Fourth Question Leaders Ask

Fourth Question Leaders Ask “Why”
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

If you ask why people work where they do, what they are looking for in an employer or leader, they always include a response that they want to feel valued and cared for. We know that financial rewards are a part of the work equation. However, research repeatedly shows us that the level of financial reward is not the number one motivating factor in where people choose to work. (Forbes, INC) People want to know they are contributing to something with a purpose and that they are cared for and valued.

Good Leaders seek to care. They ask why.

I think good leaders seek to care for their team members. Leadership responsibilities increasingly encompass issues such as workplace safety, staff wellbeing and work life balance. Aside from the problems employers might see in the tendency of governments to over regulate, leaders are, in my experience, open and even keen, to embrace these initiatives.

True care, however, cannot be legislated. Legal compliance in work place safety, or any other “care” initiative, can be achieved without there being any authentic care delivered by leadership or felt by team members. How does a leader know if team members are being cared for, if the culture of the organization is one which reflects care as a core value? They do it when they learn to habitually ask why. For leaders who genuinely want to lead a caring team, or a caring organization, there is a need to be able to evaluate if care is taking place on more than the evidence of “I reckon”, or responses to a staff survey.

Authentic care is evidenced in the behaviour of an individual and the culture of an organization. Authentic care only occurs when people address the issues of The Fourth Question. The Fourth Question journey is an exploration into what it means to care for someone else.

The Fourth Question is why. Identify the motivation behind behaviour and actions – ask why.

The four questions of leadership are:

  1. Why are we doing this?
  2. What are we going to do to achieve it?
  3. How are we trying to achieve it? and,
  4. What is my/our motivation?

It is only when leaders ask why and grapple with the question of motivation that they truly engage in “why”. The presence or absence of authentic care can only be made visible to the leader when personal and organizational motivation is examined.