The stereotype of a successful leader is somebody with plenty of confidence about what he or she is doing, a person strong enough not to require too much assistance and certainly not someone who is vulnerable. In a distinction between people who ask and answer questions, you would almost certainly go for somebody with a ready set of answers to challenges you have at hand. For Robert Kaplan, who is a professor at Harvard School of Business, nothing could be further from the truth than the above description.
Basing his judgment on years of experiences as a corporate training and leadership training expert, he considers the ability to ask the right questions a much more effective tactic for executives in today's uncertain reality. The best leaders he met during his professional career seemed to be exactly the people who knew how to frame the debate by foregrounding relevant questions rather than those who were quick to instruct others on how to do things. His recent book titled “What to ask the man in the mirror” is a critical look at the kind of queries that top managers need to ask themselves and those around them to reach the full potential and drive the success of their company.
It seems that certain questions have a funny way of coming up again and again in the course of running the business and it is essential to be able to identify in which situations they can generate new energy for the company. They are needed to take a step back and diagnose the problem, as well as to stimulate the team to think about solutions on their own rather than relying on outside answers. This different approach recognizes that posing questions can have an inspiring effect on how the business is run.
What are some of these questions, according to this Harvard-affiliated leadership training experts? One key point that some executives fail to bring to the center has to do with identifying the critical priorities that are to inform the company. More often than not, as businesses evolve in response to fast-changing landscapes, managers are no longer focusing on things they should focus on. Bringing up this question can go a long way towards re-framing and rearranging the organization to meet new challenges.
There are also many personal questions that Kaplan draws attention to, which can strengthen the professional quality of leadership. Some leaders, despite holding frontline positions, would have a hard time answering the question about their passion. They have never pondered what their strengths and weaknesses are. They have never asked themselves whether they spend their time effectively and whether their choices match the priorities they have previously committed to.
Kaplan seems to say that we are too quick to tumble into routines and habits in business, which is a major liability in a reality driven by constant change. His response to this is remaining in a state of inquiry.