Curiosity is a leadership super power. It is also a journey of inquiry into ourselves. It helps us to discover our essence, explore what we have been taught, strengthen what is working, and address what we can change. It is a call to wake up and evolve.
If manifested along with empathy and listening deeply, curiosity invites our colleagues, employees, and loved ones to dig deep, innovate, and feel understood. However, if we believe curiosity is demonstrated by asking rapid-fire questions we reenact the inquisition and those around us feel put on the witness stand. Curiosity is nuanced, not self-righteous; it is rooted in a self-awareness and courageous humility. It encourages mindfulness, honoring what is beneath the surface.
We live in a world that celebrates having the answers and worships being right. Our schools, boardrooms, and religious institutions can systematically eradicate our natural curiosity by shaming instead of rewarding the questions. I encourage the leaders around me to get really comfortable with not knowing and to ask questions that unleash potential.
Having a mindset of curiosity requires that we let go of a few things to which we cling. To relinquish a few well entrenched, sacred cornerstones that we believe keep us safe, but actually get in the way of us being vulnerable, courageous, and inspiring. We have to let go of our Desire to be Right. Our Fear of Failure. Our Need to Control. Our Comfort Zone. Leaders who are consistently curious:
A CEO I work with recently said to me, “My entire team has shifted into being higher performing because I have stopped telling and started listening. And then the really important questions flow.” Curiosity invites us to be imperfect, to release the fortifications that keep us stagnant, and to embrace the freedom found in evolving.
On a More Personal Note
Recently, some people have criticized decisions I have made without having and/or accepting the facts. They have gossiped, spread lies, and stirred up trouble. They thought they were experts on my life. They have not asked me a curious, genuinely empathetic question. They have not stood in my shoes nor have they expressed interest in what that would be like. I get it; I sometimes don’t want to stand in my shoes.
Interestingly, these folks are also those who cover up what is going on in their lives, practice denial, are not transparent, and believe being right is more important than being emotionally whole. The curious, empathetic side of me knows they are in pain and asleep, hiding from their own unexamined patterns. The pissed, hurt side of me walks around my house, swearing like a sailor and venting to our German Shepherd.
I am also surrounded by people who understand, show up, and accept. They ask questions that reveal a loving curiosity. They are willing to stand in my shoes and by doing so, they have helped me to stand in them, stronger. Interestingly, these folks are transparent, practice vulnerability, and believe in being emotionally courageous. They help me to be more curious and empathetic. I don’t find myself swearing as much, but just breathing more deeply.
Curiosity, combined with the art of empathy and listening deeply, allows us to experience a transformative, open hearted community at work and at home.. I am thankful for the ones who helped me to own my story and walk a hero’s journey. When we are surrounded by those who are willing to truly explore our lives with us, the questions become easier and more powerful. And one of the most powerful questions I am asking myself is, “What inside of me needs to change?”
Karen is currently writing a book about how the power of connection can transform leaders into catalysts, groups into teams, and businesses into places where people lean in to courage, clarity, and compassion.
During this time of sanitizing wipes, hands made raw from washing, and lighting many a candle, let’s take a page out of the playbook of a global team our firm has worked with for many a moon. Their success is built on a myriad of strengths which include the ability to navigate chaos with courage and wisdom, using it as a catalyst for transformation.