Many years ago I was in a job interview and a person in the interview committee asked me what I thought of the following:

As a leader you need to be a bit lazy.

Well as a young and hard working twenty something I thought – to tell you the truth – that he was nuts. Of course I didn’t say that and I gave him some polite answer.

Now many years later, I see some truth in that. As a leader you need to be a bit lazy. Hard working is not the answer. Being a bit lazy is better: Lazy by pausing in conversations; taking breaks during the workday, and by asking questions not giving answers.

I strongly believe in asking questions. You will have come a long way in leadership if you master the skill of asking the right questions especially if you combine this with an ability to deeply listen.

The problem is that both skills are not easy to master. Both skills require first of all a sincere and open presence. Sincerity is the pathway to honesty and mutual respect. Openness knocks down prejudices and assumptions you might have.

In today’s article we focus on questions. The right questions will pop up if you have that sincere and open presence. But for those circumstances that you don’t have that presence, here are some of the recommended questions of the LeadershipBeyond community:

An interview question:

In the article mentioned above I already shared some really good interview questions but a reader sent me another good one.

This is the question:

“What did you learn you didn’t expect to learn?”

That is such a powerful question. This goes back to making mistakes and learning something from it. A little hidden present – a treasure of learning – sometimes forgotten because you beat yourself up too much. It also emphasizes learning. Leaders learn day in, day out.

A question about what makes people come to work :

[Note: besides the money and benefits]

What inspires you?

This is a popular question. A very important one because when you manage someone you can tap into internal processes. Along those lines Brett Wilson, CEO of TubeMogul, likes to ask:

Why are you here?

-NYT, May 25th, 2014

That’s a good question to ask someone in a job interview.

A question that prevents you solving the problem:

What would you do in this case?

This breaks through the pattern of you as the problem solver and the other person as the problem communicator. What would they do? It empowers, shows trust, and makes you the coach.

And I really like this question:

What do I not want to hear? Please tell me.

Isn’t that a great question for your one-on-one’s? Just imagine the silence that will follow after asking that question. At least I hope that the person needs to think a bit.

Questions. So powerful. It feels sometimes safe to delve into the knowing and assume things about issues and about people. But it all goes back to Socrates:

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.