The right answer but the wrong question


I’ve just watched a TED video by Simon Sinek on great leadership. Watch it now.

I’m not sure how I got to it. But I know why I liked it and perhaps why you did as well.

Because it used very simple language and messages.

He was selling a vision about the use of visions, which are often produced to answer the question ‘why?’.

The point he was making is that only exceptional leaders do this well (so by implication he might be one and he could help you become one ….).

The reason they can do this is because they understand how the human mind works and that key decisions are made by intuition rather than cold, logical facts.

Why do I not agree completely with this approach?

Because great leaders need great implementers – every excellent project has an excellent project manager. This could be the same person, but from my experience this is not so common. Why not?

The ability to inspire, for example by asking and answering the question ‘why?’, depends on the environment in which you grew up. If this was one which valued continual questioning of purpose, then clearly this would allow you to develop such skills.

Project managers deliver and it is not their job to ask ‘why?’, at least not unless they have been duped into managing a project doomed from the start to fail.

So it would seem unlikely that both types of person co-exist, acknowledging that there are always exceptions to any rule.

Simon Sinek goes on about the lesser questions ‘how?’ and ‘what?’ which he equates with mere processes and facts. More important to me is the question ‘when?‘.

Visions are great, but at some point someone needs to start working towards them otherwise they become just words and not actions. By asking ‘when?’ on a regular basis you are pushing for the delivery of (at least some) outcomes.

None of this guarantees that you will produce real benefits. This requires more than questions, or even answers to questions, but evidence against which any progress can be measured.

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