Marquardt, Leading With Questions

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Michael J. Marquardt, Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask (Jossey-Bass US Non-Franchise Leadership Series). Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Referenced in: Summary

This is a highly acclaimed book that blends theory and practice on a leadership skill that is universally appreciated but seldom illustrated – asking the right questions. In some respects, this is similar to the field of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) (link) This may also be useful for those whose leadership is exercised from less influential roles or power imbalanced situations.

The book results from Marquardt’s extensive research that was followed by interviews with twenty-two international leaders (biographies in the resource section) who were recognized for their ability to lead with questions. He asked each of them five questions:

  • “When did you start using questions and why?”
  • “What are some of the ways you have used questions?”
  • “What questions have been most effective?”
  • “What has been the impact of leading through questions on (a) your organization and (b) you as a leader?”
  • “How has the use of questions changed you as a leader?”

The book is a full development on his findings from this research and their significance for how people lead.

Marquardt divides the book into three sections: The Power of Questions; Asking Questions Effectively; and A Guide for Leaders of Using Questions. Parts Two and Three are the best, and one who does not need a defense of the value of questions could skip Part One altogether. Part Two discusses how to choose the right questions and ask them effectively.

There are many helpful sections of this book, but some are especially powerful. One is the last part of chapter 6 where he discusses creating questioning cultures. He says: “All companies can strengthen their cultures by making them question-friendly. Leaders must model the way, promote values that support inquiry, ensure a safe environment that permits challenging the status quo, find opportunities to ask questions, reward questioners, and make training available when needed.” (112) Part Three is also very helpful, offering great insight on how to use questions in managing people, building teams, shaping strategy, solving problems, and enabling change. Resource A in the back also overviews training programs for questioning leaders.

This text offers a helpful tool for church leaders. Since congregations often lack the incentives and controls that are characteristic of other organizations, much of the material on more direct and strategic leadership and management approaches is not helpful. Questions, as a more indirect and formative style, are usually quite appropriate for our contexts.

From the Publisher

In Leading with Questions, internationally acclaimed management consultant Michael Marquardt shows how you can learn to ask the powerful questions that will generate short-term results and long-term learning and success. Throughout the book, he demonstrates how effective leaders use questions to encourage participation and teamwork, foster outside-the-box thinking, empower others, build relationships with customers, solve problems, and much more. Based on interviews with twenty-two successful leaders who “lead with questions,” this important book reveals how to determine which questions will lead to solutions in today’s complicated business world.


“In Leading with Questions, Michael Marquardt maps the future of leadership. ‘The leader of the past was a person who told,’ Peter Drucker once said. ‘The leader of the future will be a person who asks.’ Read this book if you want to see the future.” —Robert Kramer, director, executive education programs, American University

“Our company was recently recognized by Forbes Magazine as the #1 retail company in America. Our approach to leadership—from our CEO to our frontline managers—follows the approach explained in Leading with Questions. This book is a practical guide for anyone—at any leadership level, in any company—to follow to become more effective in leading others.” —Doug Bryant, vice president, organizational development and training, Advance Auto Parts

“I have learned that leadership is not about knowing all the answers. It’s about knowing what great questions to ask, and carefully listening to those answers. This book is a timely piece of management wisdom that shows leaders how to ask great questions—questions that inspire, motivate, and empower the organization.” —Patrick Thng, managing director, Development Bank of Singapore

“Marquardt has discovered the way to effectively lead the twenty-first century organization through questions and reflective learning. This book captures the essence of the questioning process and sets a practical basis for the long sought after learning organization!” —Harry Lenderman, president, The Elk Forge Group; advisor, Sodexho University; author, Breaking the Educational Glass Ceiling

“This book skillfully bridges scholarly theory and down-to-earth common-sense tactics to provide a crystal clear guide to a very powerful leadership technique that changes people and organizations.” —Al D. McCready, chairman and CEO, McCready Manigold Ray & Co., Inc.

“I have experienced the tools and techniques of Leading with Questions first hand and highly recommend this book to new as well as experienced leaders. It has dramatically changed our leaders as they learn how to embrace Marquardt’s questioning technique.” —Liz Cicco, training and development specialist, Bowne & Co., Inc.

“From the days of Socrates, our ability to ask the right questions has been revered as one of the greatest skills a person should possess when leading others. Marquardt’s latest book is an invaluable ‘how to’ resource for those intent upon finding solutions through reflective questioning.” —Eric Charoux, executive director, DCDM Business School, MAURITIUS

“Leading with Questions provides wonderful illumination on a subject often hidden in the shadows. In this book the genius of the author is his ability to capture the essence of what successful leaders do with questioning and how they can use questions to change their lives and those around them for the better.” —Kenneth L. Murrell, professor of management and MIS, The University of West Florida; author, Empowering Employees

“Leading with Questions is brilliant and thought provoking. It is a huge wake up call to all leaders that smarter questions are the best recipe for lasting success.” —Alastair Rylatt, author, Winning the Knowledge Game: Smarter Learning for Business Excellence and Navigating the Frenzied World of Work

About the Author

Michael Marquardt is an internationally noted educator and consultant, and professor of human resource development and program director of Overseas Programs at George Washington University. He is also the director of the Global Institute for Action Learning.

***For additional information on this resource, including reviews, click the bookstore links. Check the reference at page top or the links below for resource guides on related topics.***

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