Socrates was alive from 470 – 399 BC. He’s one of the few, really old, dead dudes that we in Western civilization continue to learn from as a leader. Socrates was wise and did not compromise much, it would seem. In fact, his death was his choice. You see, Socrates chose to drink the deadly hemlock juice over recanting or repairing. Socrates believed he was doing what was best for Athens and the Athenians killed him for caring so much. So, what exactly did Socrates do?
He led with questions.
Socrates riled up the Athenian youth (or anyone else for that matter) by not answering their incessant questions. Instead of handing out answers from his wise mind, he handed out questions. He greeted questions with questions. One of his favorite go to’s was simple, ccd, and freakin’ magic. Here it is. This could be huge for you, leader. One of Socrates favorite responses to thoughtful, difficult questions was – “What do you think?” The student would incredulously respond that he came to Socrates to hear his thinking, not share his own. Socrates would smile and ask them “tell me more” (we don’t really know this but lets assume shall we). The student would eventually share their thinking and Socrates would smile again and ask them piercing questions that furthered their thinking. You see, Socrates believed that the best way forward for both he and his students was not for him to be the Shell answer man. He did not want them queuing up outside his door and awaiting his wisdom. Socrates wanted them to learn to think for themselves. So, he asked better questions. This methodology scared many Athenian leaders. They didn’t like the young people thinking for themselves and, instead, wanting them to simply comply with the thinking of Athenian leaders. Socrates was well ahead of his time. His peers killed him for it. Today we honor him and his methods. We refer to this questioning tool as the Socratic method.
Everyday I use this. All day long I’m returning good, piercing questions with few answers and lots of thought provoking Socratic questions. I’m becoming more and more Socratic, I guess. How ‘bout you?
Live hard. Love harder (Thanks, Teeks)…