Last month I asked a question to people within my spheres of influence, both personal and professional: “If you could ask an admired leader only eight questions, what would they be?” And here’s what they said:


  1. How do you foster innovative thinking, and how are ideas shared and implemented?
  2. What’s your “secret sauce?” What are the three leadership principles that have contributed to your success?
  3. How do you keep your family a priority and manage the concept of balance?
  4. What is one mistake you see leaders making more frequently than others?
  5. During those quiet moments at night, what keeps you awake?
  6. What are the keys to developing the next generation of leaders?
  7. What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment and your greatest failure? What lessons did you learn?
  8. How do you maintain your daily motivation and inspiration despite obstacles, pushback, or setbacks? 

These answers came from a diverse group that varied in age, gender, and experience. What I found most compelling are their comments and additional questions:

  • “What do you see or do as a successful executive-level individual performer to effectively gain and retain a broad sphere of influence? Some may be interested in understanding how leaders are viewing or working through the evolution of the work day and blending generations in teams. Some may prefer flexible hours and no office while others need a set schedule and an office or specific desk that is “theirs.” How will this impact how an individual will lead?”
  • “On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you, and why? Who has been the most influential woman in your life, and why?”
  • “It’s very inspiring and enlightening to see there are still successful people left who are genuinely happy, humble, and honest. I myself have the happiness, humility, and honesty in my life; this gives me faith that I too can be financially successful enough to provide for my family better.”
  • “What has been some prototype or analysis you did recently, independently, that wasn’t a PowerPoint presentation, too? How do you do trend and market analytics at a personal level to make sure you aren’t in an echo chamber of what you’re already doing?”
  • “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates (that kinda blows!).”
  • “Leadership is an art, not a science.”
  • “If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?”
  • “How do you coach and encourage? How do you gauge whether someone is growing at the right pace? What do you do if someone says they are fully committed, but they always take the shortcut? -How do you inspire a team?”
  • “What would you tell someone who has been in a career for 20+ years and would want to have a new challenge, but not necessarily management level, to continue to feel challenged and motivated to reach retirement age and still feel fulfillment but not burn out?”

Enhancing our leadership skills is at the core of the Elevate philosophy, and this survey was just one step in a larger plan to support that mission. In the months ahead, when I visit with bank and non-bank successful leaders, I’ll be asking these eight questions and giving you the secrets to their success. The “Elev8” will be captured on video and in articles as a resource for you on your journey to assist in bringing you to new levels of success.