more than you talk.
“Brilliant ideas can spring from the most unlikely places, so you should always keep your ears open for some shrewd advice,” writes Branson, ”This can mean following online comments as closely as board meeting notes, or asking the frontline staff for their opinions as often as the CEOs. Get out there, listen to people, draw people out and learn from them”
7. They Don’t Have Tunnel Vision
In leadership positions, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision based on your own perspective and the associated biases. Investigative questioning frees leaders from the siloed view of their own position by exposing them to other points of view.
Featured photo credit: Creative Commons via flickr.com