Leading With Questions

How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask

by Michael J. Marquardt

Number of pages: 320

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

BBB Library: Leadership, Communication

ISBN: 9781118658130

About the Author

arquardt is Professor of Human Resource Development and Program Director of Overseas Programs at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development.


Editorial Review

Questions can elicit information, of course, but they can do much more. Astute leaders use questions to encourage full participation and teamwork, to spur innovation and outside-the-box thinking, to empower others, to solve problems, to build relationships with others. Recent research—and the experience of a growing number of organizations—now points to the conclusion that the most successful leaders lead with questions. They create the conditions and environment to ask and be asked questions. Too often, we ask questions that disempower rather than empower our subordinates. These questions cast blame, for example, “Whose idea was that?”  Then, the point isn’t that leaders just don’t ask enough questions. Often, we don’t ask the right questions or we don’t ask questions in a way that will lead to honest and informative answers. Many of us don’t know how to listen effectively to the answers to the questions and haven’t established a climate in which asking questions is encouraged. So, it’s time for us to become stronger leaders by learning how to ask the right questions effectively, how to listen effectively, and how to create a climate in which asking questions becomes as natural as breathing.

Book Reviews

"In this book, Marquardt describes “how leaders find the right solutions by knowing what to ask.” According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the ultimate key to a leader’s success is the ability to ask effective questions and to encourage others to do this. The author provides practical advice that teaches how to ask, listen effectively and create the environment where asking questions encourages thinking and improvement." Transfer Know How

"The book is divided into three sections: The Power of Questions; Asking Questions Effectively; and A Guide for Leaders of Using Questions. Throughout the book the author uses quotes from interviews of top business leaders about their use of questions." Keith Webb

"Through a series of interviews with twenty-two leaders from around the world, Michael Marquardt demonstrates the critical importance of asking questions and creating a “questioning” organizational culture. The author states that the process of asking questions is “an underused management tool”. To make his point, he organizes his book into three distinct parts." The Better Change

Books on Related Topics

Wisdom to Share

Leaders who ask questions will create a more humane workplace as well as a more successful business.

Leaders who can ask and process information will build organizations that have a tremendous competitive advantage over their slower and less proactive competition.

The primary difference between leaders and managers is that leaders are those who ask the right questions whereas managers are those tasked to answer those questions.

As leaders, we need to be able to question assumptions about structures, strategies, values, and business processes that shape the organizational culture.

Hearing from everyone often shifts the conversation and allows you to bring closure to an issue.

Team meetings too often sap energy and enthusiasm.

Questions spark and direct attention, perception, energy, and effort, and that’s the heart of innovation.

Employees must be allowed to make mistakes without fear of punishment, to ask questions openly.

Leaders who build questioning cultures recognize the best in people and seek to affirm past and present strengths, successes, assets, and potentials.

Frame the question by establishing the context and background for the conversation.

Start with casual questions to put people at ease and get them talking.

Experience will make you more confident in timing questions for optimal results.

Finding the ideal time for asking questions is an art.

Effective leaders know that the question of who must be left off the table to get accurate answers to the questions of what and why.

Leaders with the judgmental mindset tend to focus on the past, not as a means of learning but to apportion praise or blame.

The Attitude, mindset, pace, timing, environment, and context all can affect the impact of our questions.

Reflective questions encourage more exploration and elaboration.

Affective questions invite members to share feelings about an issue.

Open-ended questions encourage people to do the work of self-reflection and problem solving rather than justifying or defending a position.

Effective questions are those that accomplish their purpose as well as build a positive relationship between the questioner and questionee.

Once in this defensive mode, people are more likely to see themselves as part of the problem rather than as a source of possible solutions.

Disempowering questions result in a defensive or reactive mode, immediately casting the blame on the other person.

Questions that disempower focus on the reasons why the person didn’t or cannot succeed.

The words we choose to use are metaphors for concepts that define our attitudes and behaviors.

It’s important for leaders to fully recognize and understand the power of words.

Leaders can best access this wealth of experience and empower their people by encouraging questions as a natural part of the team discussions.

A questioning culture moves people from dependence to independence.

Questions create the conditions that foster openness and release energy.

Organizations that encourage leaders at all levels to take the time to ask thoughtful questions improve the odds of making good decisions.

Questioning helps people gain perspective and understand the perspectives of others.

Deep learning occurs as a result of reflection, which is not possible without a question.

Every question can be a potential learning opportunity.

Most leaders feel that they’re supposed to have answers, not questions.

The traditional hierarchal model of leadership that worked yesterday will not work tomorrow.

Employees must be allowed to make mistakes without fear of punishment, to ask questions openly.

The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.

It’s time for us to become stronger leaders by learning how to ask the right questions effectively, how to listen effectively.

The most successful leaders lead with questions.

Questions can elicit information, of course.

Astute leaders use questions to encourage full participation and teamwork.