Living The Question

April 30, 2015 By Katherine Tyler Scott

Ki ThoughtBridge's unique Integrated Model of Leadership (IML) includes The Inner Work of Leadership, and is essential to the development and practice of adaptive leadership. To think we can develop effective leaders in times of significant transition and complexity without engaging them in this deeper level of work is similar to thinking a book can be read by just reviewing its table of contents.

The interior life of a leader is powerful data; it influences perceptions, shapes assumptions, and affects behaviors. Staying connected to this source helps leaders to be able to manage their emotions and behaviors and accurately evaluate and respond responsibly to the emotional states and actions of others. Access to the interior self ultimately liberates the leader to exercise their gifts in competent and creative ways. One practice that will help this depth work is to "Live the Question." It is a discipline that is central to any endeavor particularly those requiring a climate of high trust and the achievement of sustainable results. Although the development of this ability is critically important to so much of what leaders do not much can be found on leadership studies about it.

"Living the Question;" is just one of the ten practices in IML; it invites leaders into a state of not knowing and being open to the unexpected. This is the antithesis of what much of leadership education teaches. But in order to lead anyone or anything a leader must know how to manage conflict constructively, and to deal with the field of emotions that accompany change, i.e., anger, fear, ambiguity, anxiety, etc.

To "Live the Question" is to engage in a quest of discovery, to risk unlearning what is familiar and to learn something new. It is an open invitation to observe and to see what is actually happening rather than confirming what we already know or assume.

The real work of leadership accepts the frailty of human knowledge. The leader who lives the question uses statements such as "I wonder....," "I don't understand...," "What if..." or "I don't know..."

These types of questions help us to think more deeply, to pay closer attention, and to see patterns not separate pieces; to create meaning rather than absolutes. An exploration into our interior reveals our identity, values that are inviolate and those still forming, it exposes our hopes, concerns, and fears. We learn that we have choices about what we say and do and we are not indentured to vulnerability or being held hostage to strong emotions, or of being reactive.

To "Live the Question" enriches our understanding of the interior and its influence on the external; it helps us to see the new and to see what we already know but need to see in a new way. The research on "confirmation bias" concludes that we have a tendency to search for or interpret information that conflicts with what we already think or believe. This leads to incorrect conclusions,poor decision-making and costly misunderstanding. Doing our internal work first and being aware of this tendency within ourselves means that we can change this dynamic an learn to listen respectfully and with empathy to others, to ask questions that will lead to greater understanding and connection to others, and to seeing things in a different way as well. When someone is entrenched in their views, flooding them with logic and facts to convince them of the error of their ways builds resistance, but living the question opens up the space to be authentic and invites others in to share themselves.