What does it mean to lead from an inquiry stance?

changeaheadLeading from an inquiry stance is grounded in the practitioner’s desire to bring about change – a change in their own practice. The need for change is uncovered as a result of an open mindset and the never-ending quest to problematize practice. Leaders who embrace an inquiry stance are relentless about seeking out ways to improve the current context in which they work. They identify problems/challenges and ask questions – of themselves and others (inquiry is collaborative, after all) to explore possible approaches, develop plans, gather data and evaluate for results. The disposition to inquiry is persistent among leaders who take an inquiry stance. Inquiry can occur at any time and in any place as a particular context requires, always driven by some sort of immediacy or need.

The process of implementing the inquiry plan is intentional and systematic. While reflection is a component of inquiry, leadership from an inquiry stance is more complex in that the process of addressing the problem is collaboratively developed and initiated around a question or series of questions. Reflection occurs throughout the intentionally planned steps in the process often leading to a “change of course” — modifications/corrections in the process. The inquiry process includes the identification of data sources, documentation of the insider perspective, and further development of questions, frameworks and changes in inquirers’ views over time. Dilemmas and recurring themes are also identified throughout the inquiry process.

In the process of inquiring, new knowledge is created that is used to address the challenge at hand. Inquiry as an organic process, while intentional and systematic, is flexible and adaptable as the data is collected, analyzed and applied to take action, resolving the problem/challenge. Throughout the process, the inquirers document the process, including new/transformed questions, new frameworks and analysis of data. Inquirers write about the process and share, as appropriate, during and after the inquiry, both internally and externally, welcoming critique. Depending on context, the results of the inquiry may lead to the uncovering of additional challenges and the need for further inquiry.

The cycle continues!

What does leading from an inquiry stance mean to you?