Why Good Leaders Ask Great Questions
I used to get really irritated when my Dad asked me questions. I’m not talking about questions like how was school today? or what’s your favorite kind of ice-cream? I’m talking about those make-you-think-and-dig-deep soul searching kind of questions. Questions that challenge me and hold me accountable. Questions that make me really think. Questions that stretch me and make me grow.
In my moments of exasperated frustration, my Dad responded with this: “Emily, I ask questions because I care. I care about you. The second I stop asking questions isn’t a good sign because that would mean I just don’t care anymore.”
That sparked a turning point for me, shifting my perspective on questions—both the questions people ask and the questions I ask myself and those around me.
Questions build relationships with others. Have you ever heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”? If questions show that I care, and people don’t care how much I know until they know how much I care, then questions are perhaps one of the strongest—if not the strongest—pathways for connecting with people.
Questions are the foundation for self-care. Recently on BecomingMe.TV, Chelsea shared how self-care isn’t selfish:
There are a thousand reasons I’m thankful for counseling and I never would’ve had the opportunity to find that kind of health if it hadn’t been for others’ self-care. Because other people want to take every limit off in order to be used by God, they ask the hard questions, they get honest and they care for their hearts and souls. Their self-care gave me the chance to prioritize my own. It’s since given me the opportunity to lead others down the same path too. Self-care isn’t selfish. It is kind of like a gift that keeps on giving…you never know the kind of change and impact it’s making. Sometimes I still have doubts about whether or not I have what it takes and if I matter, and on my worst days, I wonder if I really mean anything to the people around me. But I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years about how to fight for myself, heart and soul, and in that how to fight for others as well. (Read Chelsea’s full post here)
Did you catch how Chelsea described those who helped ignite her own self-care journey? They ask the hard questions, they get honest and they care for their hearts and souls. To truly care for ourselves, we must ask ourselves questions.
Questions help us take ownership of our becoming journey. When we take the time to ask questions, we’re searching for information, knowledge, something new, confirmation, and direction. When we ask others questions, we’re taking ownership in our relationships by showing that we care and investing in those around us. When we ask ourselves questions, we’re choosing to own our stories by getting to know ourselves, why we do what we do, and intentionally thinking through the next steps in front of us.
Questions helps us get to know God. If we ask other people questions to show we care and to get to know them, why wouldn’t we ask God questions too? There are so many things about God that I don’t understand—how did Mary have a baby when she was a virgin? How did Noah get two of every single kind of animal on a boat? Why do bad things happen? Why doesn’t everything always work out how I hope, dream and plan? When I wrestle through questions with God, I get to know Him more and my trust in Him deepens. I may not always gain a concrete answer, but I always concretely discover that He is good, He can be trusted and He is with me.
Questions determine the direction you’re going. If leadership is influence, you are a leader. We all have influence whether we realize it or not—the question is what are we doing with the influence we have? Every decision we make impacts someone watching and ultimately impacts our own becoming journey. I was always taught that “without information you can’t make an informed decision”. In understanding and embracing this truth, I’ve discovered the direct impact the questions I’m asking (or not asking) have on the direction I’m headed. Questions help me gain information I didn’t previously have and set a clear path forward. Questions invite clarity and intentional living to take root in my life as I become who God made me to be. Questions help me lead myself and others well.
Good leaders ask great questions because they shape our worldview—how we view others, how we view ourselves, how we choose to own or not own our stories, and how we take each next step in front of us. Questions help us discover what matters most and ultimately help us become who God made us to be.
To dive deeper into why good leaders ask great questions, check out John Maxwell’s book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions!
Author: Emily B. Cummins
Emily Cummins is a University of Florida & College of Central Florida grad who is passionate about partnering with people to become who they were made to be. Emily is the Online Campus Pastor at Church of Hope in Ocala, Florida. She’s passionate about storytelling, good cups of coffee, and jamming to country music. And most importantly, she’s passionately pursuing becoming the woman God made her to be.