10 Times More Effective

Originally posted @ Careers in Government

“A leader who ‘Leads With Questions’ will often be 10 times more effective than a leader who only ‘Leads by Telling!’”

How is this possible?

If you were in a row-boat with your whole team and there were oars for everyone and your goal was to get across the lake as quick as possible, how many of them would you like to have row with you?

Silly question!  Of course all of them!

Now imagine that you are seated at your conference table with your whole team and you are trying to figure out the best way to take advantage of a huge opportunity, why would you want to be the only one at the table with your oar in the water?  Why would you not want to get all of their oars in the water by asking for their ideas?

For many years my only paradigm of leadership was that a leader needed to tell staff what to do.  i.e. at that conference table I was the only one with an oar in the water!

Can you imagine – all of that brainpower sitting around that table – and I am only one with an oar in the water?


By simply leaning forward, looking around the table and asking your team, “What do you think we might do to take advantage of this opportunity? and then listening and then asking “What else?  What else?  What else?” you are likely to hear many ideas you had not thought of – ideas that might be better than anything you had thought of  – because now you have everyone’s oars in the water!  Now you have access to all the brainpower in the room!

Imagine that you hear an idea from Samantha that is not only better than anything you were thinking – it is absolutely brilliant!  So you lean forward, look at Samantha and say, “Samantha that is brilliant!  I absolutely love it!  Would you be willing to lead our whole team in executing your idea?”  Samantha responds, “I would be happy to!”

How hard would you guess that Samantha will work to make sure her idea succeeds?  Of course, she will give it everything she has!

Now for a moment contrast this with you being the leader who thinks your job is to tell your staff what to do!  You have an idea on the best way to take advantage of the opportunity and you tell your team what your idea is!  Then you lean forward and say, “Samantha, I would like you to lead our team in executing on my idea!”   Samantha says, “Sure” but thinks to herself, “That is not a great idea – but you are the boss, you sign my paycheck so if I want to continue to be employed I better do what you want.”

How much energy will Samantha bring to make sure your idea succeeds?

Which of the two ideas will have Samantha’s whole heart and all of her energy to make sure it succeeds?  Of course her idea!

When you “Lead With Questions” you will often be 10 times more effective than when you “Lead by Telling”  because you will get everyone’s oar in the water – you will hear ideas you had not thought of and then you can then ask your staff to execute on their ideas!

One More Advantage of “Leading With Questions”:

How have you felt when you have had a leader ask you, “What do you think we should do?” 

Valued? Appreciated? Respected?”

Without having said it, just by asking you, “What do you think we should do?” your leader’s question communicated all of that!

So if this is true for how you have felt when you have a leader ask you “What do you think we should do?” how will your staff feel when you ask them “What do you think we should do about  ___________?”  Of course – the same!

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” —Henry David Thoreau
Bob Tiede


Bob has been on the staff of Cru for 52 years. He currently serves on the U.S. Leadership Development Team and is passionate about seeing leaders grow and multiply their effectiveness. Bob and his wife, Sherry, live in Plano, TX and are blessed with 4 incredible children and 8 remarkable grandchildren.


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