The Best Question I Never Asked

It was some years ago now, early on in a new role.

I settled down to lead a team meeting one afternoon, and as part of the meeting I was delivering a 30 minute continuing professional development (CPD) session. The 30 minute CPD slot passed by and there was remarkably little interaction or response from two prominent members of my team, who I had expected would be contributing as we went along.

They let me finish the session and the meeting, and then revealed that they had both attended a training course on the topic the year before – delivered by the industry expert in that subject area, at the time. Not only did they already know exactly what I had covered, but knew it in more depth and had supplementary materials that would have been extremely useful for all concerned.

Why didn’t I know all this, and why weren’t they delivering the session themselves?

Because I didn’t ask.

I had decided that as the leader, it was my job to know absolutely everything, demonstrate my expertise at all times and be the general font of all knowledge.  A painful and humiliating lesson indeed – but one that served me well.

I was reminded of this story over the weekend, when I was having a discussion about the nature of leadership with someone on LinkedIn.

Confidence in ourselves stops those stupid kind of mistakes, and helps us to serve our teams and organisations better. It allows us to be a leader with the humility enough to understand that we can’t know it all, nor should we, and that’s not our role anyway. Confidence allows us to ask questions, say we don’t know enough, ask advice and let someone else’s expertise shine though and not feel threatened by it.

With confidence comes a relaxed calmness – which I’m more and more convinced is the essence of leadership.

The best leaders I can remember, and who I observe these days, have a  relaxed alertness about them that inspires confidence and a feeling of safety in others.

How can we relax into our role so that we can make a damn fine job of it and not be driven by our egos, fear, sense of self-importance, the need to be seen to be everything to all people and to react to the myriad of triggers we encounter on a daily basis?

We learn to build our confidence, deal with insecurities and manage ourselves emotionally. We gain some perspective, we give ourselves time, we develop ourselves to become strong inside  – confident, self-assured and secure in who we are. And guess what? There’s a chance that when we do this, we actually might just enjoy our job!

When we get to that point, we’ll remember to ask the right questions.


If you’d like some help to become a happy, confident and relaxed leader – whether you have the title yet or not – then 5 Steps To Developing Your Leadership Presence will help you to make a start. You can download it for free here.

Susan Ritchie

Susan Ritchie is a leadership coach who specialises in working with new and aspiring female leaders, helping them develop their leadership presence, so they can lead with confidence, create the right impact and excel in their role. She’s the author of Strategies for Being Brilliant: 21 Ways to be Happy, Confident and Successful.
She can be found at www.susanritchie.co.uk where you can download 5 Steps To Developing Your Leadership Presence – and why not come and say hello on twitter @susanjritchie.

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