One question I wish leaders asked themselves.

Jean Saung
9 min readMay 7, 2019

Although my hope is that this question would help anyone at any stage of their leadership journey, the leaders I would particularly like to call to attention in the title of this article are those who currently have the decision-making power, the title and the position.

Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

That being said, having the title of a leader does not make someone a true leader. What makes someone a true leader is the display of leadership, and no title is required. I believe everyone has leadership potential, has displayed leadership at many points in their lives, and that it is a fluid state, like a dance of leading and following. As a swing dancer the last 8 years, I have learned that in a true social dance, leaders initiate a movement then follow the reaction and spontaneity of their partner.

What the title of a leader creates is status, the responsibility and the expectation from others to perform the duties of a leader. That is a lot of pressure to perform, but how do we put our best foot forward?

As a UX designer and researcher, an important part of my job is to ask questions and to seek the truth found in diverse experiences. It is amazing what we can learn from each other if we ask the right questions and we are truly listening to the answers.

Knowing when to ask questions and what question to ask requires empathy, and to take it one step further, compassion. Empathy and compassion make up our Emotional Intelligence/Quotient or EQ, previously under-appreciated and difficult to measure soft-skills most companies now wish they could identify and cultivate in their talent.

90% of high performers have high EQ — Talent Smart

Empathy is the ability to feel and understand another’s emotions. Compassion is the ability to react judiciously and with care to how other people are feeling, including ourselves.

It probably goes without saying that high EQ is great for companies, leading to better management and therefore better employee productivity, job satisfaction, and retention. Still, with all of these benefits, more often than not I have encountered leaders who struggle with asking the right questions at the right time in management roles.

“Average EQ scores have dropped 25 points while average…

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Jean Saung

Senior Product Designer based in Asheville, NC. I write about design, leadership, resilience, and emotional intelligence. https://www.jeansaung.com/