The Well Placed Question – an Often Overlooked Leadership Tool

As a pastor and a leader I guide the process to help our church set and accomplish goals, move us forward into a preferred future, and make progress. And it seems like I do a lot of telling. I wonder if we leaders sometimes miss how a well placed question can enhance our leadership. Consider these thoughts about leadership and asking questions.

The power of a well placed question:

  • We cast vision by telling.
  • We craft strategies by telling.
  • We set goals by telling.
  • We recruit leaders by telling.
  • We manage staff by telling.

Unfortunately, our fast-paced world often tempts us to give quick answers. In Mark 2 we can see a pattern in Jesus’ response to those who questioned Him. That chapter records four unique questions posed to him. Three out of four times Jesus responded with at least one question. In those responses He didn’t immediately tell them an answer to their question. Rather, He sought to make them think about what they asked by asking them a question.

When we build into our churches and ministries a culture that encourages questions, these benefits result.

  • We see reality more clearly. One more well-placed question may surface an important issue you otherwise might have missed.
  • Innovation. Questions can spur new ideas and solutions to problems.
  • Self-reflection. Simply telling someone an answer may stifle his need to think through the answer for himself.
  • Perspective. A good question can open up a fresh perspective to a perplexing dilemma.
  • Focus. Questions can help a group or person focus on the real issue.

However, when we use questions as we lead we must avoid these unhealthy patterns.

  • Defensiveness: using questions as a defense mechanism, a ‘tit-for-tat’ response.
  • Aloofness: using questions to avoid answering a valid question because you think it is beneath you to answer.
  • Ignorance: not answering a valid question about which you have no knowledge in order to hide your lack of knowledge. In that case it’s best to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Controlling: using questions to put another into a corner to embarrass him or shut him down.
  • Deflecting: using questions to move a valid conversation to another subject.

Asking questions can become a potent tool in our leadership toolbox.

How have you used questions in your leadership?

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