As a leader, are you confident enough to be curious? That might sound like an easy question, (How many of you instinctively responded to yourself, “Well of course I am”?), but it is actually harder than it sounds. Why?
- We are placed in positions of leadership, presumably, because we have demonstrated that we have a depth of knowledge and/or skills.
- When you are a leader, people look to you for answers.
If you are in a role because of your expertise, and people are looking to you for answers, it is easy to slide into the belief that you have the responsibility to answer and your answers are “right.” There is also the matter of efficiency — time is of the essence. If you already “know” the answer, why slow down the process, right?
If you dig a little deeper, you might also be willing to acknowledge that there is a part of you — the part that wants to look as if you know what you are doing —whispering in your ear that if you ask others their opinion, it might appear like you don’t know the answer. This is where some leaders, either out of insecurity or a need to assert authority, might double-down on their response. Are you confident enough to be curious?
A curious leader asks people their opinion. When someone’s perspective differs from his or her own, a curious leader might genuinely ask the person to “help me understand why you see it that way.” Curiosity doesn’t mean that the leader doesn’t have an answer. It is not about being wishy-washy or unwilling to make a decision. It means that the leader respects the people around them enough to want to understand their thoughts and experiences.
As the leader, it is likely still your responsibility to make the decision. Curiosity doesn’t mean you won’t make a decision. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that the new information or differing perspective will cause you to change your opinion. But it might. Are you confident enough to change your mind about what you thought you “knew”?
The last time I checked, a leader’s responsibility is to make the best decision, not to always be “right.” The best decisions come from understanding a challenge from multiple perspectives. Even if additional information doesn’t cause to you to change your ultimate response, it is likely to help you present the decision in such a way that all parties feel their concerns were heard, regardless of whether the final decision is what they would have chosen. And that, my friends, is the sign of a real leader.
Are you confident enough to be curious?