They say that curiosity killed the cat. This metaphor is used to remind us of the dangers associated with unnecessary experimentation. We say this when we want others to stop probing what we think could lead to trouble.
The good news is you’re not a cat. Your curiosity will serve you well as a leader, and is highly unlikely to put you in harms way. Far more concerning would be if you chose not to be inquisitive, eager to learn, speculative and interested in a wide variety of subjects.
The opposite of curiosity is indifference. An indifferent leader is no leader at all.
Curiosity you all sorts of benefits, both for the one who is curious and for those around him or her. Curious people tend to check their own assumptions, to experience less stress and times of ambiguity, to demonstrate humility because they cannot knowledge that learning only comes by excepting they don’t already know everything.
Curious people are fun to be around because they are genuinely interested in others. They ask excellent questions and listen closely to understand. As a result they develop strong and lasting relationships.
Leaders who exhibit curiosity are more innovative. That’s because they are actively seeking and exploring what’s new and different. They stay tuned in to notice details and opportunities in the present. Their interactive minds and imaginations pose questions that inspire others to ask what if?
Brain science backs up the benefits of being curious. When we remain open and ask questions and seek new information our brain lays down new neural pathways. Recent research in neuroplasticity demonstrates how the brain literally rearranges itself to allow for these new connections. The brain likes novelty.
Staying nimble and agile is much easier when you are curious. Your brain physically rewards curiosity, people around you respond to curiosity in a positive way, and innovative outcomes also give you a big, good return on investment when you’re curious.
Give yourself permission to be curious about something that isn’t currently working. Go crazy! Looking at the problem from an angle you’ve never considered, even if it seems silly. Ask questions. Open up the conversations that you have with others, even those who you think may not know anything about this problem.
You will come up with some new ideas. And even if you don’t solve this particular problem, those neural pathways that form in your brain will serve you well as you work to solve other problems in the future. Don’t underestimate the power of being curious.
Deb Calvert is a TLC Certified Master and expert on the evidence-based Five Exemplary Practices of Leaders. Book Deb today to speak at your leadership events, and subscribe to our blog for weekly articles on how to improve your leadership skills.