“Judge a man by his questions,
…not by his answers.”
1. Do you know what you’re doing?
2. Do you know where you’re going?
These are the two most important questions I ask when evaluating young leaders in my organization, or even when assessing my own leadership ability. I find answering these simple, deep-meaning questions tells me a lot about a leader’s impact and potential. As I think about the answers, I often look beyond results, which often masks a leader’s real influence, and experience, which often is an excuse to cling to obsolete ways of doing business. Instead, I judge leadership through a few principles related to competency and vision.
Do you know what you’re doing? In other words, are you competent? There are many attributes we like to see in our leaders, but competency, I believe, comes from curiosity and a willingness to collaborate with those who know and influence the mission. Have you ever talked to a senior leader about what you do, and were disappointed because they had no idea what you just told them? Alternatively, have you ever had a similar conversation with a senior leader, and were inspired by the types of questions they asked? Which leader struck you as competent? We can’t always expect leaders to know how to code a new app, for example, but we should expect them to ask intelligent questions about how the app fits in, or could fit in, to the organization’s mission.
“…I judge leadership through a few principles related to competency and vision…”
Do you know where you’re going? In other words, do you have a vision? I’m not talking about written statements of “paradigm shifts” or “revolutionizing” this or that, but whether you are capable of developing and carrying out ideas that create positive, necessary change. We want leaders who understand how a process, product, or organization can reach its full potential, and know how to blaze the path forward. A leader’s vision should keep them from reinforcing failure, and open their minds to new possibilities. Their vision should create and/or leverage opportunity (e.g., how could the app fit into our mission). A leader doesn’t need to be Steve Jobs to have vision. They just need to have ideas that make a difference.
“A leader doesn’t need to be Steve Jobs to have vision. They just need to have ideas that make a difference.”
They’re essentially the same question. Competency and vision go hand in hand. Good leaders develop and proliferate the right ideas that generate the right changes by actively trying to fill their own knowledge gaps. There’s a good chance you can find leaders like that throughout your organization. Have you ever been inspired by a young, inexperienced employee who changed your organization through sheer curiosity and tenacity? Chances are they are someone who knows what they’re doing and where they’re going, which should make us, as leaders, ask if we know that about ourselves…because that is what our boss, coworkers, and employees are already asking about us.