The Best Predictor of Leadership Strength
In his book, Claudio Fernandex-Aaroz* writes, “… the four key leadership assets common to all high-potential executives:
“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:
- Results orientation.
- Strategic orientation.
- Collaboration and influence.
- Team leadership.
- Developing organizational capabilities.
- Change leadership.
- Market understanding.”**
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:
- What might go wrong?
- How might we prepare for what might go wrong?
- “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:
- What is the name of their significant other?
- What are their children’s names?
- How old are their children?
- Where did they go on vacation?
- What do they do for fun on the weekend?
- What hobbies do they enjoy?
- What’s their favorite childhood memory?
- What accomplishment makes them proud?
- How long have they been with your company?
- When is their birthday/anniversary? (Find out and put it on your calendar.)
- What is their work anniversary? People often leave your company on or near their work anniversary. (Daniel Pink, When)
- 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)
What hinders the practice of curiosity in organizations? “Knowing curiosity killed the Cat” ! Just saying. Seriously we hinder ourselves, fear of failure, making mistakes, unhappy clients etc. As leaders we need to target our energy for the best accomplishments and move on to the next challenge, don’t waste energy on unnecessary tasks.
So share your insights, engage with your teams showing them determination it takes, let them be curious with their questions, which continues to promote engagement and participation for the end results, hopefully a successful project or task undertaking.
Tim, isn’t the fear of failure simply a symptom of our own leadership created culture? If we punish risk takers that fail then people will learn to not challenge, not be curious, and accept.
Rob MC, yes we can interpret fear in that manner or we can use it to build a better platform, “once we experience failure we learned the lesson to build on” so it doesn’t happen again. Throughout our lives we all face fears and overcome them, so I see the challenge will always be there, we just have to learn to make the correct processes through our learning experiences. If we need to be “risk takers” at what value do we perceive foolishness compared to educated substance to make those decisions?
Relationships matter as we collaborate to create new ways of thinking, explore options, and solve problems. Curiosity is limited by our own box (comfort zone) or the box of those who “manage” us. I’m all for a positive operating structure for every organization, but within that structure we must not only encourage curiosity, ideas, or questions with our words but with the ways we reward/support those actions. How do we find this balance? Culture matters.
Curiosity is rarely talked about in leadership classes. It is a misunderstood word and few understand how it fits into leadership. I see so many extraverts that refuse to think of the value of curiosity. I suspects it is due to their ego not letting them think that they don’t know it all and as such don’t need to explore information other then their own.
Hi Dan and all leadership freaks,
Just this morning I was telling a colleague “we have to be braver” I think it’s necessary to discuss how to fail and what to fail on. For example: there are a lot of people in my company who must.not.fail.ever. Must not fail in their duties because they have critical operational roles even affecting safety outcomes. But then, even these people can make improvements and some of their initiatives might not work. Might not save time, might be a false economy. So there, they should be encouraged to try even if the experiment is a failure. It’s easy to see how a busy leader, especially a line boss, might put the whole thing off and stick to the easy county roads of the status quo.
Anyway, what we celebrate and censure is probably the best yardstick to measure where each culture sits on the curiosity —- paranoia spectrum.
Thanks as always
A few relevant quotes may add value here…
A leader has the right to be beaten, but never the right to be surprised.” –Napoleon Bonaparte, French military and political leader
Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.” –Samuel Johnson, British writer
Fear paralyzes; curiosity empowers. Be more interested than afraid.” –Patricia Alexander, American educational psychologist
The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” –Dorothy Parker, writer and poet
Always stay curious. Curiosity instills creativity.” –Aerin Lauder
I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” — James Stephens, Irish writer
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. –Albert Einstein
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” — Albert Einstein
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” –Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist