How to be a Bad Leader

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What is the best way to fail in leadership? It’s not throw a temper tantrum or micro-manage (not recommending those!). It’s this – act like you know exactly what’s going on. It’s just that simple. Don’t be curious, don’t ask questions. Instead, act like you’ve got it figured out. That way you can rest assured that your attempt at leadership is on course for failure.

Now that we’ve covered the end of the spectrum you don’t want to be on, let’s look at what made Jesus such a great leader. More specifically, one characteristic of his leadership that is often ignored by many followers of Christ- curiosity. Jesus was a master of question-led leadership. He did not hold many question-and-answer sessions. More often he held question-and-question sessions. His response was often simply another question. Throughout the four Gospels of Jesus, he is asked 183 questions. Of those 183 questions, how many do you think he answered directly? Four. He responds to the other 179 questions with a question, a parable, or a cryptic remark that leaves those gathered with even more questions.

The two word answer to start being a good christian leader? Be curious. Jesus was not as committed to up-front clarity as we are. He seems more interested in ensuring that we are considering the right questions. Jesus himself asks 307 questions in the Gospels. This can be an eye-opening bit of information if you have thought that Jesus was interested in only giving clear answers or resolving people’s dilemmas in life. Jesus upends our modern infatuation with clarity. He was not interested in getting the right answer out of people as much as he was interested in getting the right answer into people. The best way to do that is by asking a focused question at the right time.

Benefits to Followers of a Question-Led Leader

The right kind of question holds the power to unlock new ways of living as God helps us to live into the answer. We first have to give up our addiction to always having an answer and sometimes simply be humble enough to ask a question. When we share our questions with others, it’s remarkable what can happen. Three benefits accrue to a group of people led by questions.

  1. Questions unleash greater creativity for the future. When a leader seems to have all the answers, then the leader’s vision tends to be limited to the creativity of one person or small group. However, when leaders ask the right questions to those who are within their community and invites them to discover the answers together, people will often not only create more, but do so more creatively.
  2. Questions unleash greater passion in people. When a leader slides into being the answer person, the passion for the vision and the task of recruiting people, resources, and time toward that vision falls almost wholly to the leader. However, when a leader re-centers his or her efforts on asking the right kinds of questions, then those who begin to find answers to those questions inherently own the vision in a greater way. If we recruit people by guiding them on a self-discovery process of what God is inviting them to do, they have greater endurance in that effort. This is a slower process to get people involved, but a better way of keeping people involved and passionate. The passion will be there’s as well as yours, not a borrowed conviction with a short half-life.
  3.  Questions unleash greater faith-building memories for people. Too often people within a local church live on vicarious memories told within the community. This can create vicarious faith instead of a personal one. When people get involved and God does something, they can remember from their own lives when they were involved about how God used them.
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So to practice what we preach, we ask you the following questions… with no answers.

  • If you are of follower a Jesus, what question are you most compelled to try and live into at this point in your life?
  • If you are a leader, are you quick to provide answers to those you serve? Why is that? What would be gained if you inserted prayerful questions where you previously felt compelled to provide an answer?

Continue to dive deeper into living with a question-led life with Curious by Tom Hughes. Explore how humble, question-led faith, life, and leadership brings us a depth and integrity that easy platitudes are too insecure to reach.


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