‘Where Am I?’ & Great Leadership Questions for Leaders To Ask

Some great leadership questions include ‘Where am I?’ and ‘Am I open to self-reflection when defensive or fixated on being right?’.

Margaret Ann Lippincott
By Margaret Ann Lippincott

Good leaders ask questions. And a conscious leader — a great leader — starts by asking themselves the first one, ‘Where Am I?’

As part of Ideas Collide’s investment in training and manager growth, I recently took a four-week leadership class offered by the Conscious Leadership Group. It was unlike any leadership course I had experienced before, and has profoundly impacted my perspective on being a good leader.

Based on “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership,” the course illustrated how purposeful listening, which underpins what it means to be a conscious leader, starts with asking questions, especially to ourselves.

“Conscious leaders listen and make their people feel listened to.”

Our mindset impacts how we listen. To help us orient ourselves and learn about our mindset, the course had us focus on a black line drawn horizontally across a blank page. The premise of the teaching is that we are leading either “above the line” or “below the line.”

  • Above the line means we are Open, Curious, and Committed to Learning in our daily work and interactions with our teams.
  • Below the line indicates we are Closed, Defensive, and Committed to Being Right.

I especially appreciated how simply asking myself “Where Am I?” in relation to that line can flip the shame-and-blame management style on its head. It was remarkable how in sync this is with one of Ideas Collide’s management philosophies: We Are Solution-Oriented.

Early in my career, I observed many managers default to shame and blame to ensure mistakes don’t repeat themselves. It wasn’t until joining Ideas Collide nearly a decade ago that I observed the value of managers who lead differently by eschewing blaming and shaming, instead focusing on collaborating in finding solutions, learning from mistakes, and, above all, leading with grace.

“Being below the line as a leader, manager, or team member makes us prone to blaming. So, we want to lead from Above the Line as much as possible.”

I want to approach 1-on-1s with a desire to help my team learn while they strive to reach their goals. I want to be curious when a team member comes to me with an issue, and encourage them to find potential solutions. I want to notice when I am more committed to being right (and looking good) than to really learning.

To do that, I need to ask questions. Where am I? Am I above or below the line? If I am below the line, with a defensive mindset, another critical question is, “Am I willing to shift?” Am I willing to look at myself and see why I am getting defensive or needing to be right? Can I let go of those tendencies? I need to recognize that I am safe, and remember to breathe.

All of us will be below the line from time to time. We are human, and, as the course confirmed, there is no perfection to be achieved in leadership. The key is being willing to accept ourselves as we are and then shifting toward being more open and ready to learn. It starts with curiously asking questions.

I am grateful to Ideas Collide for providing such helpful management and employee development training. And I highly recommend this intro course to others.

For more information on the Conscious Leadership program, visit the Conscious Leadership Group.