Leadership, Learning and Curiosity…

A couple of months ago during a coaching session a recent MBA graduate asked me which courses he should consider to further develop his business skills.

“My advice would be to take up something creative preferably in the performing arts arena” I responded after a few moments thought, “As a future leader you will need to be comfortable working with groups of people in all sorts of circumstances. I’d think about joining a local amateur dramatic group or at least take a course in public speaking preferably with exposure to the media”

Later on that evening I sat reviewing the notes that I’d made during the session. My thoughts began to wander and I found myself thinking about what were the most important leadership traits – a topic that occupies a considerable portion of my waking hours.

Fundamentally I believe that at the core of Leadership are the personal traits, characteristics and values that provide the leader with the ability to create change and opportunity in any given situation. However, I believe that there is a characteristic that all great leaders have in common that enables them to transcend differing leadership situations with apparent ease.

It’s a commonly held view, by practitioners and academics alike, that a primary skill of a good leader is to be able to learn from a situation and apply that learning in a differing scenario – in essence to bring the wisdom acquired in one circumstance to the aid of another. A key differentiator of the modern leader is not only the ability to learn more from a given situation than those around him but also to take that abstract learning and apply it in differing contexts.

So what is it that the skilled leader does that others don’t?  What is the special attribute that great leaders have in abundance?

The answer in my experience is quite simply………curiosity.

The curiosity that causes them to question what others take for granted. The curiosity that opens up a world of new opportunities and possibilities. The curiosity that opens their mind to new ideas and novel insights where others only see the tried and tested. The curiosity that provides the vision to innovate and take risk. The curiosity that stimulates the challenge within them to take things to the next level. Above all the curiosity that underpins their ability to learn.

The following morning I met up with the MBA graduate over coffee.

“Remind me to talk to you about Leadership traits at our next session. I want to develop what we were talking about yesterday in a different direction.” I said as we sat down.

“Sure will” he responded. “Sounds an interesting topic, I’m really curious!”



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