The importance of Curiosity in People Scaling
or, the importance of curiosity in Leadership!
If the role of Leadership as People Scaling has not yet confronted your mind, I would suggest to review my previous articles. Having taken the risk of not including Leadership in the title is a reputational gain I am willing to forego. So here we begin…
There is a clear mandate for Curiosity among leaders as a definitive trait and while the likes of McKinsey have been talking about it, they aren’t clear in explaining which variant is required among the leadership breed. (Perhaps hire me as a Consultant?!) Well, let’s start straightaway with the branching of curiosity. The best broad twin classification I can think about are; Diversified Curiosity as the 1st first while Focused Curiosity is the 2nd first (as they aren’t hierarchical, after all). Let me explain them with lucid examples to profile the definitions better.
Diversified Curiosity is about being overtly curious about anything and perhaps everything one encounters. So whether it is about the reason for the traffic jam on the way to office to understanding whether a virus is to be considered as a living lifeform, diversified curiosity is the itch to go as deep as permissible without losing sight or becoming too focused about just one thing. Like a child.
And that gives us the other variant; Focused Curiosity. Consider how focused a Nobel Prize winning Biologist or Chemist needs to be all their lives to discover or uncover newer realities for all of us to better our lives and benefit from the knowledge. This variant may not be curious about all other things, like budgets and finance, or, as often noted, about neatly combing their hair while appearing at social do’s. (Do not presume that you are a Scientist if you don’t comb your hair; you could be a musician or author in that case!)
Diversified Curiosity is our reptilian instinct. If you are a pet owner, I don’t need to explain further. Or if you are a parent.(Are we not owners in both the cases? Well, that’s for another article…) The need to remain curious comes from the sense of sublimal fear of predators and can often manifest as alertness. Curiosity is not only being alert, but also finding out how the gun works in case you have to shoot.
Once we have summoned the courage to mature from being child-like sensitive to every passing stimulus of distraction, the path to Focused Curiosity presents itself. It was actually always there, just awaiting us to transform from reptilian-brained to human-confident curious. Focused curiosity takes into account the ability to feel confident about diving into singular focus as have been found in individual sports and scientists, as every truly evolved human should ideally be in this day and age of human civilisation.
That being the case, which variation is required for Leadership? Perhaps both the variations but the dominant variation should be the 1st first one a.k.a. Diversified Curiosity. For political leaders, knowing about finance, defence, culture, social systems, climate change and COVID are all important and concurrent studies in political curiosity. However, depth is purely a matter of self-focus and interest.
For business leaders, it is just not an option as they move from boardrooms to conferences explaining various facets of business, including share markets and Artificial Intelligence. The need to have focused curiosity for a particular domain gets developed during the managerial years as a subject practitioner. Leaders will remain Managers unless they can tide over the curiosity lake to invest their learning aptitudes towards diverse subjects, if they seek to scale other people from their role-based avatars to help them ride over future bridges over curious lakes of learning, as they have learnt and experienced.
Diversified Curiosity also serves well during crises and odd situational judgment assessments of business problems. I have met leaders who think linear and cannot bring diversity to the solution table, leading to the hammer and nail adage. But I have equally seen average Managers with huge diversified depth of knowledge in business subjects, at times surpassing their supervisor’s limitedness. These kinds might be feared by their bosses of being trampled over, but they always find newer pathways to shine, because they are always curious about those pathways.
Unless the organisation considers a subject matter expert as a leader, Diversified Curiosity stands as the first variation to consider for Leadership roles. In case of the former, Focused Curiosity will yield greater results in terms of research, cost savings or new product innovation. Hence it is important to define the level and variant of curiosity required at every leadership role for the organisation to scale higher. But how? To be further curious, let’s connect. You have already found me here and you can also curiously find me at LinkedIn or Twitter @reubray to discuss further!