The top business leaders are fueled by curiosity. They are lifelong learners who use curiosity to build confidence—their own, and their team’s. These people become stronger leaders by consistently feeding their curiosity.
Curiosity is one of the main traits “that drive people who seem to cut through the clutter and wind up with more opportunities and more trajectory,” Cinnabon CEO Kat Cole told me in our recent podcast. As an electrical engineering student, Kat seized a chance from management at Hooters to help open a franchise in Australia. She had barely traveled and was only 19.
“I was very curious,” she says. “I was curious to know if I could do it. I was curious to see how they did things in other places. Curiosity was incredibly compelling and strong for me…. No matter what I might run into that would be unfamiliar, I had confidence in my ability to build relationships and be curious. The combination of confidence and curiosity has been a theme throughout life and career that I have experienced.”
The big question is how. How do they cultivate curiosity? Here are some of the key ways that fearless leaders cultivate their curiosity.
- They read. From Warren Buffett to Mark Zuckerberg, from Oprah Winfrey to Emma Watson, leaders across society also are readers. The written word, no matter if it’s print or digital, helps sharpen your intellect, clarify your purpose, and stay inspired.
- They listen. Fearless leaders rely on their ears for new solutions. They listen to learn, not just in meetings or dialogues. They turn on insightful podcasts while commuting or working out. Listening well enables them to ask great follow-up questions to learn even more.
- They make unexpected friends. Practice curiosity by bonding with a leader in a totally different industry. “I love learning from people who take on giants and slay them,” said Kobe Bryant, who reached out to media leader Arianna Huffington. “I wanted to know how Arianna did what she did, and why.”
- They cold call. Michigan State’s legendary basketball coach Tom Izzo told me on the podcast that his thirst for excellence drives him to cold-call other coaches. “You should copy from people who have had sustained success,” he says. “The way to be successful is similar in all walks of life.”
- They take time to learn. They go beyond keeping up with the news and trends that affect them directly. They learn for the sake of learning, to build up the muscle of curiosity. They ask questions, read books on a variety of topics, or take courses out of their comfort zone so they can grow.
- They value vulnerability. Curious leaders enlist trusted sources for authentic feedback. A circle of honest straight-shooters will help you unlock your blind spots. Curious leaders know that temporary discomfort is worth the long-term gain.
- They take risks. Successful people connect with themselves and others by taking risks. This skill begins with the question, “What if I …?” Example: “What if I handle that difficult conversation that I’ve been putting off?” Go ahead and tackle one thing that scares you today.
- They make curiosity a ritual. I know a great leader who ends every meeting with a question. This is a key metric for leaders who want to build a culture of curiosity. A ritual helps make curiosity a strong habit for you as a role model for your team.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Fearless leaders dare to be open to what they do not know. Are you open to change? To feedback? What’s holding you back from serving your most important relationships? Create habits like leaders who use curiosity to keep growing every day.
Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her new book, Fearless At Work, is now available. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.