Curiosity - A Leadership Superpower

leadership Nov 20, 2018

I vividly remember being kicked out of class countess times when I was at school. From the moment I could talk I was a curious little being and my mum openly admits that I caused her pain, a lot of pain, by constantly asking and repeating “but Mum, Why?” over and over, and over, and over again. And over again.


By the time I reached primary school I was a questioning expert! In fact my questioning techniques were so good that on a regular basis I would be ‘removed’ from the class for being “a Smart Aleck” or “too big for my boots”. My mum recently made another confession - she told me that I would often arrive home from school, having been kicked out of class again for causing “disruption”. She  would ask me why I had misbehaved and I would then tell her the story and explain how I had challenged the teacher’s explanation on a subject/theory/answer, and how I thought they were “wrong”.  She told me there were countless times when she’d think to herself “he’s right but I can’t say that to him.” Instead she would reply “but Ali the teacher is an adult and you have to respect them.” Of course, my response was “but Mum, Why?”


You see our education system never wanted us to develop as critical thinkers, it never wished for us to self-express, it never desired for us to challenge the status quo or to question the reasons WHY? It simply wanted us to abide. Our education system was, and largely still is, creating a generation of unconscious beings. We are conditioned to comply from an early age.


Thankfully I was a resilient little bugger and I never let the many detentions, letters home to my parents or negative report cards derail my enthusiasm for being curious. In fact, I find it quite funny that, 30 years later, I now harness the gift of curiosity to run a business that inspires people to transform their personal and professional lives. What’s more, I find it incredibly fascinating and encouraging that in the world of technology, where most of my current clients reside, Disruption (with a capital D) is now celebrated. No wonder I finally feel like I am home!


For me, curiosity is the key to creativity, and as an executive coach and leadership consultant, it is often my curiosity and my ability to challenge another person’s way of thinking that opens a port hole to a new world of thinking.


Curiosity brings a new perspective to a problem or a challenge. It helps people to “see” more options and choices, helping to improve many aspects of life, including problem solving, innovation, conflict resolution, identifying opportunities …the list goes on. Who would have thought that the very same quality that teachers tried to knock out of me when I was younger would turn out to be my super power, helping businesses and business leaders to find alignment within themselves and their organisations. The irony is oh so beautiful.


“My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.” – Mario Testino


Would you be open to doing a quick exercise with me?


I’d love for you to consider and answer the following questions and be open and curious to what shows up:


Think of a decision that you are faced with in your business/life/role that is playing on your mind right now?

How long have you been thinking about the decision?

Have you considered letting go of the need to make the decision?

What would happen if you made no decision?

What if making no decision was the decision in itself?

Is it possible that the decision can work itself out with no intervention?

What if there was no right or wrong?


Now some of you may think this approach is a little… unusual! BUT some of you may experience an insight.


By simply becoming curious of our own inner-world we can tap into a deeper source of intelligence to navigate life and business.


I’ve come to recognise that the pain and suffering we often feel during a decision-making process are usually created by the constructs of our own mind. Our thoughts make the whole process unnecessarily complicated. We convince ourselves that we “have to” make a decision, it becomes very black and white, and we feel the pressure and fear of making the “wrong decision”. I especially love the last question:


“What if there was no right or wrong?”


Going back to the good old school days, when a teacher asked us a question, we were expected to know the answer, right? If we answered, “I don’t know,” then we would usually be greeted with “why don’t you know?”


We have been conditioned to think that it is “wrong” if we don’t know the answer, leading us to over-think, analyse and ruminate over decisions that apparently, we should know the answer to. 

As we’ve grown older, it’s not the teacher’s voice of expectation we hear - it’s our own. What would happen if we simply became comfortable sitting in the space of “I don’t know”, relaxing into this space with no pressure or need to know in that very moment? Would you feel more peaceful? Would it create space for new ideas or solutions to surface?


The unknown feels uncomfortable. We’re not used to sitting in the space of “I don’t know”. It can leave us feeling unsure of what to do next. However, often the answer is nothing. Practise sitting in the “I Don’t Know” and trust that when you need to know, the answer will show up …or, it might just work itself out.


Creativity flourishes from beyond the personal thinking mind, if you simply allow it the space to do so and become curious within the space.


“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti


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