“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” Stephen Hawking
Without a shadow of a doubt good leadership makes a difference. And good leadership makes the difference that we all want to see (let’s ignore bad leadership for now). But is good leadership all about cultivating the correct traits and characteristics that get listed time and time again? Of course it can’t be as simple as that otherwise everyone would simply focus on getting better at exhibiting those traits. Surely this never happens!
For me good leadership is all about good interpersonal skills that quite rightly get focused on in terms of emotional intelligence. But in addition to that I think the ability to ‘read the runes‘ of what is happening around them is what good leaders excel at. They stay curious about anything and everything, no matter what. Whether it’s spotting opportunities or identifying linkages between information that others just don’t see. The best leaders make sense of those complexities.
Much of this might be put down to gut feeling or intuition and some may dismiss it as luck. Spotting links and connections between diverse sets of information and behaviors means someone has to stay alert to what they are perceiving. Certainly a rich and varied set of experiences will help cultivate an ever enquiring mindset.
But what counts most of all is staying alert to what is around you – people, markets, economics, politics, technology, the list goes on and on. I never met an effective leader who didn’t exhibit a level of curiosity that made them stand out from the crowd. Equally, I’ve met many in leadership positions who simply enjoyed the label and just manage, they never figure out how to lead.
Staying curious requires a focus, it requires a desire to understand what’s around and what it might mean. Pushing at those boundaries of curiosity is a habit any would-be leader would do well to cultivate. Exploring linkages in the complexities that surround us and our businesses is what gives us competitive advantage. It allows us to move forward.
Be curious and explore what ought be. Just because it hasn’t been done before means you’re breaking new ground and people notice that in a leader and that’s what makes the difference.
© Paul Slater and Reflect & Lead, 2015.