Why Leaders Ask Direct Questions


By Jas Singh

Perhaps the most frustrating part of working in groups is when you never know exactly what the other person is trying to say.

When things get wrapped up in generalized conversation, undertones and hidden signals.

Don’t get me wrong – there is skill and tact in asking the right questions at the right time. You never want to come across as rude or inappropriate.

But there can be a tendency to over-do it.

In social, business and even political environments sometimes common courtesy is being put ahead of common sense.

However in ten years as a hiring specialist, I can say with confidence that for most people, they would much rather be asked exactly what is required of them than to be confused and even contradicted.

Most people would rather be asked direct, specific, questions than to take part in boardroom cat-and-mouse.

We all value certainty and transparency.

Here are some reasons why great leaders ask direct questions.

It saves time

The one thing none of us can create more of is time.

We’ve all been in situations where weeks – even months – could have been prevented by simply cutting to the chase and determining what is really important.

After investing so much of our precious time, it can lead to frustration, disappointment, even anger.

Stretched out meetings, back-and-forth client proposals and extensive interview processes can be easily be shortened by having more specific agendas and asking direct questions.

Great leaders treat their own and others people’s time preciously.

It creates focus

The beauty of asking more direct questions is that it highlights what is important.

When a key message or priority is wrapped up in hours of unimportant chit-chat its impact can often be lost.

Some of the most engaged, loyal and happy workers I know are those who actually spend very little time being questioned by their boss. There are not excessive meetings and progress “updates”. Just pin-point focus on the major issues – which is developed through the use of direct questions.

Are we 100% going to close this deal by deadline? How much more money do you want for this promotion? What exactly do you need me to do?

By cutting the waffle and being more direct, managers and leaders create focus.

They uncover the current state of play and situation as quickly as possible. Allowing them to work with their teams to create changes if necessary.

Great leaders focus on what is important.

It eventually builds trust 

Sometimes, being direct can be interpreted as being rude. Maybe showing others that you don’t trust them with their responsibility.

Although there are no doubt times when certain questions are inappropriate, at the same time team work is dependent on transparent and honest communication.

As long as leaders are themselves prepared to answer direct questions, the best relationships are actually based on being able to ask people what exactly is on your mind and important to you. We’ve all experienced connecting deeply with other people since we feel we can “talk to them about anything”.

Often this “anything” means being able to ask them direct questions without the fear of criticism, rejection or judgement.

Great leaders understand that the ability to ask each other direct questions is the sign of a secure two-way relationship.


To get direct answers you have to ask direct questions.

It saves time and creates focus.

And after all, if it’s too direct then who says they have to answer?

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who know how to be tactful to engage with others, but also have the ability to be direct when required.

Could you be more direct?

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