The Essential Partner of Curiosity
Curiosity makes you interesting. (Especially if you want to talk about me.)
A participant at a recent presentation asked me about qualities of successful leaders. The first word that came to mind was curiosity. Successful leaders are many things:
- People oriented.
The first thing I watch for in leaders is curiosity.
The questions you ask tell me who you are, what’s important to you, and where you’re going.
There’s hope if you’re curious.
- Interest in others. Ask questions about people, before systems, projects, or results. You must know people if you plan to lead.
- What makes them tick?
- What are their interests?
- What brings them energy, satisfaction, or frustration?
- What challenges have they overcome? How?
- Willingness to connect.
- Eagerness to learn. You’re either learning or you’re dying.
The essential partner:
The essential partner of curiosity is passion for action. Curiosity by itself is nice but worthless. Curiosity with initiative is foundational to leadership.
Curiosity without action ends up stuck.
Leaders have curiosity about the past and the future.
- What’s next?
- How might we put that into practice?
- What’s useful about this? How does it apply?
- How can we take action on this?
- How can we be better next time?
Curiosity, from a leadership perspective, is about action more than information.
Leaders who ask questions, listen, and take action are:
- Forward thinking.
- Worthy of being followed.
Curiosity feels like the inquisition when it stands alone.
The giving side of curiosity includes:
- Sharing information that give context to questions.
- Explaining intent. People wonder what you’re after until you tell them.
- Describing what’s important.
- Transparency and candor.
Curiosity is courage married to uncertainty. Be brave enough to wonder if you’re missing something.
What insights about curiosity might you add?
What comes to your mind when you think about qualities of successful leaders?
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I really liked that you link curiosity to courage, Dan. When I shared the post on Linkedin though, I shortened your final quote to “Be brave enough to wonder”. To me it’s not only about wondering what you might be missing, but wondering with a fully open mind what might be. Are you missing something that you can’t see? Are you seeing something that isn’t there? Be brave and wonder! Stay safe, Always Care.
Thanks Paul. Great use of language. The open mind approach is so important. Curiosity, to be curious, must be open. A closed mind isn’t curious.
Good content on this one Dan. Maybe an add or two:
Curiosity creates Innovation.
Innovation develops forward thinking.
Forward thinking keeps one on the leading edge
Curiosity engages you with others.
Curiosity towards others conveys an interest in them
On a personal note I’ll correlate it to dating. Dating? Come on go with me on this one. Let’s say you go out on a date with someone who sells cardboard. Cardboard you say; “I know nothing of cardboard.” Excellent!
The next step is developing those questions about cardboard as you interact; don’t ask too many remember you’re on a date :).
As you ask more questions about cardboard’s development, uses etc you’ve engaged the other person. You’ve conveyed to them that you’re interested, yes in them too. The end result: The door likely opens to that second date. The same in your business and personal relationships; that initial inquiry of Curiosity can do wondrous things for others and you by showing that interest of curiosity in them. You’ve also likely helped enlighten them in part on what their Wants, Needs and Desires are, in many contexts
Enjoy that date,… with destiny.
Thanks Don. I had no idea that curiosity could get someone a second date. Makes perfect sense!
Thanks for adding your insights.
Hi Dan – great post on curiosity. I also agree with Paul’s comment about being open because when we are curious, we are open and thus non-judging. When we judge others we create limitations and narrow our options. When we are open to others, we explore possibilities and move towards collaboration. We see, hear and understand them. We message respect and have greater compassion. Curiosity also supports reflection and thus learning.
On another note, I think I have mentioned before that neuroscience has found when we are curious with anothe dopamine is released which leads to a feel good state, an increased heart/brain connection and as we continue to be curious, more dopamine and oxytocin are released enhancing the sense of feeling good. This is of great importance when there is a potential for conflict in a conversation. If we can continue to be curious, asking open questions, dopamine will be released, we begin to feel good and with a second question, the tension/emotion around possible conflict dissolves and we can stay in the conversation, navigate the disagreement as we gain clarity around the perspectives of others and work towards resolution. If we can remain curious, conflict no longer needs to be avoided.
Dan, your post on how leaders can integrate curiosity into daily practice is excellent and forward thinking. It reminds me of an old rhetoric professor who threw out the question: “Beyond the known and unknown, what else is there?” And a brave student answered, “Curiosity and the mysterious.”
I sometimes wonder if curiosity is not only seeking the unknown, but experiencing the mysterious. And to whom this emotion–this motive—is either strange or a stranger, perhaps they have lost that great leadership—and child-like–ability “to play seek and find” at work in their profession.
Albert Einstein characterized curiosity as not only having our eyes and mind wide open but our hearts too, to pause in great wonder, and to be in rapt awe of those things that cause us to ponder. He spoke of emptying our mind and replacing it with an OPEN one. And he said the secret motive of happiness and genius is curiosity—that whatever inspires our attention will reveal its blueprint to us and ultimately will alter the way we affect what we always believed were the mysteries of our world.
George Washington Carver is an example of a curious person who discovered 325 uses for the peanut and 100 for the sweet potato. Curiosity was his great motive. Curiosity doesn’t fritter its precious attention on mass trends: Curious persons create the trends that alter the masses.
Excellent post, Dan. I especially like the warning. Every element of being a successful leader involves pure motives and intentions, and the humility that allows for vulnerability. Not always for the faint of heart….
I believe the first step in being curious is developing the apparent questions followed closely by Considering those questions. It not only enables you to ask better questions but also builds rapport with the person(s) being asked (Gee, the boss has done foundational efforts; this must be significant…).
Love this quote: “Curiosity is courage married to uncertainty. Be brave enough to wonder if you’re missing something.” I’d also add this: Be brave enough to move forward knowing the reality of uncertainty that addressed but only estimated.
I’ve seen many of these posts and they appear to come from a pragmatic X’s and O’s approach. I don’t mean that in a condescending way. I say this for in my business dealings I’ve seen a sterility evolving, so in a post I “tongue and cheek” made a correlating reference to a “date”.
Reason. In all our dealings whether personal or business, its the personal human touch of sincerity. I’ve recognized that personalizing sincerity is essential and not intangible- that is a key component of the Curiosity. This personalizing of one’s interactions seems to have become lost in harriedly just looking at the definition.
That lack of personalizing the “curiosity” also is what I see as a problem missing in much of today’s business. We have Social Media, technology that supposedly makes work easier (ha! increases workload) yet the human touch of real interaction vs video conferencing- emails- FB,Twitter… just doesn’t accomplish the same thing
Good luck on that “touch” (figuratively not literally though touch appropriately is an assist)- its the difference between “ok” and “sis-boom-bah”
Fun post Dan! I really loved these two quotes: “Curiosity without action ends up stuck.” and “Curiosity is courage married to uncertainty. Be brave enough to wonder if you’re missing something.” This highlights two cornerstones of my coaching with leaders – coaching requires learning and forward moving action. I also coach leaders to step into vulnerability to be brave enough to wonder if they might be missing something. Being curious requires a certain element of vulnerability. Vulnerable to be open to learning and admit you might be wrong and vulnerable to taking actions that might lead to more learning.
I was curious to the point of aggravation as a child. I mean, I’m no different today; my personality somehow survived the onslaught of “be quiets” and “don’t ask stupid questions.”
This girl is a hardcore Enneagram type 5 though; questions are paramount to how I interact with the world.
The question is or was, did you “satisfy” “Curiosity” when encountered? For Curiosity needs to be fed often with pursuit and resolve, via the persistent steps taken until Curiosity gets it