Leading with Curiosity

A person looking in the window of an abandoned building in the woods/

Pexels | Photo by Craig Adderley

Humans are driven by their curiosity. Curiosity has saved lives, created exploration, provided intrigue to adventurers, and given the everyday person answers to questions, processes, or people they have a strong desire to learn about. It allows us to gain knowledge or actively seek challenges and new experiences to develop our perspectives.  Curiosity and learning require active listening to hear thoughts and ideas external to our own. The act of following our curiosity involves asking questions to delve into thoughts and ideas rather than waiting to respond with our own preferences.

Leaders who engage in this type of communication show others that they are being heard and that their contributions are considered. Encouraging curiosity also allows leaders to look at their own opinions and knowledge of the topic at hand and for them to be humbled by learning something new or even being wrong. When leaders are curious, they take in as much information as possible before making decisions that could determine success, struggle, or failure.

Leadership requires that a culture of curiosity is fostered through checking in with staff, groups, or family so that we understand how the culture of that group of individuals is being shaped to understand the success, opportunities, and challenges that exist and can be enhanced, sought after, or fixed. Creating a culture of curiosity in our work or home lives begins with setting the tone and leading by example.

Those who see themselves as leaders or seek to be leaders should be curious and actively ask questions–and seek to understand–the diverse perspectives of those who follow their leadership. This keeps those who entrust people in leadership positions not only in the know, but it continues to uphold the loyalty of those who follow their lead because their contributions are part of the process. They understand what makes up the goals and decisions and what affects outcomes.

Curiosity is not the sole responsibility of those who step into leadership roles. Curiosity in people motivated and inspired by leaders should be encouraged and their contributions valued as they seek to enhance the experience or opportunities to explore and develop the world around them, at work or home.

We’ve all heard that communication is a key ingredient to success, and checking in with others is essential in creating positive and supportive cultures and environments. It can be done by meeting regularly or through one-on-one conversations where individuals listen to ideas and concerns, and everyone feels safe to express themselves, ask curious questions, and be heard. However, be mindful of the potential burden this may place on people–those who consistently speak up, those who need more time to process, people of color, those who are shy in group settings, or those who often feel unseen and unvalued. Excluding these perspectives can delay or overlook richer conversations and outcomes potentially necessary for success.

In creating a culture of curiosity, leaders nurture a positive and supportive environment and create an inclusive and equitable culture for all, which can increase successful outcomes.

So, how does curiosity show up in your leadership style? Have you experienced more challenges or success when you followed your curious inquiries? Are you in an environment that embraces the power of curiosity?

DEBORAH BLAKE DEMPSEY, MS is the CEO & Founder of Human Being Human, LLC. Deborah is a Life Strategist & Transformational Coach, Writer, and Speaker. She is the author of The Hoppernots, an uplifting, can-do story about amphibians and other forest dwellers coming together to defeat a common enemy and is told within a diverse ecosystem teeming with life and purpose. Her mission is to engage healthcare and corporate leaders at all levels to fulfill their greatness in their professional and personal lives by helping them understand their motivational drivers, define their purpose, find their voice, and develop their potential. She brings to her coaching more than 25 years of experience as a healthcare leader, having held strategic, financial, and operational leadership roles in physician practices, academic hospitals, and for-profit healthcare settings. Deborah is particularly interested in working with leaders struggling with self-confidence, professional identity, and facing burnout.

She holds an MS in Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University.