Curiosity and Leadership Agility

Curiosity & Leadership Agility

In my Leadership Agility workshops I always ask participants what the key enablers of Leadership Agility are. Whilst there are always a number of responses, the one that comes up first, most times, is curiosity. Curiosity is such an important contributor to growth. It’s part of having a growth mindset, embracing different perspectives, innovation, showing empathy learning and engaging stakeholders.

Impediments to Leadership Agility

Francesca Gino, in her 2018 Harvard Business Review article, ‘The Business Case for Curiosity, highlighted that curiosity in the workplace had a number of benefits. These included fewer decision-making errors (we are more aware of cognitive biases impacting our decisions), more innovation and creativity, reduced group conflict, more open communication and better team performance.

So what stops us from being curious?

In my work I see a range of things including a task-focused mindset, busyness and a bias for action, a desire to stay true to your world view, and perfectionism (needing to get everything right). It we want to be more curious it requires us to ask questions, assume we don’t have all the answers, view life as an opportunity to learn, experiment more, and diversify our interests. To me, it is about developing a childlike wonder in the way we see the world.

Unpacking Curiosity

In my work, I discuss 3 types of curiosity (synthesised from The 5 Dimensions of Curiosity HBR Article) to help clients understand the breadth of curiosity. The first is intellectual curiosity which involves working hard to solve complicated problems through analysis. This form of curiosity involves individuals deeply focusing on tricky problems and seeking out information to nut out this problem. They can often spend hours in this space. Many of us can relate to this type of curiosity.

The second type of curiosity is adventurous or joyful curiosity. This is about stepping outside your comfort zone, seeking out novelty, embracing ambiguity and uncertainty and leaning into growth experiences. The curiosity is in both the doing but also the learning and reflection.

The third type is people curiosity. This involves learning about others, understanding what makes people tick, opening up to and understanding the perspectives of others, empathy and listening for learning. This final one is the one that people most struggle with.

As we move into leadership in a disrupted world it is critical, we exercise more curiosity. In my next article I will talk about strategies we can deploy to increase our curiosity.

F Gino The Business Case for Curiosity HBR September 2018
TB Kashdan, DJ Disbato, FR Goodman & C Naughton The 5 Dimensions of Curiosity HBR September 2018

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