Humility and curiosity typically aren’t synonymous with leadership. Humility, after all, is generally reflective; it stems from acknowledgement that you don’t have all the answers. Curiosity, on the other hand, confidently proclaims that no matter how fixed you may be in your current resolve, you’re hungry enough to know that there are other possibilities beyond what you currently know and hold to be true.  To be curious is to be confident.

The duality between humility and curiosity poses the question: Can we be curious enough to explore different possibilities and ideas, yet humble enough to accept them and change?

To be humble is not to think less of yourself, but to inspire others by taking yourself off your ego’s pedestal.  Children are great at this. Remember when you were a kid? You had the freedom to explore the world around you, and the possibilities were endless. You had an open mind and you were excited to learn and to grow. You were unapologetic in your quest for understanding, and free to accept new ideas far from any pretenses. If you’ve been around younger kids for any stretch of time, you probably know they repeatedly ask, “Why?” That’s because children are learning, and they have a need to know.

As a leader, this combined concept of humble curiosity breeds powerful traits worth exploring.

  • Creativity. Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, and relationships in meaningful new ideas and methods. Creative leaders aren’t content with saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Rather, creatives look at things with new perspective and say, “Is there a different way to make this better?”
  • Asking great questions. The definition of curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something. To be enthusiastically inquisitive. Questioning often facilitates conversations and is the medium to opening a whole new world of possibilities. Learning to ask great questions is a catalyst in transforming what you have and know now into something that you’ve dreamed could be. The world around us is changing rapidly. Asking great questions is one way to dissolve barriers to exploring new ideas that lead to solutions.
  • Curious listening. Curious listening is about shifting your thinking from simply obtaining information from someone to striving toward making a connection and investment into who the person is. You’re trying to gain their perspective, while maintaining trust. You see the needs in others. When you listen with curiosity, you see yourself less and others more; it broadens your view.
  • Desire to learn and grow. Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.”If you have a growth mindset, then every failure is an opportunity. If you stay with the problem long enough, you’ll find a solution.

Humble and curious leaders encourage others to explore and seek new possibilities. However, embracing humble curiosity isn’t always easy, especially in a culture that’s been programmed to reward those who conform to the status quo.

Publication date: 3/1/2019

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