Great Leaders Ask


An executive I work with was telling me recently how his boss, the CEO, made a significant announcement to the whole executive team. The announcement came as a surprise to him and others on the team. He told me how he wished the CEO had consulted with him in the process of putting together his plan that he had announced. He saw a couple significant holes in the CEO’s plan that he probably would have been able to help his boss avoid.

But, as far as he could tell, the CEO had not asked for input prior to announcing his plan. And even after the announcement, the CEO did not express interest in input from his team.

This executive was now faced with the question of whether to point out the holes in his boss’s plan or just ignore them and hope for the best. Was the CEO going to be receptive to constructive critique of his plan now that he had announced it to everyone? The right thing for this executive to do was let his boss know his concerns. But the CEO had created an awkward situation that was unnecessary.

Maybe the CEO was thinking, “This is not a democracy. I make the calls here.” Maybe it was just an oversight this one time. Maybe he was under some other pressure. There are a lot of possible reasons that would seem valid.

But there are at least three good reasons for a leader to slow down and seek input from her team. First, no leader has the full picture. They might like to think they do, but they just don’t.

While it’s right and commendable for a leader to take responsibility for the organization’s direction, how many missteps could be avoided by taking time to ask for the input of a leader’s trusted team members?

Secondly, getting input from team members is a great, simple and FREE way to build the morale of a leader’s team. One of the greatest rewards of high-level work is the self-esteem boost that comes from being consulted on important issues, especially in our areas of expertise.

Thirdly, great leaders do more than just get things done right. They intentionally develop more leaders around them. Including junior leaders in our decision-making process is a great way to help them grow with us as leaders. It’s also a great way to assess their current leadership capacity, helping you know how best to coach them in the future.

So, take the time to slow down and seek input from those around you. It’s good for you as the leader, and it’s good for those you lead.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you naturally think about using everyday decisions to help develop the leaders coming up the ladder behind you?
  1. Do you remember how it felt when your leader consulted with you on important issues? How did it influence your respect for and loyalty to your leader?
  1. Do you have a teachable spirit toward the members of your team? Do you honestly value their input?

Published by Jay

Jay Pullins has been leading and developing leaders in a variety of settings for over 25 years. He has a diverse background as a military officer, an appointed public official, and executive leader of Alaska’s largest church. Jay is the founder and owner of Anchorage-based Catapult Leadership Solutions, providing expertise in developing the character and competency of leaders in all sectors. A 1989 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Jay led U.S. and multi-national teams for the U.S. Air Force, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), NORAD, and the Alaska National Guard. He led combat crews as an Air Battle Manager in Operation DESERT STORM, the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, and counter-drug operations in Central and South America. Jay retired as an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel in 2011. Jay served as Chief of Staff to the Lieutenant Governor, then Special Assistant to the Governor of Alaska. He also served as Executive Pastor of ChangePoint church for five years. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the US Air Force Academy, and a Master’s Degree in Adult Education from the University of Oklahoma. He serves as a consultant and coach to church leaders for 3dMovements, and serves on the Board of Directors for Beyond Borders and the Conflict Resolution Center. Jay and his wife, Sonia, live in Anchorage, Alaska, and have two grown sons.

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