Andy Stanley on Six Questions Every Leader Should Ask

Andy Stanley on Six Questions

Over the weekend, I was listening to Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast and came across a brilliant session on six questions every leader must ask. I thought I’d share my summary notes here. Andy Stanley says that when it comes to being a great leader, the questions you ask are as important as the answers you give. In fact, the questions reveal what you value and reinforce what you want valued. So, when it comes to asking the right leaders, here are six questions that every must should ask.

 Q1: Which Gauges Should We Be Watching?

  • Finding the right set of gauges can tell you a lot about the health of your organizations. Choose the right three or four and watch it attentively.
  • Your mission and vision should help narrow your focus to the numbers that matter. For us, attendance is an obvious one. But if we focus only on attendance, we won’t get a complete picture. If your church’s strategy requires small group involvement, then the ratio of small group participation to Sunday attendance is a gauge. If personal ministry is critical in your model, then your “leader to attendee” ratio is critical. A regular glance at the right gauges can keep your organization on track for the long haul.
  • Listen to what we ask – do I really want to direct the behavior of people with that question.
  • If you want to know what someone values, listens to their questions.
  • What are the behaviors that would be best for this organization, then, what question(s) can I begin to ask that will start to direct their behavior in a certain (desired) direction.

Q2: Who Needs To Be Sitting At The Table?

  • Good decisions require good input. Ask yourself, “Whose input do I need to make the best decision possible?” Then cut through the red tape and ignore the org chart to make sure those people have seats at the table.
  • We all have different skills and talents. There are people you’ll want to brainstorm with, but who would be horrible in the “get it done” meeting, while others will shine while implementing. Understand who on your team fits where and make sure they are at the right table at the right time.
  • Do I have the right people sitting at the table? Who needs to be here as part of the decision-making process?
  • Where Are We Manufacturing Energy?
  • Where are we pretending (create a sense of excitement) to be more excited about something than we’re really excited about?
  • It forces us to face realities that many times we don’t want to mess with. We don’t want to changes things because it’s too hard, etc.

Q3: Where Do I Make The Greatest Contribution To The Organization?

  • As leaders, we are often tempted to try to do everything. Generally this leads to widespread failure. We must ask ourselves where we add the most value. In other words, “What do you do that only you can do?” There may be more than one thing that you do well.
  • Don’t ask the question just once. It needs to be asked at least annually, maybe even more frequently.
  • I don’t help the other people around find their best and highest usefulness when I don’t ask that about myself and about them. There maybe things I’m doing that someone else could thrive in if I would simply get out-of-the-way. Ask myself the question, “Is there a higher and best use of my talent in the organization?”
  • The flip side, “What should I stop doing?”

Q4: Who’s Not Keeping Up?

  • Always a hard question to ask. There is always a way to transition someone with dignity.
  • No one likes to ask this question. It’s painful. But it’s inevitable that as your organization hits 60 mph, there will be some still moving at 45 mph.
  • As painful as this question is, the truth is that other people already know the answer. They are wondering if you know. Accommodating people who are falling behind hurts the organization, dishonors those people, and will ultimately keep them from finding their areas of success.

Q5: What Have We Fallen In Love With That Is No Longer The Best Way To…

  • Everyone loves the way they do things or they wouldn’t do them that way.
  • Over time, the way we do things becomes emotional for us, part of our culture.
  • What have we become emotionally engaged with or attached with that is really not the best way to do it any longer?
  • Andy Groves, “Only the Paranoid Survive” asks the question:

“I looked out the window at the Ferris wheel of the Great American amusement park revolving in the distance when I turned back to Gordon [Moore, CEO of Intel], and asked ‘If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?’ Gordon answered without hesitation, “He would get us out of memories.’ [memory chips] I stared at him, numb, and then said ‘Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back, and do it ourselves?”

Q6: What Would A Great Leader Do?

  • It takes me beyond average. It drags me out of my comfort zone.
  • What would Winston Churchill do? Martin Luther King Jr.? Gandhi? Jesus?
  • Even in the small issues, pause to give yourself permission to know the answer to the question, “If I were a great leader… truly selfless, truly committed to the organization more than I am committed to myself, more than my own ego or my own reputation, my income, my bonus, (my…my…my…my…) what would a great leader do?”
  • What would they do that would be the unusual thing, bold thing, the courageous thing, the vision thing? The thing that took them beyond personal gain and personal reputation.
  • Even if I wouldn’t do what a great leader would do, you owe it to yourself to at least give yourself the margin to discover what a great leader would do, maybe just the though of what a great leader, if I were a great leader (if I were selfless), sometimes just knowing that is enough to pull us beyond the boundaries of our own ego and self-centeredness to actually do the great thing.

Question: What other questions do you think every should leader should ask?

  • I’ve listened to Andy Stanley’s podcast a few time but not recently. I think I just may check this one out. One question that I find myself constantly asking is “What do I need to stop doing so I can focus my energy on what I need to be doing?”

    • Yup, you’ll really enjoy it Caleb! You also made a great point on what I should stop doing because we have so much options ahead of us and it’s really about being intentional about who we are. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

  • Andy’s got some amazing insights. This proves it even more.

    One I’d add: How can I exit my leadership position?

    I think every leader needs to have an exit strategy. Not because he’s ready to get out of there but because he knows there are people coming up that need to take his place.

    • Awesome thoughts here Joe. I’ve seen the power of leadership comes in the aftermath of a great leader. What happens when the leader is gone? Building a system to develop leadership and provide ample opportunity to thrive is key. Thanks for adding your thoughts here Joe.

    • Great question, Joe!

      Leaders need to know when it’s time to turn the lead over to someone else. Leaders don’t need to fear being replaced but focus on how they can help train up the next batch of leaders.

  • Question number 6 really hits it home. Great leaders care more about others than they do about their own comfort and success. It’s that type of leader I want to follow. Not someone who is self centered.

    I really liked this question as well, “If you want to know what someone values, listens to their questions.”
    I find that I can learn more from listening than in speaking.

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  • Fiona

    Question 3 is good. Good leaders delegate and elevate, inspire creative actions and support innovation…so if you’re not bringing out the best in your team, is leading it really the place for you?
    People are not a tool to promote the success of your organisation. Especially in a church setting they are the lifeblood. Question 5 shows they are not valued as they should be, but if they” fall behind” you consider them disposable.
    I also disagree with your premise;
    “Everyone loves the way they do things, or they wouldn’t do them that way…”
    An arrogant, driven boss, orred tape lack of resources or knowledge are also driving factors for why procedures stick.
    Synergy is productive, driven, manipulative leaderships get numbers, but not durable quality.

  • Q5. strikes me as a very important question to ask. “What have we fallen in love with that is no longer the best way to….” In my experience this is many times the road for leaders to travel because it always leads to change that others do not want. I have found that many will fight tooth and nail to keep in the comfortable groove just because it is “what we have always done..” Paul can you share any insight into experiences or other stories that focus on this leadership question?
    PS – Love the blog, I have been looking to increase my network with likeminded Christians who follow Jesus and are in business. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

  • Samuel Park

    Q6. WWGLD not WWJD? How the mighty have fallen. I will always chose “good” to “great” anytime. This also pertains to Q5.

    I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

  • Paul Kenny

    Great Article….thanks for the great reminders