Saturday, June 25, 2011


I was at The Blue Hill Book Store the other day and picked up a curious little book entitled What? written by Mark Kurlansky (whose 1968 and Cod I just loved). In previous blogs, I have extolled the importance of asking good questions, and how the role of the leader is to be one who consistently asks good questions of both themself and others. If that is the case, then this book might just be the bible on leadership, for it is a short book that is written in nothing but questions (even the table of contents and the index are written as questions).

The art of asking questions is critical to the learning process...and leadership is about learning. Whether it is learning about one's self...learning about the organization...learning about other people...or learning about leadership - learning begins with questions. In one of the textbooks used in our Introduction to Business course at Concordia University Texas, the statement is made that the more one learns, the more questions they ask, and the more questions they ask, the more they learn. I often challenge my students and others with whom I work to figure out their question to comment ratio in any given day. This book takes it to the extreme: 100% questions to zero comments. Here are a few of the questions asked by the author:

  • In a world that seems devoid of absolute certainties, how can we make declarative statements?

  • If it is amportant to ask questions, is it equally important to answer them? Doesn't questioning have its own value?

  • What is at the heart of intellectual pursuit? Is it "what?" If so , shouldn't the previous sentence be read as a statement?

  • Is a question always a search for an answer?

  • Shouldn't we distrust an answer that comes without a question?

Of course, the book is much more than these few questions noted here, as the "chapters" flow from one idea (or series of question) into the other. Perhaps what struck me most about the book is it's ability to do nothing than ask questions, and still engage me in a learning process. Of course, that is how I am wired. Are you wired in a similar way? Have you considered your question to statement ratio lately? Why might questions be so important to thsi author? And should they be that important to you? How do others react when you do nothing other than ask questions? Will they be satisfied that they are not getting "answers" from you? Can one be considered a leader if they only ask questions? And what are the important questions that leaders should be asking?

Is this the end of this blog? Or will you continue it by raising even more questions about how leaders lead by asking questions?

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