Curiosity is the key to learning, which is probably why so many successful leaders believe it to be the X factor between exceptional and average leadership. Leaders from Walt Disney, to Michael Dell, to Kat Cole name curiosity as the most important leadership quality for creating personal and professional success.
Jack Dorsey found it baffling when an artist friend lost a sale because he couldn’t accept a credit card for payment. His curiosity led him to explore why only established businesses could accept credit card transactions. His search for a better way resulted in Square, a more accessible credit card reader. Such is the power of curiosity.
Curiosity propels us to figure things out, thereby generating strategies for overcoming obstacles and exploiting opportunities. That’s why so many leaders see it as their secret weapon. Any time we suspend judgment and evaluation and substitute inquiry and exploration, we feed our natural curiosity.
Becoming a curious leader requires only that we pose questions rather than demand answers. The magic is learning to stay in the question by not moving to a conclusion too quickly, allowing questions to stack up and inform our thinking. The truly curious examination of any subject is driven by questions that build upon each other, much like a layer cake. By remaining curious, leaders learn what others don’t. What sometimes is mistaken for raw brainpower is merely a curious mind.
The best leaders model curiosity for others. They show those they lead how to rekindle the curiosity for new ideas and innovation by posing great questions — about everything and to everyone. Better yet, it shows others that they always explore and listen first.