The Power of Curiosity in Leadership
Our family has always been very curious, especially in regard to exploring the unknown – but perhaps that is the definition of curiosity, isn’t it? So, as I started preparing the weekly Occupy Life Step on Curiosity, I couldn’t resist sharing my experiences over the last week in this blog.
I am very lucky to have a young granddaughter who is explicitly teaching me about exploring the unknown and taking in enormous amounts of information on a daily basis. The delight and intelligence in her eyes, her behavior and her actions is amazing to me. As we get older, we sometimes loose this drive to learn, to grow, and to refine who we are. And, I believe that is when we begin to disengage from our world. And, with that, often comes an unwillingness to look inside ourselves to see what we have become, and who the people around us really are.
This last week, I was given a couple of opportunities to observe my husband, Karl, in interactions with people most of us would have walked away from. I am briefly sharing these interactions with you so you get a flavor of the power of curiosity.
- The first interaction was with a young man at a branch of our regional community college. His conversation was not well structured, and he was having difficulty tracking through the dialogue he started, but was having trouble completing. Karl continued speaking with him for quite a while, even when I had to step away to facilitate my workshop. The kindness on his face and the empathy he was giving to this young man was remarkable. You could see it in his eyes, in the interest he was showing, and the way he was holding his body. This was not the husband I was familiar with, and we have been married for almost 40 years. When I asked him about it, because I was curious, he replied “I wanted to know who he was, and what he was doing at the community college. He was trying to share something with me.”
- The second interaction was with a gentleman we met briefly as we walked around the neighborhood close to our church on Sunday, handing out flyers to invite people to our Holiday Song Fest. The man who came to one of the doors was almost rabid in his defiance of fundamentalist Christianity. He was rattling off dates, historical data, connections to paganism, and his general distaste of religion in general. My husband stood and talked with him for several minutes (really, just listened) before he politely excused himself. As he joined me, and another church member in continuing our rounds, he said “what an intelligent man – he has a great deal of knowledge of the history of Christianity, and it is obviously important for him to share it. He must have been hurt in some way by his experience with Christianity.” Ah….
The power of curiosity in these interactions asked my husband to look for connections and explanations where others would have walked away, dismissing both individuals as not worth their time or effort. How does this apply to leadership? Curiosity is the first phase in developing Transformative Leadership, and is the internal behavior we come back to as we move forward in our growth and development as leaders :
- Curiosity helps you gather masses of information, discern reality, and make better decisions. When you look inward, you gather information about yourself if you are willing to look. You learn how you are affecting others by the way they interact with you. And, when you are willing to listen and ask questions, you learn about other people.
- Curiosity helps you see the bigger picture. When you are looking at all sides of an issue, you become less affected by one person’s perception (including yours), and you are more able to make decisions for the greater good, and become less driven by what you want, and less affected and frustrated by what you don’t want.
- Curiosity encourages you to be more fully engaged in your world, and in others. Curiosity, combined with empathy, lets the people you are leading know that you care what they think, and you can relate to them right where they are.
- Curiosity invites you to be willing to face what you find with courage – because sometimes the rock you turn over covers some really gross and smelly stuff. This is when you need to step back and observe it from a distance, and do a reality check. It requires you to not take things personally, but to look at the situation as a part of the bigger picture, and determine what needs to happen next.
- Curiosity asks that once you have looked and found, that you be willing to look again…. Deeper, and yet again….Wider. Engage an attitude of wonder and fearlessness. And, take action.
Curiosity is asking me to be willing to look deeper and wider at my husband in his leadership role as he steps fully into retirement, and to encourage this kind and generous aspect of who he is. It is inviting me to look at every person I meet with curiosity – to find that something they are trying to tell me by being who they are.
What does the power of curiosity invite you to do in your role as a leader? Please share, I would love to hear from you!
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