The Most Powerful Leadership Question

by  Jeff Harmon  |  Team Dynamics
The Most Powerful Leadership Question post image

Nothing can animate the future quite like a question. For leaders, living in questions instead of giving answers or having something to say is a powerful place to be.

Questions makes us learners, open ourselves and those we’re leading to possibilities and creates a more safe, level playing field between you and your team. 

I have a number of favorite questions in my leadership that animate the future for those I ask, but the most powerful leadership questions are those I ask myself.

Effective leadership starts on the inside. Before we can hope to possibly lead anybody else, we first have to lead ourselves. We self-lead to shift our focus from what about me to a perspective that is outwardly focused on serving and leading others with character and intention.

The most powerful self-leadership question you can ask yourself is: What is life like for those I’m leading? Let’s look more closely at this question to fully understand the scope and implications of asking the question.

Life – We tend to compartmentalize life into work, family, faith and any number of other sub-divisions that might classify as having a life of their own. When we think of leadership we tend to only think of that part of life where we’re associated with the person.

However, the life that you impact is inclusive of all aspects of life, not just the eight to ten hours you’re together. The life referred to in this question is spiritual, emotional, family, work, physical and any other part of their human experience. 

You may not be able to impact each one of these areas, but considering them all when you ask the question gives you a full view of the entire person you’re leading.

Like – One dictionary definition of this work is: similar, comparable to, resembling. Using these words, the question could read: what does life resemble or is similar to for those you lead?

What’s the experience they are having? Is it like a nightmare? Is it like a trip to the dentist? Is it like something they could live without?

We forget sometimes that work is more than just fulfillment of duties but part of a person’s human experience.

Those I’m Leading – The answer to this may seem very obvious to some. You are a director or manager and the org chart says that a certain six people work for you. 

However, since leadership is about influence and not an organization chart, your leadership extends to anyone who you have influence on whether they are a direct report or not.

On certain projects, you’re influencing your boss, your peers and the vendors supplying services and on others, you’re influencing the team on the factory floor and your clients.

All of this isn’t even to mention your leadership (i.e. influence) of your spouse and kids.

Establish a routine to ask this question: What is life like for those I’m leading? Ask it every day, do something about it, and watch your future be powerfully animated.

When have you last thought about what life is like for those you are leading?
Photo Credit: Joana Croft

About The Author

Articles By jeff-harmon
Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader”. Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  25 Nov 2014  |  Reply

Jeff, thanks for a great post. I appreciate the reminder to consider those who are being influenced by me. Are they better off? Did they do something for me, or does my influence inspire them to do something for themselves/ Even better, does my influence inspire them to do something to inspire others? Your post inspired me. Thanks. Mike…

Jeff Harmon  |  25 Nov 2014  |  Reply

Thanks Mike! This one question has become a cornerstone of my teaching and coaching. It forces me and those I give the question to to step out of themselves. I suggest to some that they actually ask this question of those being led…What’s life like following me? Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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