Caroline Bolderston: Curiosity is a leadership superpower

Being a leader can be demanding, challenging and, in a world where time is a hot commodity, it is no surprise that many leaders make quick judgements and decisions to get things done. 

But what if slowing down was the key to speeding up? 

Taking a moment to lean into curiosity raises awareness, expands perception and brings greater clarity, understanding and more effective action.

When a leader moves from a mindset of rigid opinions to one of genuine curiosity, the ability to drive performance, create strong cultures and develop an agile and growing business is greatly accelerated.   

What is it about curiosity that can be so powerful?

There are many reasons and here are my top three: 

Know the full picture 

Leadership is often about finding solutions and putting out fires.

In every situation, there is information that is deleted, distorted or generalised.

Awareness of this is the first step to becoming a curious leader.

Rather than take the surface level information and move ahead with it, become committed to being a truth seeker and to dive deeper to uncover more.

Ask yourself what am I missing?

To find out the full picture simply ask ‘tell me more about this’, ‘what else is happening’ or ‘what might we need to consider here’?

There are multiple benefits to knowing the full picture.

Not only will you begin to have clarity to make more impactful decisions, you immediately demonstrate more empathy and care, and your genuine interest in learning and exploring will inspire your team to do the same. 

The issue is almost always, not the issue 

Curious leaders approach problems with a sense of wonder and exploration, rather than drawing swift conclusions.

They ask probing questions and gather insights to seek out what the real issue is.

It’s a common thing for leaders to tell me that their sales agents are not making enough calls and the pipeline is at threat.

When I ask them what they think the problem could be, I often hear conclusions like ‘they are distracted’, ‘they are not hungry enough’ or ‘they just don’t put in the work’.

Is that really the issue?

From my experience and observations, the answer is mostly no.

Agents often aren’t lazy or reluctant, instead they need more structure, they need more clarity on who to call, when to call and what to say to have better conversations.

They need more support and direction.

The issue is often a lack of confidence, which is something that can be fostered and changed.

Curious leaders never take the initial ‘issue’ as the real issue, they will move beyond what is apparent to find the true situation, which can lead to incredible breakthroughs. 

The obstacle is the way  

As described by Ryan Holiday in his cult classic book The Obstacle is The Way, whatever is preventing action or progress is usually the thing that will advance action or progress.

In other words, what stands in the way becomes the way.

When a leader embraces obstacles and reframes them as opportunities, profound growth and change is possible.

Rather than avoiding obstacles, seeing them as limitations and becoming frustrated, instead it’s time to become curious.

A curiosity approach is the only way to identify exactly what is holding back momentum, progress and alignment.

Is the obstacle due to a lack of knowledge, skill, planning or perspective?

Incredible opportunities come from obstacles, it drives creative thinking, innovation and strategic shifts.

All of which are required to have a robust and thriving business

In essence, curiosity is an extraordinary attribute that progressive leaders always lead with.

Perhaps the best example of this in the modern world is Steve Jobs. 

Jobs wasn’t curious about things that would make him successful, he was successful because he was so curious.

Profound curiosity is not just a trait; it’s a superpower that can propel you beyond the status quo into the realm of transformational leadership. 

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