The Best Predictor of Leadership Strength

In his book, Claudio Fernandex-Aaroz* writes, “… the four key leadership assets common to all high-potential executives:

  1. Curiosity.
  2. Insight.
  3. Engagement.
  4. Determination.”

“In fact, in analyzing exactly how leaders develop, we’ve found that curiosity … is the best predictor of strength in all seven of the leadership competencies we measure:

  1. Results orientation.
  2. Strategic orientation.
  3. Collaboration and influence.
  4. Team leadership.
  5. Developing organizational capabilities.
  6. Change leadership.
  7. Market understanding.”**

Leaderly curiosity:

Paranoia and curiosity:

During a workshop in New York City, Jim Collins said, “High performing leaders are ‘paranoid performers’. They’re always asking, ‘What if,’ and then preparing for it. They think about and anticipate the day of ‘bad things.’”

Paranoid curiosity asks:

  1. What might go wrong?
  2. How might we prepare for what might go wrong?
  3. “We’re asking ourselves, ‘What haven’t we thought of?’” Mike Howard Chief Security Officer Microsoft @MikeHowardMSG

Practice paranoid curiosity with forward-facing optimism. Begin by asking, “What might go wrong?” Always focus on reasonable preparation.

Tip: The Doers on your team can explore potential dangers. Dreamers think about what could go right. They’re overly optimistic.

Focus and curiosity:

The leaders we love to follow are intensely curious about people.

Curiosity about results is necessary. Curiosity about people is exceptional.

Test your curiosity about people:

  1. What is the name of their significant other?
  2. What are their children’s names?
  3. How old are their children?
  4. Where did they go on vacation?
  5. What do they do for fun on the weekend?
  6. What hobbies do they enjoy?
  7. What’s their favorite childhood memory?
  8. What accomplishment makes them proud?
  9. How long have they been with your company?
  10. When is their birthday/anniversary? (Find out and put it on your calendar.)
  11. What is their work anniversary? People often leave your company on or near their work anniversary. (Daniel Pink, When)
  12. What stretches them?

Your greatest opportunity isn’t products or projects. It’s people.

How might leaders practice curiosity today?

What hinders the practice of curiosity in organizations?

*Claudio Fernandex-Aaroz in It’s Not the How or the What but the Who.

**From Curious to Competent (HBR September/October 2018)