Like most things, leadership questions start in childhood. There was a study done in the UK that shows 4-year-old girls ask their mothers an average of 390 questions a day. That’s their peak. Boys are similar, but not as prolific. After four, children of all ages stop asking as many questions.

In organizations where I work, I’ve seen cultures where questioning is encouraged. But I have to say, it’s rare.

Most CEOs think their reputations depend on having all the answers.  To some extent it’s true; they are the chief answer-persons and buck-stoppers. I suggest it’s worth it to every individual in an organization to not only get good at fielding questions, but also to ask good leadership questions that stimulate creativity, responsibility, and personal leadership.

Edgar H. Schein, PhD, an MIT Sloan School of Management professor emeritus and consultant, writes about this in his book Humble Inquiry. In my previous post, I described Dr. Schein’s four effective leadership questions:

  1. Open
  2. Diagnostic
  3. Confrontational
  4. Process-oriented

Choosing Daily Purpose and Meaning

Here’s a way to take questioning to a more personal level. Ask yourself these leadership questions daily,

  • “Is what I’m doing – where I’m spending my time and energy – leading me to fulfillment for my talents and values?”
  • “How can I find meaning and fulfill my purpose in life?”
  • “What choices do I need to make?”
  • “How might I make one small change to have a greater impact?”

So much of what we do in life and our careers is based on the habits we form. But like ski tracks, you can get stuck in the ruts you create because you do the same things everyday.

When people ask “How can I find meaning in life?” they’re asking a completely useless question, according to creativity coach Eric Maisel. That question is based on the belief that purpose and meaning is a fixed, objective truth to be found out there somewhere. It’s not. It’s like getting fit; you don’t “get fit” for life and sit back. You do something every day, you make choices everyday that lead in that direction. And each time you choose, you’re asking yourself a question.

We construct meaning and purpose in our lives everyday based on the questions we ask ourselves.

  • “Should I do this, or not?”
  • “Would it make more sense to spend some time on this instead of that?
  • “Is it worth my time and effort to skip that and do this?”

I’m a big fan of leadership development through refining your leadership stories. Author John Hagel suggest you ask yourself this key question:

“When I look back in five years, which of these options will make the better story?”

Hagel says that no one regrets taking a path that leads to a better story. But usually we only know that path in retrospect.

So I suggest you start questioning everything. Perhaps not to your immediate supervisor, she’s not your mommy and you’re not four. But ask yourself daily questions that will show you where you need to shift to get on track to create a more meaningful routine.

Use a coach to help you ask good questions. What are your thoughts about this? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.