We loved August Turak’s article “Steve Jobs and the One Trait All Innovative Leaders Share” (forbes.com 11/21/2011)
We believe that strong leadership comes from strong communication skills and the skill identified in August Turak’s article is #2 in our communication model, curiosity (aka, ask questions!).
For some reason as we get older, we lose our ability to cultivate curiosity. As kids, all we are is curious. Kids are constantly asking questions, wanting to solve problems, trying things that we know aren’t possible and yet wanting to push the boundaries looking for a new end result, all because they are curious and wanting to know more. It’s like a survival skill; how they learn, test their assumptions, are open to new perspectives, push their boundaries of what they are capable, make mistakes AND do things they (and often we) never thought was possible. We, as kids, questioned everything. So how do we lose it, when does it happen? Is it when our parents become frustrated with our millions of questions and tell us to stop asking them or make us feel bad for asking them? Is it when our teachers, who haven’t got the time or means to answer the myriad of questions thrown at them, dismiss them or make students feel like they aren’t smart enough because they don’t know the answer? (I for one remember feeling this way). What about the question that Mr. Turak raises “yeah, but what on earth are you going to do with it?” (We have all heard that one more than once!).
“Jobs wasn’t curious because he wanted to be successful. He became successful because he was so curious”. Successful leaders are curious. We know this to be true. They ask questions, they listen to new perspectives, they test assumptions, and they are open to new possibilities (sound like when you were a young child?). Some people’s best work happens when they stumble upon it by accident because they were curious – apps that are created, products that are developed, recipes concocted, science discoveries, and as Mr Turak noted, diseases cured.
When talking to a friend the other day, she said she had met someone who worked for Oprah. Excited about this, she asked what it was like to work for her and she was told “amazing”. What was so amazing about it? She said that Oprah was curious to know everyone’s perspective, at every level, and that she was open to changing her mind. It made her and her colleagues feel valued, that they were heard.
Before you say no, dismiss an idea or ignore a perspective, ask yourself ‘What could I be curious about?’ ‘How could it change my business or my relationship?’ Based on the success of Steve Jobs and Oprah, what have you got to lose?
Want to know more about being a successful leader? Check out: 3 levels of listening, Strategies For Challenging Conversations, Gaining Perspective – how is yours serving you?, Are You a Teller? How it affects your relationships, Telling of a Leader, AND follow this space Mondays for weekly tips, tools and communication strategies.