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Book Review: Just Ask Leadership – Why Great Managers Always Ask The Right Questions by Gary B. Cohen

image In my P.K. (pre-kid) years I played quite a bit of golf, I like to practice with my golf simulator. I didn’t start playing the game until I was about 25 years old but it appeared to be a requisite business skill that I “needed” to develop. In those days I had the opportunity to play on weekends with my mother who is a pretty good golfer herself. Spend any time with your club’s senior ladies and you’ll develop a greater appreciation for the Bobby Locke’s famous quote “Drive for show but putt for dough.” For the nongolfers, this is basically translated into: you’ll score lower and be a better golfer if you practice your putting more than your tee shots.

Thousands of management and leadership books are published every year with many of them focusing on grandiose theories on how to become a better leader. But every so often, a book comes along that concentrates on the “short game” of leadership and Gary B. Cohen’s Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions does just that.

When it comes down to it, leadership can only be exercised successfully if there is effective communication and that one to one or one to some interaction is the “short game” of leadership.

As a leader in a typical organizational setting, one of the best ways to increase your chances of fostering an environment where communication flows freely is to use questions. However, as managers move up the corporate ladder this skill is not always developed or practiced.  To  make matters worse, asking the wrong question can wreak more havoc within an organization or community than not asking one at all. Effective leadership requires strategic question-making and Cohen helps us by giving guidance in five areas.

  1. Improve vision – Gaining insight from all  levels of the organization.
  2. Ensure accountability – Increasing team and organization-wide performance.
  3. Build Unity and Cooperation – Creating a culture of trust.
  4. Create Better Decisions – Getting the right answers by asking the right questions.
  5. Motivate to Action – Asking for success.

The author has lots of practical experience to share and he’s interviewed nearly 100 successful leaders from a wide range of organizations, including Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses, the military as well as nonprofits, on the topic which causes the book to be filled with useful stories to illustrate his concepts.

A good introduction is always the best way to hook a reader and I love how Just Ask Leadership starts.

Would you rather be asked for your input or told what to do?

Great strategic use of a question!

I wish that the book had been organized a bit differently and some of the content might be self evident for many readers but there are enough ah-ha moments to keep you engaged.

While In Search of Excellence, Good to Great, The Leadership Challenge and some of the other business classics will always have a place on my bookshelf, there’s also now a spot for Just Ask Leadership because I know I won’t get better at exercising leadership if I don’t continue to work on my “short game.”

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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