Lead Questions for Innovative Brainpower

What if you were to ask one innovative question to a leader you encounter? Imagine the ground-breaking results for workplace solutions you pioneer. Yet experts remind us how innovation loses when senior management remains locked in the past – and innovative workers go unsupported. It doesn’t have to be that way!

Can you see growth benefits for leading that inspires organizational change? Ready to snatch up those daily opportunities to ask mind-bending what if questions?

Lead Questions for Innovative Brainpower

Researchers discovered  glaring gaps in skills needed to lead well for the innovative era we’ve entered.  The Center for Creative Leadership asked 2,220 leaders from 15 organizations in three countries, what leadership skills appear inadequate to meet current and future demands.

Top missing skills they found were leaders’ ability to:

  • Lead and motivate people;
  • Plan ahead and create doable strategies to reach a shared vision;
  • Facilitate organizational change;
  • Inspire commitment by rewarding people’s achievements;
  • Communicate well with top management;
  • Persevere with good results in adverse conditions;
  • Learn quickly as new needs arise for technology or business insights.

Gifted leaders Ask What if Questions in 10 brain compatible ways that:

  1. Show genuine openness to hear,  and grow from another’s wisdom.
  2. Offer respect and concern to the person asked.
  3. Draw out talent from people, by showcasing what they do well.
  4. Offer another person the chance to shine by the expected answer.
  5. Indicate curiosity that carves pathways for answers to build forward.
  6. Come clothed in humility that only those who ask and listen possess.
  7. Hold no bias and instead show openness to learn and grow together.
  8. Inspire others to wait around to hear the exciting responses triggered.
  9. Communicate with tone that creates space for a genuine answer.
  10. Build goodwill among those who may disagree by answers offered.

What if questions may ratchet up leadership skills, but they tend to be harder to ask than most people recognize. Would you agree?

The kind of questions that  model top leadership skills where people are thrilled to follow with similar tone, fuel shared visions headed to top  peaks.

Thanks for the great questions asked here at Brain Leaders and Learners. They’re what makes leading an adventure and wisdom from thoughtful leaders in this community, a treasure. I have a challenge though.

An interesting thought comes related to the tough times we  face as recession persists, and leadership demands shift under our feet. You may have seen Victor Frankl’s words:

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

What if you lead the first question for innovative brainpower improvement at your workplace today? I’d ask the highly respected writer, Marshall Kirkpatrick, what are his brilliant secrets to show unique angles of innovations such as Google Instant Search. Already I’ve learned lots from Marshall, and plan to read more of his innovative posts! What would you ask, and to whom?

4 Comments

  1. Gina says:

    Great Post! Many leaders are born with these skills- but those that are quick to learn- can achieve the same success with these ideas.

  2. eweber says:

    Many thanks for your kind comments Gina, and you have dynamic research behind what you say here. What terrific nurture and nature balance you bring to the topic.

    It’s true that leaders who learn by doing and developing skills daily can reach a far higher potential in any area they target. To read your comment here, is to take advantage of that brain-powered potential!

    Would love to hear more about your own work with leaders.

  3. Jason Burnett says:

    I would like to point out that one of the great skills of an effective leader is the ability to evaluate creative input and selectively apply or not apply it. That is to say that while it is, without a doubt, beneficial for a leader to possess the qualities you mentioned, one of the most important qualities that I missed in your list is the ability to stand one’s ground.

    A strong leader is flexible enough to field creative input, but stable enough to avoid jeopardizing stability in the name of creative inspiration. I think too often we take for granted the idea that leaders have to maintain strength and respect to keep their leadership effective. If a leader is too willing to accommodate every creative insight every member has, the leader will quickly lose the support of the 98% of the members who are mostly looking for the leader to tell them what to do, how to do it, and to reward them for doing their part.

    It’s a constant struggle for an effective leader to determine when it is appropriate to facilitate change, when it is appropriate to incorporate creative risks, when it is appropriate to hold a steady course. In fact, for some organizations, this could be the most important factor in their failed/successful leadership.

    In reviewing the 10 “What if” statements above, I would suggest that it might be rewarding for a leader to add several considerations in response to those creative inputs:

    1. Show some defense of your current position and ask the person how their idea conflicts with your current position and draw out an effective plan to bridge the two. By engaging the other person and asking them to plot a path to adoption of their idea, it shows respect, engagement, and value.

    2. While playing the defense, make sure to invite others with similar creative ideas to join the offense. By engaging support for the new creative input, while maintaining a respectful defense, you show that your current position is valuable and based on solid logic, but that you are willing to modify your position and support the new idea by offering the offense more support. You demonstrate that you are strong enough to handle more than just one voice in the creative cycle. While it promotes the skills of the originator, it also expresses value of other contributors.

    3. While it IS important to show bias, be sure to communicate the idea that you are completely open to discussion and that any bias you are demonstrating is for development only. You are providing a base on which these creative flourishes can build. You do not want to come across insincere or insecure…but rather stable and supportive.

    4. Constantly evaluate and adjust the tone of your discourse during this discovery. If you find that the originator is shutting down and giving up on a valuable idea, back it down a little. Change your position if need be. Don’t let your enthusiasm for the idea come across as pure conflict. Whereas on the other hand, if you see a “ratcheting up” of energy and passion for an idea, meet it with the same passion–but be cautious to ensure that the originator is not raising their voice because they are feeling attacked or hurt, but rather because they are excited about seeing some of the details of their idea being drawn out.

    5. Be prepared to console someone whose idea was brilliant, but had been tried and had proven to be entirely unsuccessful. Don’t just shut someone down, but draw out the path to the previous failure and ask how their plan differs–ask what can be done to avoid the pitfalls you have already taken into consideration of your present position.

    These are off the top of my head and they represent various combinations of the afforementioned 10 compatible ways to respond to creative input.

    What I hope to identify here is that along with willingness to grow, to change, to evolve should be the wisdom to know when not to. It is as valuable a skill to be able to explain the basis of your position as it is to be open to change.

    A truly effective leader is good at providing a fair balance of stability and change.

  4. […] Ask more than you tell or deliver facts, and capitalism listens before it acts on hot issues. I’ve discovered from MBA leadership courses I teach – that when people move beyond lecturies,  they begin to build passion for answers together. […]

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