If your childhood was anything like mine, you were constantly pushed to ask questions:
“Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!”
“Smart people question everything”
…And other such sayings seemed to fly out of the mouths of teachers, parents and intelligent adults on an almost daily basis.
The adults were right, the greatest minds in history famously questioned everything, even seemingly logical facts that others took for granted (“the world is flat” for example).
The smartest and most successful individuals I have met seem to have the art of asking questions down to a tee, you can almost see the cogs in their brain turning as they listen to an answer; filtering the information their ears are receiving into ideas and practical translations to be used in future.
As adults trying to build expertise, trust and respect, there has to be a point where we stop asking questions of everyone else and start providing answers
Growing up I was raised by my father, and he had a few basic rules or principles that he would use to prop me up after falling down or whenever I would do something stupid (think getting caught doing something you weren’t supposed to, and responding with “but everybody else was doing it”). His favorite line was “lead, don’t follow.”
I believe that to be a leader, in any capacity, you have to be the guy providing answers and not asking questions
I’m not saying you should know everything about everything, learning is living and all that jazz. Rather, if you want to be seen as a leader within a field, as the best man/woman for a job, as the go-to person within an industry or simply as a person worth respecting and looking up to – you need to provide more answers for people then you do questions.
Think of the last time someone asked you a question on a subject that you knew only a little bit about, was your answer “maybe it’s this?” or was it “I think it’s [solution], lets try it so we know for sure”.
Your answers don’t have to be correct all of the time, it’s very likely that you’ll predominantly be wrong as the answers guy, at least starting out. But as you provide more and more answers, meaning you build your own self-confidence and test out different answers for yourself – you gain experience and at the same time, trust.
People start to realize that if they want an answer rather then a discussion, you’re who they call.
Everyone wants someone who can remove doubt, in a world that is full of it. You want them to scroll to your name in their iphone’s contacts when this need arises. You provide answers. You are a leader.