Book reviews · Decision making · Ideals · Leadership · Planning · questions

Four key questions leaders ask themselves

I recently read an essay entitled Moments of Greatness: Entering the Fundamental State of Leadership from the Harvard Business Review.  The author encouraged all leaders to ask themselves four questions about areas of their leadership – key projects or groups they are leading – that I found particularly compelling.  Since reading the article I’ve spent several hours trying to ponder these questions in relation to my professional work and one of the organizations whose Board I serve as Treasurer.  Here are the questions slightly rephrased, along with some brief thoughts on why this question feels challenging to me:

  1. What results do I want to create? This question pushes me to ask why I’m doing what I do, to have a purpose behind my actions and a vision of the results I hope to produce or promote.
  2. How can I act out of my core values? This asks me to be a person of integrity, to engage the world around me out of what I believe and who I am rather than being caught up in the politics or culture of the group I am working with.  Thinking about these first two questions helps me to be a person of influence rather than being molded by other people.
  3. What would happen if I focus on the collective good instead of simply my own comfort and advancement? This question forces me to reflect on my motivations for leadership: am I looking out for myself or seeking the best for the group I serve as a leader?  Am I willing to risk the way people perceive me – or even my organizational security – to pursue what’s best for the wider group or company?
  4. How can I be truly open to learning from everyone in this context? If I’m honest I know that in many circumstances there are some people whose perspectives I naturally value and others whom I simply ‘tolerate’ or ignore; this question pushes me toward humility by asking me to listen to and learn from all of those involved.

I find this perspective compelling because it pushes me to be intentional about what I do rather than going through the motions or being led along by other people’s fears and agendas.  I’m a big believer in living with purpose and I find having a sense of why I’m engaged in what I’m doing makes it far more motivating than if I just do what I’m told to do by other people.  I’d like to get better at asking these questions about all the major things I do, but in my busy and hectic life I know that in truth it’s not that simple.


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