Friday, June 18, 2021

Three Ways Curiosity Makes You a Better Leader

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Curious leaders listen and make you feel supported, valued, and appreciated.

One of the best leaders I've known was also one of the most curious leaders I've known. He peppered me with questions from the first day I met him. He wanted to know my background, my story, my ideas on different topics. 

He was quick to ask, "What do you think?" about whatever we were discussing, and he was genuinely interested.

I always felt like I had a voice and my ideas mattered.

He made me feel much smarter than I actually am. It was motivating. It gave me energy to do more, to be more, and to ask more questions of the people in my circle. Curiosity is a game changer. It creates new ideas. It creates positive momentum.

Ask these questions to practice being a curious leader...

1. Who has been a big influence on you? Who inspires you?

2. What's something you're working on that you're excited about?

3. What would you do differently if you were principal? 

4. What's the toughest part of your job? 

5. What resources do you need to reach your goals?

6. How do you want your students to feel when they're around you?

7. How can I know if someone I'm speaking with would be a good connection for you?

8. Why did you choose to be a teacher/principal/etc.?

9. What's a book or movie that's inspiring to you?

No matter how the other person answers any of these question, be sure to take an approving, supportive stance. I guess you could ask these questions looking for a "correct" answer but that wouldn't be curiosity. That would be judgement. 

Be a learner, not an expert.

Curious leaders view difficulties and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.

Poor leaders get frustrated by problems. Great leaders are fascinated by problems. They view challenges with a sense of wonder and awe and possibility. 

They focus on what they can learn from the problem. They don't get stuck as easily because they don't let what they can't do get in the way of what they can do. 

They invite others to work with them to solve the problem. They're open to creative solutions.

Curious leaders know the problem is not really the problem. They know the problem is really how we think about the problem. We can always control how we respond to the problem. 

Curious leaders believe every problem can be beneficial if we use it to learn and grow. Our struggles make us stronger.

Be fascinated, not frustrated. Shoutout to Dr. Rob Gilbert for sharing this idea on the Success Hotline.

Curious leaders have more empathy and embrace different perspectives.

Some leaders get offended when people behave badly or in ways they don't understand. They are quick to judge.

But curious leaders try to see things from the other person's perspective. They don't take things personally. They are not easily offended.

They try to understand poor behavior. They look past the behavior to try to identify a legitimate need the other person is trying to meet.

They don't assume they know another person's intentions. Instead, they invite the person into dialogue. They're curious about how the other person is experiencing the situation.

They don't judge. They try to understand.

Be curious, not furious.

Thanks to Dr. Bryan Goodwin for his work and inspiration around the importance of curiosity.

What are some other benefits of curiosity for effective leadership? What's a way curiosity has helped you? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.


  1. Wow! I am just blown away by reading this post, I identified with every sentence as this is the leader I aspire to become. I am currently learning about leadership and is very impressed with the characteristics and attributes of a leader. The questions you posited to be asked give credence to the fact that leaders must be able to influence others to achieve a common goal.

    As such I want to connect the attributes of a curious leader within that of a teacher leader in a school setting. As teacher leaders are influencers, communicators, empathetic, collaborative and sees opportunities in every obstacle faced. As you gracefully mentioned “curious leaders believe every problem can be beneficial if we use it to learn and grow. Our struggles make us stronger”.

    The world need leaders in all faucets of society and life; but more so the schools, as what better way to effect a positive social change than within a school. I appreciate your insight Mr. Geurin on the characteristics of a “Curious Leader” and the reverberation of this quote in my head has even gotten louder… "The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born." —Warren G. Bennis

  2. Thanks for your valuable comment!

  3. As an elementary music teacher who is trying to expand upon my “sphere of influence” beyond my content area as a teacher-leader within my school building, I really enjoyed reading and reflecting upon this post. I especially enjoyed answering your “practice questions” for curious teacher leadership. Her a my answers to a select few questions. It is my hope that reading my responses will provide you with a different perspective:
    1.) What is the toughest part of your job?
    The toughest part of my job is the reality of my teaching situation as an elementary music teacher that allots me only 45 minutes of in-class instructional time once per week for each student. As a teacher who strives to make as much of a difference in the lives of each student as possible, this simply is not enough time. With the reality of time in mind, I now value my actions and interactions with students outside the classroom just as much as those inside the classroom to make this difference.

    2.) How do you want your students to feel when they’re around you?
    As the teacher of a content area which is largely performance-based and requires students to step out of their comfort zones and take healthy risks to produce material that that can physically seen and heard by their peers, I want my students to feel comfortable, safe, happy, and trusted when they are around me.

    3.) What is a book or a movie treat is inspiring to you?
    Forrest Gump.
    Thank you again for your inspiration. I appreciate it and hope that my perspective has been impactful to you.