When you hear the word “curiosity”, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? Often, adults will think back to childhood where curiosity was abundant or they may even think of a popular saying that involves a cat. However, curiosity is a valuable tool that should be regularly used in leadership and professional careers.
Curiosity, by definition, is the drive and desire to learn new things about the world. This could be learning more about yourself, your team, your workplace habits, your industry, and so much more. That’s why some industry leaders are now advocating for curiosity-based leadership.
Leadership is already a bit of a learning process, so it makes sense that you can learn how to lead with curiosity. Continue reading to learn how you could put this into practice from the position you’re in right now!
Curiosity is fueled by the desire to learn and grow. One of the best ways to do this is through asking questions. Ask yourself how you could explore new leadership styles, tactics, or practices.
“If you ask a parent of a young child what their child’s most frequent question is, they’ll probably tell you ‘Why?’,” says Michael Jankie, Founder of The Natural Patch Co. “Kids love to know why something happens, how things work, and why they’re supposed to do something. Somewhere along the way, we stop asking these questions. We stop looking for the ‘why’ behind leadership strategies and daily habits. Leading with curiosity requires introspection and that child-like exploration of your ‘why’.”
“Exploring the methods that you use for leadership can lead you to question your decisions – and that’s a good thing,” says Jaymee Messler, CEO of The Gaming Society. “As adults, we forget to ask ourselves why we’re doing something because we’re so afraid of being wrong. But asking questions and being curious about your own habits can lead to better decisions, personal growth, and strengthened leadership practices.”
Don’t be afraid of change
Kids are so adaptable to change because they don’t have as much control over their lives. As adults, many of us find ourselves comforted by the predictability of certain areas of our lives. Consistency means that we don’t have to make hard decisions as frequently and that can sometimes hinder us from reaching our potential as leaders.
“Curiosity can lead to answers you didn’t want to see or hear,” says Tirzah Shirai, CEO of Blink Bar. “It can be hard to change leadership methods, but curiosity can lead to the discovery of something better. It might take a while for you and your staff to adjust, but by leading through curiosity and trying new things, you can grow and strengthen your team by setting an example of how to think outside the box and look outside of your comfort zone.”
“Change is one of those things that’s inevitable but very few people enjoy it,” says Nathalie Walton, Co-founder and CEO of Expectful. “Understanding how to lead with curiosity and ask those ‘what if’ questions to yourself and your team can make change less intimidating. It can even help you explore your client’s mindset and purpose for using your product which is especially helpful when your clients are also learning to not be afraid of change that’s coming their way.”
A lot of people might be nervous about leading through curiosity because it sounds like a waste of time or like it might take away from more important projects. What is more important than the leadership practices you use every day? Explore what your boundaries are within leadership and learning. How much time can you give to explore new leadership ideas or models to potentially benefit your organization?
“Curiosity is a fantastic concept when practiced appropriately,” says Katie Lyon, Co-founder of Allegiance Flag Supply. “Leaders need to be scheduling time to grow themselves and allow for curiosity within their schedules so that they can be continuously growing and evolving with their company and the world around them.”
“Look at the leadership principles you are currently using and what parts of those concepts you’d be open to changing,” says Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick. “Curiosity and change doesn’t mean throwing all of your values and practices away – it means that you’re open to change within a certain limit. Explore your boundaries and see if they’re set appropriately and you may just learn a little more about your leadership methods.”
Set Examples and Give Opportunities for Curiosity
If you’re finding it difficult to utilize curiosity in your leadership position, it’s possible that your staff has been taught to suppress their curiosity over the years too. Whether this is because of a previous job experience or something they were taught in education, many adults find it difficult to channel that curiosity that they once had.
“Start your team meetings with quick creative problem-solving exercises and establish the fact that curiosity is a skill, not a detriment,” says Cindy Le, Co-founder and COO of Revela. “The more frequently you encourage people to think with curiosity and lead by example, the more creativity and learning you will see within your team.”
“Curiosity is something that almost has to be retaught from the ground up when you’re working within a professional organization with people who haven’t been able to use their natural curiosity in many years,” says Jeremy Gardner, CEO of MadeMan. “Give your staff time to be creative during their normal work week and join them during these exercises to show them that it is okay to think and lead with curiosity.”
This can be a hard concept for leaders. Leaders naturally want to share their ideas and use them to lead others. However, leading with curiosity means that you’re asking questions and listening to others to gain more perspective and knowledge.
“Listening to the ideas of others and learning how and why they came to those conclusions can help you grow your curiosity and lead more effectively,” says Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce. “Look at how your team thinks and use that knowledge to help them grow in their curiosity as you learn to lead through your own.”
“Leaders are often told to listen to their staff, but we’re not given a reason why,” says
Jim Beard, COO of Box Genie. “Leading by example and listening to your staff become buzz phrases that are tossed around but they’re so important when it comes to leading with curiosity. Listening is a big part of learning. Hear what your staff have to say and explore their ideas as if they were your own and you might be surprised at the ideas that can flow from their different methods of thinking.”
In conclusion, curiosity has a valuable place in the workplace. Leading with curiosity can allow someone to become a better leader, a more creative individual, and a better listener for their staff. Leading with curiosity means that you’re reexamining things that you’ve done and learning how you can do better. It also means exploring avenues that you otherwise might ignore because it’s not how things have been done before. Curiosity can lead to new ways of thinking, working, and leading and it’s something we should all be striving for.
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