How to Be a Startup Leader Part 2

Continuing my series on important leadership attributes, this one is the hardest for some to put into practice, but I can promise you, it’s worth it!

Ask the Right Questions

Everybody wants to sound like an expert, describe their grasp of a problem, and tell how they would solve it, but smart leaders stand out when they ask questions and listen to responses instead of doing all the talking.

I learned this lesson at one of my first startups. As a hardworking employee, I had earned a reputation as someone who delivered, so I was asked to take on a new function. I did my homework and aimed to impress my new manager with my blast of knowledge and solutions. I came into our meetings bestowing all my wisdom in a nonstop verbal delivery of plans and solutions. He just listened. Even though my team’s results were impressive, my relationship with my manager turned sour. I didn’t know why until a consultant asked me how I was doing, and I described the situation. His advice: ask my manager questions instead of telling him all the answers.

This shift worked like magic. My manager wanted to rightfully express more of his feedback and priorities into the process. He wanted more collaboration. Our relationship improved, and so did the results. Asking questions became one of my key differentiators.
Top leaders realize how much they don’t know, and they’re willing to stand out and deepen their discovery by seeking the input of others. This builds trust and inspires people to join you in creating great outcomes.

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