How Curiosity is the Answer for Arrogance
The risk of self-development is getting sucked into your self when leadership is actually about serving others.
Above all, humility is a practice that centers on serving others.
The risk of self-development is best seen in the context of humility.
Once you attain humility, you lose it.
I noticed that the Arbinger Institute’s latest book didn’t have authors listed. When I spoke with Mitchell Warner, a Managing Partner and Senior Consultant of the Arbinger Institute, I asked him why.
Mitchell said, among other things, that we wanted to focus the book on the content and the reader, not the authors. In addition, we want to build an organization that outlives any authors. He said, “Everyone is critical.”
I asked Mitchell to talk about humility.
Humility is, “An intense curiosity about others.” If you want to be humble, stay curious about people. The seduction of providing answers often short-circuits curiosity.
Arrogance needs to give answers. Humility stays curious.
Mitchell said that the leaders he admires are intensely curious.
Space for humility:
#1. Take time to learn about people.
- What are your challenges?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What’s important to you?
#2. Consider your impact on others, not just results.
- What is it like for others, when they sit across the table from you?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- How might stakeholders be impacted by this project?
- What’s life like for the people around you?
Humble leaders focus on their impact on others.
#3. Embrace the idea that others count the way you count. (Mitchell used this phrase several times.)
#4. Explore your impact on others after taking action.
Mitchell Warner in his own words:
Outward mindset – S.A.M.:
- See others.
- Adjust behaviors.
- Measure impact.
How might leaders develop and display humility?
This post is based on my interview with Mitchell Warner of the Arbinger Institute.
Purchase: The Outward Mindset – Seeing Beyond Ourselves
The Outward Mindset in a nutshell:
“An intense curiosity about others” is spot on!
Thanks! I find it both joy and challenge.
Dan great post.
All of my life I ask questions and try to understand every business or organization I came in contact with. From Chicago taxi drivers, to not for profits and of course the companies I worked for.
By being curious about others and their situation and sincere in asking questions, people usually share things and you quickly develop some level of comfort. And you learn a lot yourself!
Thank Brad. Your comment prompted me to consider why I’m so curious and arrogant. I ask lots of questions, but frequently, I see arrogance in myself.
After reflection, I think open curiosity is humble. Agenda driven curiosity is arrogant. I often think I know the answer. Although I’ve learned to ask open question, I still feel I know better. This, I think pollutes my curiosity.
It’s time to more fully embrace that others know more about what they want than I do. 🙂
Well, Dan, you’ve done it again — preaching / meddling. At least for me.
My challenge, when you say, “Arrogance needs to give answers. Humility stays curious.” is that I started, 40-plus years ago, as a teacher for a few years before grad school, and now, again, in post-career / encore / 2nd half portion of my life I am back to teaching (adults, professionals mostly this time).
In one aspect that requires having information / answers. In another aspect, it is getting students to discover the answers, the applications. The balance of giving them enough information to understand the concept and then watching them take the details and concepts and figure out how that applies to other areas that may not be immediately obvious, is such a joy.
And, along the way, learning the story of each student and how they got where they are. They have some fantastic stories.
I’m reminded of the saying that if you help enough other people get what they need, you’ll gain everything you need.
Thanks for a great topic. A great reminder of serving others and how to stay focused on that.
Thanks Alan. Your comment drips with humility.
I thought, as I read, that being an expert is having the ability to ask useful questions. You know enough to ask questions.
I suppose if we don’t have knowledge, we can ask, “What should I know?” But, deeper knowledge enables us to ask questions that ignite curiosity and insight in others.
I often try get to know people.
Hi Dan: I love this, both your thoughts and those of Mitchell Warner. I think leaders can develop humility through curiosity as they shift their focus from themselves to others. I believe there are 3 curiosity skills which include being present to absorb what others are saying, choosing to listen to others in a way that is open and non-judging and asking open questions to deepen one’s understanding of others. Based on my experience and that of others, when we practise these skills as we communicate with others we shift our focus so that we are constantly focused on others, their perspectives, their needs etc and once we get to this point, as a colleague once said ‘you can never go back’ meaning one can’t go back to a focus on self. Curiosity creates humility which becomes part of how a person experiences their life. I think this internal shift to humility becomes part of who we are in all interactions as a leader, a parent, a friend etc.