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7 hard questions for leaders

Opinion & Analysis
When the leader stops people from asking questions, that leader has become dangerous to the very people he leads. Questions are crucial. Even our very own leaders in Zimbabwe owe us answers.

When the leader stops people from asking questions, that leader has become dangerous to the very people he leads. Questions are crucial. Even our very own leaders in Zimbabwe owe us answers.


Steve Jobs

Leadership is about answering to those pertinent and paramount questions. Right questions evoke right thinking. Right thinking leads us to look for right solutions.

When we stop asking questions, we stop giving solutions to life. When the leader stops solving problems, they start being a problem themselves. The questions we ask in life determine the answers we get. Leaders should be constantly asking questions. Leaders should welcome questions from people.

In whatever sphere or level you lead, you can only lead effectively when you have the right questions. What can I do to add value to myself? What can I do to add value to the team players or supporters? How do we do things differently, efficiently and effectively? How do we become competitive in the market place? What new invention are we working on? What should we do differently? What’s our weakness? What is the weakness of our competitors? What has been our setback? Is there a new approach we can adopt? Where do we want to go?

Investigate every angle and provoke the adrenaline to rush you to your answers. Big thinkers are always asking hard questions.

Inquisitive leadership plays a pivotal role. It is the heart of inventiveness in any company, country or the church. There is a dire absence of leadership with proper questions. Or they are leaders that have gagged questions.

Leadership motivates people to face the future with expectation, gives hope to dead dreams, anticipates the change of seasons and above that, asks great questions.

True and great leaders are those that leave a legacy. Companies are chocked with people who are concerned about position and personal gain and not leadership. Why are you there? They will go to university to get an MBA just to get into power. As you step into their office the aura that you get is, “I’m the boss here!” In reality, if we remove the “B” in that sentence and replace it with “L” it would read: “I’m the loss here!”

The question to every authentic leader is: What problems are you solving? Your phone answers to the question of communication. An aircraft answers to the question of travelling. A tree answers to the need of oxygen to human beings. The sun answers to need of energy on earth. Your mind is a thought factory and you must use it to create solutions to the leadership need. As a leader or someone who aspires to be one, take stock of yourself today and answer to following questions:

Question #1: Why am I here?

Most leaders are answering to the wrong question. In fact, we could conclude that if one keeps answering to the wrong questions, they are not yet leaders. The main question for every leaders is the ‘why question’? Why am I here? Why should we do what we must do? It asks the purpose of every action.

Most leaders rather focus on ‘what question’ and neglect the ‘why question’. Leaders that focus on ‘what question’ are inundated with daily rituals and activities that might not be answering to the actual purpose. The ‘why question’ answers to the true purpose of a leader or of an act.

Question #2: Am I relevant?

Robin Sharma, a leadership expert and author of the book, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, once said: “The old model of leadership is obsolete. Now for an organisation to truly excel in these times of deep change everyone – at every level – must show leadership and do their best work.”

Times are changing; people are now exposed to so much information that was not allowed for a subordinate to know in the traditional setup. The question is; how do you continue to influence such people to continue under your instruction? Are you an answer to the need in your company or community?

Leaders must stay relevant so as to correctly answer to the ‘now need” and envisage what could be the “future need”. If you are not answering to any need you cease to be relevant.

Question #3: Where am I taking people to?

Direction determines your destination and that is the reason why it is essential to have a right driver. Let’s say you are about to board an aircraft, and your pilot says: “My name is Jonah. Welcome aboard flight 360A. I am not a good pilot. My vision is bad and I will try to fly this plane.” Do you continue in such a situation? That is what most leaders are doing with their organisations. This even confuses the followers, and only because they are obligated to do your bidding they stay. But some will ultimately leave you.

A leader must have a clear mental picture of what they want to achieve. Without it you have no legitimacy to lead anyone. Why? “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29: 18 KJV). Where are you taking people to?

The vision must be clear to the originator and also be clearly spelt to those who should execute it. Secondly, the vision should be bigger than the leader so that it does not die with him, but it should continue to affect and impact next generations.

In case, the pilot dies or is incapacitated along the way, the co-pilot will know how to take over and continue with the journey.

Question #4: What solutions am I bringing?

Leadership is an assignment to humanity. We answer to a need by providing a solution. This happens by inspiring the people we are leading to work towards a special or a worthy cause. Steve Jobs, of the Apple legacy, saw technological need for the future and he provided a solution.

Jesus Christ brought an answer to sin and a great model to leadership. That leadership model has been passed on to his disciples so that they perpetuate it till the end of time.

A leader is a person with an assignment to bring a solution to human needs and organisational dreams. The level of our worth is directly related to the problems we solve. The bigger the problem we solve the greater the worth and even the reward we get.

Question #5: Am I inventive enough?

When Jesus Christ juxtaposed the old wine skins with the new wine skins (Matthew 9: 17), He was showing a new leadership prototype that he was bringing up. A leader should not be content with the current situation if he does not want to expire.

A leader should be flexible enough to see change coming, embrace it and use it to his advantage. A leader should not be so complacent as to enjoy the current state of affairs to an extent that he forgets the future. Neither should he be overwhelmed by challenges, not to envision the opportunity ahead.

Question #6: Do I have capacity?

A leader with capacity does not feel threatened by subordinates he leads. The late Myles Monroe always said that leadership is your capacity to make yourself unnecessary.

The leader should have the capacity big enough that he can’t hold it alone. The leader should be open-minded, and humble to pour himself into other people.

If the organisation you are leading always needs your presence, you have failed in leadership. Some people are proud enough to profess that an institute will fail without their presence. Groom, mentor or coach other people to be as you are and even better.

Question #7: Who is going to take over?

A leader that has failed is the one that dies with a baton in their hand. Sunday Adelaja said, “Success without a successor is a failure”. Who is going to take over from you? Are you helping subordinate to become the next leader? Are you mentoring other team players? How are you helping others develop and grow into leadership? Are you challenging others to do what you do or even better?

Parting Point: John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) once said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more, you are a leader”. It’s time to lead people to bigger and brighter heights by asking the right questions. It’s time to unleash our leadership prowess and potential!

Jonah Nyoni is an author, success coach and certified leadership/business trainer. He is the author of Inspiration for Success and Success Within Reach. Contact details: Tel: 0772 581 918. Email: [email protected]. Twitter@jonahnyoni.