By Laurie Cure, PHD

Learning to lead takes a lifetime. We have this perception that leaders are born and gifted with natural skills that make them great. In all reality, even the best leaders grow and develop over the course of their career. 

Great leadership starts with the vulnerability of self awareness. Asking yourself powerful questions is the foundation of deeper understanding of who you are and how you show up in the world, especially with those who you are asking to follow you. 

In our July newsletter (sign up on our website for great new tools), we will be considering the ability of leaders to build psychological safety with those around them. This could be your team members, peers or even your leader. Powerful questions are at the heart of building trusting relationships.

Powerful questions often start with how or what as these words tend to provoke us to go deeper and create more possibility. They are open ended questions designed to elicit discovery, learning, and new insights. It is also important that they are asked in a way that sparks curiosity and minimizes judgment. 

Think of a time when someone just listened and posed provocative questions to help you think differently about a situation or problem. They didn’t offer advice or try to solve your dilemma. Rather, they guided you in your own exploration. These are meaningful moments that we can create for our team members when we become skilled at using powerful questions. 

Powerful questions start with us, as we seek to build self awareness. We cannot lead beyond our own capacity, so ensuring that we are continually growing is paramount to our success as a leader. 

Consider the following questions. If one resonates for you, take some time to explore it and perhaps even bring it to your team for discussion. 

  1. The average person has 12,000-60,000 thoughts per day. But, we don’t have to believe all our thoughts. What thoughts do you currently hold that you should NOT believe? What core beliefs do you hold that are preventing you from moving forward in some way?
  2. We tend to judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions. Where are your actions and intentions misaligned? What impact is that having on your relationships?
  3. Every conversation tells a story and we can see ourselves in each one. Which stories in others are offering you a reflection of yourself? What is it telling you?
  4.  What are you doing to be your best on a regular basis?
  5. Behaviors can turn into habits which become our reputation. We can change behavior one moment at a time. What behaviors are impacting your reputation in a positive way? What behaviors are not desirable?

The skill of using powerful questions in your leadership is one that builds over time. These are just a few. Powerful questions can and should be used in performance conversations, feedback discussion, strategy sessions, process improvement dialogues. . . .the list goes on. 

For more information or for a copy of our handout with examples of various powerful questions, please reach out to us at