Leadership Questions: Making a Safe Place for Discovery

There’s more to asking good questions than phrasing, timing and clarity. The key is leadership that creates an environment where questions  of discovery are the good questions, and top leaders are not the only ones who get to ask them. When questions are showmanship, leaders make sure that everyone who might have something important to say silences themselves before they make themselves vulnerable. Not healthy for followers, not healthy for organizations.

imagesBill Barnett says it well: “In organizations where questions are meant to show off, it is not safe to ask questions in order to learn. After all, by trying to learn, you reveal your lack of knowledge and admit to not being the smartest person in the room. As the zingers fly, who would risk raising a hand to admit ignorance? Instead we clam up and pretend. Like the illiterate who fakes it undetected through school, we expend more effort trying to conceal our ignorance than we do trying to learn. We become a self-silenced fool.”

From Bill Barnett, “On Strategy:How to Create Self-Silenced Fools”


  1. […] That does challenge them and the culture. They were generally already somewhat alienated from it, already asking different questions, observing problems bosses didn't want to acknowledge. But with a changed perspective, new […]


  2. […] Foster a stronger sense of personal ownership and accountability. Questions, as opposed to declarations, create a different power dynamic between the questioner and t… For example, Mellody Hobson, Chairman of the Boards of DreamWorks Animation SKG and Ariel Mutual […]


  3. […] positive action begins with optimism and grows with knowledge. Sustainable change happens step by step, fueled from this foundation. The crisis has been made […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: