Effective leadership through humble inquiry

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Joint Council of Extension Professionals

Although the public generally looks to Cooperative Extension for answers, we also need to engage in leadership, and “leadership is not as much about knowing the right answers as it is knowing the right questions” (Tiede, 2013, p. 2). “People have the inherent capacity to solve their own problems and that social transformation is within the reach of all communities" (Kellogg Foundation, 2009). There is a need to prepare volunteers, civic leaders, and elected and appointed officials to be the force for positive change within their communities. Research supports this notion that community leaders need to be involved in the decision-making process and problem solving to help organize and develop their communities. Furthermore, Extension professionals want to explore the opportunities for collaborations and partnerships, yet they are unsure how. This session will highlight the practice of “Humble Inquiry” and connect it directly to the work of Extension. According to Ed Schein (2013), “Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person” (p. 2). In addition to Schein’s (2013) book, “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling,” this session will draw upon practical experience and related literature, such as Michael Marquardt's (2014) book, “Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask,” and David Marquet's (2012) book, “Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders.” Participants will engage in conversation about how the principles can be applied in their work with educational program participants, advisory groups, administrators, program partners, potential donors, and more.