Intellectual Curiosity is not an Elective

By July 26, 2019Leadership

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to sit down with many great leaders. High school football coaches, nonprofit executives, church planters, entrepreneurs, and CEO’s of multibillion dollar companies. Just this past week, I enjoyed coffee with a fellow who has led several publicly-traded companies.

I’ve discovered that great coaches, CEO’s, and parents have one thing in common: they never stop learning.

When I find a person who has stopped learning, I’m not surprised when I find they have also stopped growing. Even worse, they might actually be regressing in their abilities to lead and motivate people — especially those who are continuing to expand their knowledge and skill set.

Intellectually curious people …

  • Read books inside and outside of their field
  • Ask more questions
  • Ask better questions
  • Aren’t embarrassed to ask for help
  • Debrief and deconstruct what worked and what didn’t
  • Readily share what they’re learning with others

Besides being dangerous, those who lack intellectual curiosity …

  • Are insecure around those who are seeking to improve
  • Lead with overconfidence rather than informed decision-making
  • Aren’t receptive to feedback
  • Cap the growth of their people and organization

Intellectual curiosity isn’t the same as being a micromanager or having to know everything about every project. In fact, the higher you move up leadership, the more comfortable you must be not knowing every detail, project, or task that happens downstream. But you must know someone who knows someone who knows something! And you need to know who and what to ask.

Good leaders do more than master the body of knowledge related to their work objectives. They learn about people. They want to understand change and motivation dynamics. Good leaders are able to translate and transfer knowledge and information from one disciple to another. They realize it’s not enough to simply be able to pass a certification exam.

Intellectually curious people are fun to be around because they find adventures in things that others find boring or even irritating. When they see a process that works well, they want to know why. When they encounter a waiter who really enjoys his job, their mind begins to analyze the work environment and culture. When they experience a log jam, they mentally brainstorm ways to make it better.

When a person without curiosity encounters a good process, it is likely they don’t really notice it. If they have a happy waiter, they assume he’s just a happy guy. Those who lack intellectual curiosity may experience a log jam and simply get irritated.

Two people experiencing the same situations and only one will be a better leader as a result.

The question is … which one will you be?

Experience and Background

  • 25+ years of senior leadership experience
  • masters in management and leadership
  • presenter at the WFX National Conference
  • former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
  • helped start 2 for-profit tech companies

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