#314 Serving leaders ask those who follow: “What are you thinking?”

 November 24, 2021

Serving leaders take time to think, but they also reflect on how Paul’s instructions apply to those who follow.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

Serving leaders acknowledge their own responsibility to think well and then turn their attention to those who follow. They ask them, “What are you thinking?” for several reasons.

Serving leaders ask, “What are you thinking?” to encourage thinking.  

Some leaders expect that they are the only ones who think; followers simply do what they are told. But serving leaders are not satisfied with followers who do what they are told without thinking. They want to develop the thinking capacity of those they lead. Their goal is not to develop many followers, but to raise up many leaders who think! Serving leaders encourage those who follow to think. They inquire about what they are thinking to make sure they are thinking! It’s empowering for a follower to hear their leader ask them what they are thinking. The question encourages more thinking. More thinkers in any organization is a win for all!

Serving leaders ask, “What are you thinking?” to expose thinking.

Serving leaders want to know what those who follow are thinking. And as they hear the responses, they learn from them and they learn about them. The ideas from a follower can give new perspective to a leader who often views a situation from a very different vantage point. A serving leader may have good intentions, but not understand how their actions impact those on the front lines of implementation. Learning what a follower thinks can also help a serving leader understand what next steps of growth and development are needed for that person. Most people don’t freely share their thoughts unless they know the leader sincerely wants to know what they think. Serving leaders make it clear that they want to know what others are thinking. They listen carefully to those who follow and reflect on the significance of what they are thinking.

Serving leaders ask, “What are you thinking?” to expand thinking.

Serving leaders are not threatened by others who think! Instead, they are intentionally seeking to develop the thinking capacity of others. They ask followers, “What are you thinking?” to help them grow. They deliberately pull developing leaders into the room with others leaders who are thinking together. Followers learn to think as they observe others grappling with leadership issues. They hear leaders discussing issues they have not yet considered. As they listen their thinking capacity expands.  This is a win for the serving leader and the one who follows, both grow when the right questions are asked!

Take a moment today to ask someone who follows your leadership, “What are you thinking?” Then listen well and grow in your capacity to serve them well.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How do I encourage thinking in those I lead? Have I been deliberate in asking them what they are thinking? How has this impacted my leadership?
  • How well do I know what those I lead are thinking? Do I regularly invite them to share their thoughts with me? Have I reflected on what next steps are to help them develop greater thinking capacity?
  • Do I have a plan to bring developing leaders into the room where leaders are thinking and wrestling with leadership challenges? Who could I involve in this process and when will I do it?             

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at a question serving leaders ask themselves: Who am I following?