Friday, 1 June 2012

Responsible leadership and the power of a good question

Over the past few months I've attended a number of talks at Winchester Business School’s Centre for Responsible Management (part of the University of Winchester).

I've listened to Steve Holmes from ASK Italian,  Gin Tidridge from B&Q,  Keith Abel of the eponymous Abel and Cole, and this week Ralf Schneider from Better Business Consulting.

Whilst there has been a strong theme around Responsible Leadership (as you would expect) the areas they have covered have been very different. Each speaker shared insights into their work over many years and talked about challenges and successes that they have seen.   Ralf's talk was the exception as, though it did cover things he had done, it focused more generally on the societal and business pressures that make responsible leadership ever more important.

As I reflect back on the series of talks I was struck by the common theme of a timely, well placed question in each of their stories.

For Steve's it was the corridor meeting with the CEO where he asks should we be greener?  For Gin's it was the organisation being asked whether they knew where the timber in their products came from.  For Keith's it was the organic farmer who asked him if he knew what chemicals were on a potato.  For Ralf ..... well most of his session was deliberately about important questions rather than answers.

Reinforces my belief in the power and effectiveness of leading through asking good questions rather than through command and control.   Also opens up the interesting question of how as a member of an organisation you can ensure that you are the sort of person who is turned to when the big questions are being asked. I suspect that in there lies the key to disproportionate influence over the outcomes.


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