Posted by: Bill von Achen | December 3, 2010

Leading Through Questions

Many executives hold the belief that leadership is about telling, not asking.

Not Tim Brown, chief executive and president of the design firm IDEO. In a New York Times interview, Brown attributes his success as a designer and a business leader to his willingness to ask questions. Not just any old questions, of course, but the ‘right’ questions.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“As leaders, probably the most important role we can play is asking the right questions. But that is in itself a creative process. Those right questions aren’t just kind of lying around on the ground to be picked up.”

“One of the things that I’ve tried to do more and more…is to take ownership of the question. I’m much more interested these days in having debates about what the questions should be than I necessarily am about the solutions.”

“That was one of the things that used to make me very, very insecure as a business leader–thinking: ‘Am I supposed to have all the answers? Because I know I don’t.’ And then I finally came to realize, well, nobody else has all the answers, either…But I’m personally perfectly comfortable admitting that I don’t know the answers and that I’m more interested in the questions anyway.”

You can read the complete text of the interview with Tim Brown at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/business/25corner.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Tim%20Brown&st=cse.


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