Great leaders are said to have a “facilitative mindset.” Rather than just directing others, facilitative leaders are committed to fostering openness and encouraging dialogue. By asking questions more than they offer answers, great leaders create clarity through inquiry.
Of utmost importance for a facilitative leader is the value of treating others as peers. They know that, by leveling the playing field, they can offset the chilling effect of status on open expression. A critical tenet of facilitative leadership is to “hold up” the minor voices in the group. This means making sure everyone is heard in a discussion (regardless of tenure, position, or even introversion!) and no one’s view is ignored or discarded.
In group settings, this commitment is commonly demonstrated by allowing others to speak first and by asking everyone to register their views on an issue.
Yet, we often find those who, for whatever reason, are reticent to speak candidly. In those moments, the best leaders essentially ask the questions those individuals might have. “Jessica, I know you spoken to me a number of times about concerns with how we handle inventory…” Or, “This is a problem Aaron faces all the time…”
By asking such questions of others (the questions they would ask), leaders show themselves to be acutely aware of how others see the issue.
Next time you are in a group discussion, consider asking other people’s questions in addition to your own. This will require you to listen in a whole new way and to demonstrate leadership irrespective of the seat you fill.