Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I have written often about the power of questions and how they might be used in leadership roles.  Yesterday I had the privilege of addressing the Austin Chapter of the National Speakers Association, a wonderful group of people whose life calling is to teach.  They don't necessarily teach in the traditional sense, but they do so through their speaking, their writing, their coaching and their consulting.  Got to hang out with really cool people like Patti DeNucci (check out her new book The Intentional Networker), Teri Hill (an outstanding coach and presenter), and Annie Barron Wilson (whose book Openness Works is available for free on her website). 

Today's blog features two items from my talk - a quote and a list.  First the quote, which is taken from the book Learning as a Way of Leading written by Stephen Preskill and Stephen Brookfield (a book which has quickly become one of my top 10 leadership reads).  This quote is taken from the chapter entitled "Learning to Question."

Learning how to question is one of the foundational skills of leadership.  Without it there is no inquiry, no learning, no movement forward and no readiness to take stock of where we have come as a guide for where we might go.  Leaders who learn must be highly proficient at questioning, skillful at modeling it on themselves as well as others, and always ready to support it in colleagues and collaborators.  Their goal is to make questioning a communitywide practice.  The word "questioning" is derived from the word "quest."  When we pose questions we initiate a quest, a journey into the unknown or the poorly understood.  Through questions we search out the unknown or the unfamiliar, but we also reexamine the familiar.  Sharp, incisive, focused questioning has a way of pushing people forward to uncover more.  So questioning is part of the quest to live more fully and adventurously (p.127).

Second, here is the reading list I prepared for the group.  There are so many more I should have added, but wanted to keep it to a half-page.  Several of these books have been game changers for me - powerful testaments to how to approach life, and especially how to approach leading.  Enjoy the list...

Learning as a Way of Leading by Stephen Preskill and Stephen Brookfield
Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block
The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization by Peter Drucker
The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block
What? By Mark Kurlansky
Turning to One Another by Margaret Wheatley
Leadership Can Be Taught by Sharon Daloz Parks
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
The World Café: Shaping Our Futures through Conversations That Matter by Juanita Brown
Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There: 10 Principles for Leading Meetings that Matter by Marvin
Weisboard and Sandra Janoff
Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together by William Issacs
Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms by Preskill and Brookfield