It might be surprising, but many leaders fear being discovered for not being as smart as they appear. Realistic or not, people often look to leaders as if they should know everything. This external pressure often leads to internal pressure. Leaders fear criticism, failure, making hard decisions, taking responsibility, or being unable to reach an important goal. Because of this, leaders often surround themselves with experts in areas with which they have less experience or knowledge, which can be a very crucial to their success. However, this can also keep them from developing some of these skills on their own. There are other things leaders can do to be truly effective, including developing their sense of curiosity in areas with which they might not normally be comfortable.
By developing curiosity, leaders discover solutions to problems, learn to adapt, and survive. The same curiosity which can be stymied by fears, according to scientists, is the antidote for overcoming them. Deborah Bowie, the CEO of Transforming Lives Through Charitable Giving, stated, “the opposite of fear is not bravery, but curiosity. When we know more, we fear less.”
But how do leaders develop curiosity? A sense of curiosity that seemed natural to a child can seem less natural to an adult. There are resources to understand why this occurred. Perhaps the answer revolves around whether leaders developed a growth or a fixed mindset in childhood. The key is to consider the future and all the wonder that doors can open based on developing a sense of curiosity regarding the unfamiliar.
It can be helpful to make a list of challenging areas like understanding statistics, financial statements, emotional intelligence, or communication. Whatever the area that needs attention, could be improved through developing a sense of curiosity. Perhaps it was a topic that did not seem of interest in school, or there seemed to be no immediate use for that information at the time. Leaders could benefit from reviewing some of the areas that seem uncomfortable and utilize some of the following tactics to improve curiosity and develop their sense of understanding.
- Consider empowering an expert employee who could develop a training session to spark curiosity about an unusual subject.
- Create a book club at work and have people write down topics that were challenging for them in school. They can pick a popular book on that topic to report on within the book club.
- One of the best ways to learn a topic is to teach it. Write a column for a company blog to help others who struggle with the same topics.
- Research what others know or believe about a topic. Using a survey on a site like Survey Monkey can be an effective way to get data about topics of interest.
- Spend time in groups on social sites to read what others have written about challenging topics.
- People like to read about things they find familiar. If leaders normally read one book a month, then consider adding one book from outside the normal comfort zone every other month.
If leaders learn to let go of the fear that holds them back, the number of possible growth opportunities are endless. It is often stated that at the end of their lives, people often regret the things that they did not do, more than the things they did. Consider a world of things that there are to do and learn and the opportunities available. Developing the sense of curiosity can be contagious and lead to developing a highly effective and engaged work culture that encourages everyone to see past the fear and embrace the opportunities.