Good leaders ask good questions. Questions (as opposed to statements) signal a willingness to listen. They convey values and reinforce desired behaviors. They foster learning.
But what is the best question for a leader to ask? It’s a question that we ask ourselves (not others) when we are faced with an especially difficult challenge or situation. The question is, “What would a great leader do?”
Why is this a good question?
- It demonstrates humility. By asking this question, we are saying, “I am not always a great leader, but I know what one looks like. I can learn from great leaders. If a great leader were faced with this situation that I am faced with right now, what would she or he do?”
- It raises the standard of your leadership above the circumstances of your leadership. When you ask, “What would a great leader do?” you are stretching yourself toward excellence. The question helps us to rise above our emotions and biases and helps to take a broader view of what we should do.
- It reveals motive. It reveals fear or weakness. Sometimes it is our personal interest that keeps us from doing what a great leader would do, which is what is best for the greater good and the longer term. Sometimes it is our fear or our desire to avoid conflict.
What would a great leader do? This question gives you glimpse of what could be or should be for you as a leader.
This question applies to the other important roles in our lives, too. When faced with an especially difficult or challening situation, we can ask… What would a great spouse do right now? What would a great friend do? What would a great parent do in this situation? What would a great teammate do?