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5 Questions Confident Leaders Ask - Main

It’s tough being an insecure leader, because it feels like everyone is out to get you. Confident leaders, on the other hand, have a far easier time of it.

Confident leaders are far more likely to feel comfortable without needing to stamp their authority and make sure they’re seen as “the boss”.

But how do we get to that point? It’s not easy!

In this post, I’m going to introduce five simple questions that confident leaders ask.

These are not necessarily difficult questions to come up with, but they can take courage, and insecure leaders are less likely to want to know the answers!

Confident Leaders Still Suffer From Imposter Syndrome

Even the most famous company founders have stories of feeling out of their depth or fearful about what they were doing. You can read about some examples in this article from Entrepreneur.

The cool, calm and collected manager in your workplace looks like they have all the answers.

The chances are, this is a bit of an illusion. That’s not to say that these aren’t confident leaders.

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It’s just that confident leadership doesn’t mean there is a complete absence of fear or insecurity.

It means that the people who are feeling fear and insecurity understand that they are just thoughts, not necessarily reality. And when these confident people feel fearful, they take action anyway.

In other words, confidence isn’t a requirement to take action – it’s a result from taking action.

Learn More:  Thoughtful Leader Podcast #90: Beating Leadership Imposter Syndrome.

What These Questions Can Do For You

The questions below have a special quality about them. You don’t need to have confidence to ask them.

After all, they are just words and anyone can speak words.

You might need some confidence to be willing to hear the answers that come back. But when you ask these questions, you demonstrate that you:

  • Can put your ego to one side
  • Are committed to the team, rather than your own priorities
  • Are willing to learn from failure; and
  • Don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, or be seen as the “alpha”.

Asking these questions might even help you to build confidence too. They will help you see whether you’re on the right track, and tell you what might need fixing.

Try them out for yourself.

Learn More:  Are You an Insecure Leader? Watch for These 10 Signs.

1. Confident Leaders Ask: How Could I Do Better?

This is a tough one to start with. You might ask this question to your boss, or your team.

It’s a tough question because you’re inviting feedback about your own performance. While most people know this is a good thing to do, the reality is that it can be confronting.

You might hear critical things about your behaviour, your attitude, or even your haircut.

Or, you might hear nothing at all, and wonder whether people are holding back what they really think!

But sometimes, you’ll hear golden nuggets from people who have your best interests at heart.

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When you ask this one:

  • Choose the right audience: Be sure to ask people you can trust to give you a valid opinion… and whose opinion you respect.
  • Look like you want to hear the answer: Keep your body language open. Listen intently and ask questions to discover more information. This shows you’re interested; and
  • Act on the feedback: Try to take the feedback and use it to improve, otherwise people may hold it back next time.

Learn More:  Team Improvement: 5 Reasons Smart Leaders Love It.

2. What Needs Fixing?

On a similar theme to the first question, this one is about improvement.

But this time, it’s not necessarily about you – it’s about how the team works.

Once again this can be daunting, because leaders may see the team as a reflection of themselves. If the team is perceived to be “broken”, they may feel as if it’s their fault.

Of course, not all team challenges are caused by leaders, but failing to address them is a common leadership misstep.

Asking your team for their input about what’s broken can generate commitment and help them to feel valued. That is, as long as you are able to take the suggestions and actually implement some of them!

Asking for input and then ignoring it with no explanation is not a trust-builder… it’s a trust destroyer.

Learn More:  Thoughtful Leader Podcast #125: How to Build Trust In Your Team.

3. Confident Leaders Ask: What Support Do You Need?

Leadership Weaknesses - SupportDon’t ask a question if you don’t want to hear the answer, and this question is a good example of this.

A leader might not ask this question if they feel stretched in terms of their workload, or if they don’t feel equipped to provide the resources their people need.

Sometimes, leaders will also believe that “no news is good news”, so they’ll wait for people to ask them for support instead.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why team members won’t speak up, so it’s better to ask them how you can help directly.

Even if they don’t need anything from you, it’s certainly nice that you asked. And if they have requirements you can help with, you’ll be removing barriers that would be stopping them from doing their best work.

Learn More:  How to Reduce Fear of Leadership to Improve Your Team.

4. What Can We Learn From This?

This is another excellent question for confident leaders to ask when faced with failure.

This question does a few powerful things, such as:

  • Acknowledging the reality that failure sometimes happens, and is a learning opportunity
  • Steering away from laying blame, to how the team can improve instead; and
  • Giving rise to potential continuous improvement opportunities, when you learn how to avoid repeating a mistake in the future.

It’s important for leaders to create an environment where people are comfortable taking (reasonable) risks, and trying new things.

This is often the way that people learn best, when they are stretching their comfort zone a little.

Learn More:  Thoughtful Leader Podcast #180: Team Member Made a Mistake? Try This.

5. Confident Leaders Ask: Where Do You Want to Go In Your Career? 

Now on the surface, this question may not feel significant, or daunting to ask a team member.

However, it’s another one where some leaders might not want to hear the answer.

Supporting a team member to fulfil their career aspirations may actually take them away from your team. This can be scary if you rely on them as one of your top performers.

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But is it not a leader’s role to develop their people, even if you develop them to the point that they strive for bigger and better things? I think so.

Do your team a favour and ask your team members where they want to go. Then do your best to help them find development opportunities that will assist them in getting there.

You might lose a team member or two, but you’ll feel good knowing you played a pivotal part in their career development.

Learn More:  5 Questions to Ask An Unmotivated Team Member.

These certainly aren’t the only questions that confident leaders might ask. Try asking them for yourself and see what answers come back!

Remember that you don’t need to feel confident to take confident action.

You might find that the simple act of asking helps you to feel more confident, as your team members learn to trust in your intentions and feel more comfortable following your lead.

What other good questions can you think of asking in your team? Leave them in the comments below! 

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