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FQ-Book-1When I decided to give my site the title “The Fourth Question” I did some research to see if there was anything else published with the same title. I discovered a Chinese folk tale for children called “The Fourth Question.” when I read it I was amazed at the correlation between the lesson of this Chinese children’s tale and the model of leadership I am putting forward for your consideration on this site.

The story is about a Chinese worker, Yee-Lee, who wonders why he is still poor after he has worked hard all his life. This question troubles him so much he decides to go on a quest to find the answer. He goes on a journey to Kun-Lun Mountain to seek the answer from a holy man who lives there. On the way to the holy man Yee-Lee meets three other people who ask him to get answers to their questions from the holy man.

When he gets there the holy man will only answer three of his four questions. Yee-Lee has to decide which will be the fourth question and, thus, remain unanswered. He decides to ask the questions entrusted to him by his three new friends. He puts aside his own question and places their interests above his own. As he travels home he visits each of his friends and delivers the answers to their questions. He is richly rewarded for his troubles. He even finds love and marries the daughter of one of his fellow seekers.

The message behind the story is – by putting the interests of others before his own, to the point of believing he had given up any chance he had of getting an answer to his own question, Yee-Lee is rewarded and no longer has any need to get an answer to his question. It is a story which illustrates the cognitive, moral dilemma and the rewards, of putting others before yourself.

I was very excited when I came across this book. The story in it provides a great introduction to the Fourth Question model of leadership. At its core this model proposes that by continually seeking to meet the needs of others leaders will find their organizational and personal goals not only met, but exceeded.

The four questions all leaders must ask are:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. What are we going to do to get there?
  3. How will we know we are going in the right direction?
  4. What is our motivation?

The Fourth Question Leadership model emerged as a result of a combination of experience as a leader and a leadership consultant and as a result of research into the value of care. I completed doctoral studies researching how the value of care could be developed in people and the evidence a leader would be able to observe if they were successful. The years of observing leaders (good and not so good), coupled with my own successes and failures over the years, contributed to a deep conviction that it is when leaders truly put the interests of others ahead off their own interests that any individual, team, or organization can reach their full potential.