A colleague of mine is moderating a high-level leadership panel and asked, “What are the best leadership panel questions?” Like most open-ended questions, I had to counter with four fundamental questions:
What is the objective? Leadership panel objectives are typically organized to:
Gain insight into what is happening in the organization or industry
Inspire high potentials to become future leaders
Learn lessons from experienced leaders
Provide access/visibility to the audience who don’t see them much!
Who are the panelists? Once you get the names, research their leadership philosophy and practices and weave interesting thoughts and ideas you have learned that your audience cares about into your questions!
Who is in the audience?
Employees within the organization
Members of an industry association
Members of a broader community
What does the audience want to know? Research the topical issues that would be relevant for the audience e.g. return to the office, resiliency, the economy etc. – anything relevant to the objective of the panel.
The line of leadership panel questions can be vastly different, depending on the answers! The most typical leadership panel is to share leadership lessons with a broad and diverse audience. Let’s start with my top 45 potential leadership panel questions. You won’t ask them all, but perhaps they might provide some inspiration as you develop your own list.
Strategic Leadership Panel Questions:
What is your definition of “leadership” and how was it formed/has it transformed?
Describe your leadership style and how you “lead” others.
What would you classify as the most defining leadership behavior?
What was your most satisfying leadership role? Why?
What do you look for in a leadership role? How do you assess what is right for you?
What are some reasons you pursued leadership roles?
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader?
What makes a great leader?
Who was/is your role model and/or leadership mentor?
What benefits have you received from your leadership experiences?
Did you aspire to this leadership position? What was your path to get here?
Have you been in a leadership position where the experience was very different than you anticipated? What did you learn? Were there unexpected benefits or unintended consequences?
What has been one of your biggest joys as a leader?
What has been one of your biggest challenges as a leader?
What’s the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
What would you want to “do-over”? Why?
What’s the biggest risk you took? Why?
What’s the most dangerous behavior/trait that you have seen derail leaders’ careers?
Leadership Panel Questions that Beg for Specifics
How do you rally the team to take on a big goal?
How can organizations balance the tactical versus the strategic imperatives?
How do you balance planning for the future and being present for your employees?
How do you keep your team on track with the mission, vision, and values of the organization?
How do you inspire others while keeping yourself inspired about the organization’s mission?
At what stage in leadership should you start thinking about succession planning?
What skills do you use most often in your leadership role?
How have you grown those skills?
What leadership skills are you continuing to work on?
What are the most important qualities you look for in a future employee. Why?
What do you consider before promoting an employee into management?
What are the most effective ways you incentivize your employees?
How do you foster a positive work environment?
How do you encourage creativity among team members?
How do you encourage honest, open employee dialogue?
How do traits like empathy and vulnerability play a role in your leadership?
What does work-life balance mean for you?
How do you motivate employees to do their best to sustain business, and at the same time, have compassion for their peers in uncertainty?
How do you make room for continued learning?
What do you do in your personal time that helps you be a leader?
Questions about Application to the Audience
What are the best ways that leaders can support other leaders?
What resources do you suggest for new leaders (books, podcasts, apps, etc.)?
What’s one thing you wish someone told you during your career journey?
What strategies are most effective for prioritizing myriad tasks?
What’s something you wish someone told you early on in your career journey?
What’s one piece of advice you have for those in our audience currently in leadership roles or preparing to be a leader?
For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative leadership panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.