23 Questions Great Leaders Ask

    Here’s what to say when you need more knowledge and clarity.


    My friend and mentor John Maxwell rightly observes that great leaders ask “great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, do more, and become more.” They become masters at this, and so should you.

    All leaders need knowledge and clarity. I’ve compiled a list of 23 essential questions that can bring you both, in business and life. These questions can also help your team members refine their communication.

    We ask questions when we need details. You can probe for details in several ways, depending on what the other party is saying and what you want to discover.



    When you hear vague or indefinite statements, ask these questions to bring things into focus.

    • What exactly did you mean by “XXX”?

    • What, specifically, will you do next week?

    • Could you tell me more about YY?



    Emotionally intelligent leaders pick up on the subtext of a conversation, not just what is being said. They realize that some comments may be motivated by feelings beneath the surface of a discussion. So ask these questions to help the other party justify their statement, or to dig for underlying causes.

    • Why did you say that?

    • What were you thinking about when you said “XX”?



    If a discussion threatens to veer off-topic, try reeling things back in with these statements.

    • How is this relevant to what we are discussing?

    • How is what you are saying related to the question I asked?


    Completeness and Accuracy

    Do you get the sense that your employee or team member is withholding something from the conversation, or forgetting something vital? You can check that they are providing a full and accurate account with these questions.

    • Is that all, is there anything else?

    • How do you know that is true?

    • How does that compare with what you said before?



    Restating or reframing a question can encourage the other party to offer further details. You can also try an “echo question”, where you repeat a statement they made in the form of a question, with a different tone that indicates your need to learn more.

    • Where exactly did you go?

    • What places did you actually visit?

    • He told you to extend the deadline??



    In a job interview or initial meeting, ask for specific examples to test the truthfulness and the depth behind a claim.

    • Sorry, I don't understand. Could you give me an example?

    • Could you share an example of when you did XXX?

    • Tell me about a time when you ______.



    When the information at hand is inadequate, press for more.

    • Could you tell me more about that, please?

    • And what happened after that?

    • And then…?



    Through these questions, you can gauge the other party’s level of critical thinking.

    • How good would you say it is?

    • How do you know it is worthless?

    • What are the pros and cons here?



    If someone is talking to you in a cautious or reserved way, and you want to find out how they feel, you can ask something like:

    • And how did you feel about that?

    Ask this question carefully, because it might provoke emotion and disclosure.


    Peter Montoya is the best-selling author of The Brand Called You and his latest books, Meeting Without Walls and Leadership Power. He’s also a sought-after and highly motivational keynote speaker and leadership development strategist, specializing in developing high-performance teams. To find Peter, visit www.PeterMontoya.com or call (949) 334-7070.


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