Guest Post by Dan Rockwell

Questions focused on the present are management questions. “What’s the problem?” for example.

Leaders, on the other hand, ask questions about the future, “Where do we want to be next year?”

Managers ask about execution. Leaders ask about direction.

In today’s complex world, leaders manage and managers lead. Determine which moment you’re in. Is this a management moment or a leadership moment?

It’s stupid to ask about the present when it’s time to focus on the future.

Ask about the present when:

  1. Deadlines are pressing.
  2. People are stuck.
  3. Progress is slow.
  4. Frustration is high.
  5. Projects are high profile.

Ask about the future when:

  1. Purpose isn’t clear.
  2. Focus is lost.
  3. Direction is ambiguous.
Why it’s hard to ask leadership questions:

Asking about the future is harder because it feels less urgent. Additionally, it’s harder to check something off your list when asking about purpose.

An Example:

Developing a leader is both a present and future focused activity. The danger is pressing issues may obscure long-term objectives. Deal with the present but always ask, “Are you getting where you want to go?”

The assumption is someone knows the ultimate goal. Better yet, someone is keeping the ultimate goal in mind. That’s what leaders do.

It’s easy to go in circles and feel like you’re getting something done. If you can’t describe the ultimate goal you’re chasing your tail. The three stages of leadership develop are:

  1. Develop yourself.
  2. Develop others.
  3. Develop others who develop others.

You’re end up going in circles if you leave out the second and third points. You’re stuck when you forget the future. Leaders alwaysbring people back to the future.

What are examples of useful management questions?

What are examples of forward facing leadership questions?

Dan Rockwell‘s daily leadership blog LeadershipFreak  designed to help leaders reach higher in 300 words or less. He is currently surpassing a million views a year.  Dan also presents, trains, coaches and mentors current and emerging leaders/managers.  And in addition enables individuals and organizations to leverage social media to achieve strategic objectives.

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