The Power of Questions

You only get answers to questions you ask

In Summary

•Pride, society, and the environment discourage people from freely enquiring

•Questions are time savers, so do yourself a favour and ask

In some African communities, people are cultured to follow the instructions of their elders and ask no questions. This pattern is evident in different levels of organisational leadership in corporate Africa – employees are encouraged to follow orders and ask little or no questions.

Leadership guru, John C. Maxwell, said that: “you only get answers to questions you ask.” It underscores the importance of questions in leadership and the personal growth process. Often, pride, society, and the environment discourage people from freely enquiring; in some settings, you’re expected to know all the answers. But if you don’t ask, how will you know?

Effective leaders value and use questions as a leadership tool. They understand that leadership isn’t a ‘know-it-all’ position. You need good information to make good decisions, and one of the best ways of gathering intelligence is questions. Furthermore, these leaders are careful to create a culture where people feel safe to ask questions – and if done right, the outcomes are great. Questions are powerful for these three reasons.

Questions Birth Clarity: How often have leaders made grave mistakes based on poor information or ignorance? It is one reason every leader must learn the art of asking great questions. In my opinion, this is one of the fastest ways to achieve clarity. As a leader, you want to ask enough questions that would help you get to the root of a matter. Your findings give you clarity, and empowers you to take further steps. However, if you lack healthy curiosity, clarity is unlikely.

Questions Reveal Direction: If you think leaders have it all figured out, you don’t understand leadership. Sometimes, a leader is unsure about the direction to go, and questions help to uncover the path. It means that leaders must constantly enquire to maintain the right direction. Good questions reveal the details of a leader’s vision. If you’re good at asking questions, normally, you would find creative paths to your vision.

Questions Save Time: There is an African proverb that says: “He who asks questions is never lost.” It means that those who are humble enough to ask questions, reduce the distance between where they are and their goals. Some people have gone in circles for years because they don’t have the humility to ask those who have succeeded to show them the way. The answer you need to shorten your journey is locked in the next question you’re yet to ask. Questions are time savers, so do yourself a favour and ask.

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