The #1 Sign of Intelligence for Leaders
Curiosity isn’t a trait of personality – it’s a state of mind. Anyone can be curious. The successful leader will be a curious leader. Why? Because curiosity is the state of mind that opens your thoughts to new perspectives. Curiosity means you are opening new doors, doing new things, and discovering new ways to move forward.
Samuel Johnson said it best, “Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” A high level of curiosity is a sign of a high level of intelligence. Intelligent leaders know they always have a lot to learn, regardless of how much they already know. Leaders should be curious because curiosity:
INCREASES INFLUENCE WITH OTHERS
Harry Lorayne declared, “Curiosity killed the cat, but where human beings are concerned, the only thing a healthy curiosity can kill is ignorance.”
When you are curious about someone, you are increasing your influence because you are telling them you are willing to learn from and about them. Influence is based on respect and trust. When someone feels you care about them and want to understand them, they will be much more open to your influence because they will respect and trust you. Stephen R. Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Be curious about people. To build influence, seek to understand someone else’s viewpoint. Then, they will be more open to understanding yours.
Curiosity leads to creative thinking. Creative thinking leads to creative solutions. In the words of Walt Disney, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Be curious about challenges. When you encounter a challenge, ask yourself what makes it challenging and what the options for navigating it are. Ask yourself or others what the positive things about this challenge are and how overcoming it will help you improve. When one door closes, don’t spend time wishing it hadn’t closed – look for another door to open.
When you are curious about something you are in a growth and learning state. Curiosity is about discovering. Discovering is about growing. As William Arthur Ward said, “Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.”
Curiosity allows you to ask deep questions, probe a situation, and think carefully about the answers. Pay very close attention to what is going on around you. When something happens unexpectedly, make sure you are intentionally seeking the cause and looking for unexpected possibilities that are now available to you.
Be curious about possibilities. It will stimulate your growth and help you stimulate the growth of others. Growth is not comfortable because all growth happens outside of your comfort zone. You must become comfortable with the tension caused by growth and recognize the value created by the tension. A rubber band is useful only when it’s being stretched. Likewise, leaders are most useful when they are being stretched due to growth. Growth separates leaders from followers.
One tiny, three letter word, can solve even very large problems. As the leader, it’s your job to ask “Why?” Asking why something happened or why it is the way it is will allow you to get down to the root cause of the issue.
There is a very popular story about the Jefferson Memorial eroding faster than it should have compared to other memorials nearby. Until someone started asking “Why?,” the National Park Service couldn’t figure out the cause. Why was the monument deteriorating faster? Harsh chemicals were used to remove bird droppings. Why were the birds there? They were eating bugs. Why were the bugs there? They were attracted to the special lighting at a certain time of day. When they changed the lighting schedule and quality, the bugs didn’t come around as much. The bird problem, or rather the bird dropping problem, nearly disappeared along with the erosion problem.
Be curious about problems. However, when you ask why make sure everyone knows you aren’t seeking to blame but merely seeking a cause. That’s the difference between asking “Why?” and asking “Who?” If you ask “Who did this?” it implies someone is to blame and puts people on the defensive very quickly. Problem solving will shut down. If you ask “Why something happened?” you aren’t placing blame, but seeking the cause in order to find the most effective solution.