Being curious can help you become a better leader.

Curiosity killed the cat - but what about the leader?

Being curious opens up new possibilities, new ideas and new ways of thinking about a topic.
This blog discusses how being curious can help you become a better leader.


Jennie Marshall | 19 April 2016


According to a well-known online dictionary, curiosity is the 'desire to know' and an 'inquisitive interest in others' concerns'. Sounds good, doesn't it? Especially that second part about showing an inquisitive interest in others' concerns.

The power of curiosity

Let's think about what that statement means in the workplace. If you show a genuine interest in what others think and do, what will that say about you?

For me, it says that you are a person who is engaged with their surroundings, that you respect people's ideas and thoughts and that you're someone who is willing to make time.

A little curiosity goes a long way it would seem!

When you employ the power of curiosity, you:

  • Keep an open mind by suspending any assumptions
  • Get to know what others are really thinking
  • Gain a better understanding of the critical thinking process that goes on in other people's minds
  • Demonstrate that you are really listening and, thus, deepen the learning for both you and your team
  • Strengthen the relationship
  • Acknowledge a person's self worth

  • Being curious opens up new possibilities, new ideas and new ways of thinking about a topic. Remember when you were a child? Reignite the same curiosity you had in your younger years: wonder, explore and consider before you pass judgment.

    So if you want to be a better leader and develop your staff, focus on using the following two tools on a daily basis:

    1. Ask powerful questions

      Asking powerful questions is the first step in showing people that you are:
      • Willing to explore diverse points of view
      • Aware that your own way isn't always the best way
      • Cognisant of potential conflicts
      • Interested in what and how the person thinks

      Be precise when asking questions. Don't simply ask, 'How was the meeting?' Instead, think specific: ‘Based on the people you spoke to at the meeting, what do you think are the three biggest challenges we need to work on to stay ahead of the game?'

      Look at the power in this one curious question. The specificity reflects not only your genuine interest in the subject, but also your respect for the person and his or her thoughts.

      Here are some good prompts for formulating powerful questions:

      Use words like 'how', 'what' and 'tell me about' to set up your question:

      • How did you reach that conclusion? Take me through the key areas.
      • What do you need from me to help you be successful?
      • What will the end result look like?
      • What were your underlying assumptions?
      • What do you see as the next steps?
      • How will you approach this key stakeholder?
      • What were the hurdles that you had to get through?
      • How is this working?
      • What do you see as the next challenge with this customer?
      • What will impact your team?
      • What is the connection between X and Y?
      • What are your other options?
      • How do you want to communicate this information?

      Keep in mind that asking powerful questions is only the first step in true curiosity. Now for the second step: listening completely to the response.

    2. Listen, really listen

    3. Listening is a powerful tool to use with your staff. At the same time, it can be a challenge because in order to be good active listeners, we have to shut our mouths, open our ears and pay attention to what the person is saying and how the person is saying it. The old adage of ‘two ears, one mouth, use proportionately’ really does offer a piece of great advice!

      In his book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, Stephen M.R. Covey says it well: "Listen before you speak. Understand. Diagnose. Listen with your ears and your eyes and heart. Find out what the most important behaviours are to the people you're working with. Don't assume you know what matters most to others. Don't presume you have all the answers or all the questions".

      When you don't listen, you might as well tell the person, 'I don't care about you', 'I don't understand', 'You're wrong/stupid', or 'You're wasting my time'.

      Show you are a good listener by:

      • Make eye contact and nodding
      • Reflecting back by saying things like, ‘So what I'm hearing is that you think we need to reconsider the product's design before we launch. Is that correct?’
      • Asking powerful follow-up questions that show you were paying attention and truly hearing what the person had to say

    Remember, as a courageous leader, your job is to develop your people instead of simply telling them what to do. When you show curiosity by asking powerful questions, you will accomplish this

    Would you like to learn more strategies for fostering your curiosity, asking powerful questions, or becoming the thought leader you've always envisioned? Have a look at our range of courses that will help you grow your curiosity.

    If you are looking to update your skills, QA offer a wide range of training courses to help you develop professionally.
    If you're looking to take the next step in your lifelong learning journey, take a look at our Business Skills  training courses including Business Relationships and Personal Effectiveness training.

    QA Training | Jennie-marshal

    Jennie Marshall

    Learning Programme Director (Enterprise and Outsource Services)

    Jennie Marshall is an award winning learning professional (Winner of the 2016 Learning Performance Institute, Learning Professional of the Year Bronze Award), who joined QA in 2010 as a Learning Consultant in the Leadership, Management and Business Skills team. She has gone on to progress through various positions to her current role of Learning Programme Director where she now designs, develops and manages the delivery of end to end learning programmes. She is an experienced and dedicated learning professional, with expertise including management, leadership and talent, and training and facilitation developed within a variety of environments. Jennie has a proven track record of delivering blended, multi modal learning programmes using Learning Management System platforms and in a more traditional face to face setting, is at home with small and large audiences. She is a proven developer of people and is accredited in the use of a variety of tools including Strength Deployment Inventory®, Emergenetics®, Hogan®, Prism® and Worldsview™ as well as being an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner and Kirkpatrick Certified Professional (Bronze).
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