Leading With a Curiosity Mindset

As a leader, you might feel like you’re supposed to always have the answers and give advice rather than express uncertainty and collect input. As professionals, we’re often conditioned to value knowing more than the experience of learning. But leaders who take that approach are missing a great opportunity to cultivate a crucial leadership skill: curiosity. 

Curiosity is about more than asking questions. It’s about exploring and experimenting with a process of openness — to yourself, to others, and to the world. Curiosity is a critical skill for transformative growth and change for you and your team. So how do you foster an environment that encourages curiosity? Asking that question is a great start! Here are three strategies that will help you show up curious and ignite growth.

1. Recognize the value of curiosity 

Curiosity has been linked to cultural behaviors characteristic of a growth mindset, like translating failures into learning opportunities and autonomously choosing to develop new skills. A study from Deloitte shows organizations that embrace learning are 92% more likely to innovate. They’re also 52% more productive and 17% more profitable compared to organizations that don’t embrace curiosity. Further, open and curious communication tends to reduce group conflict and improve team performance.


2. Put asking before acting

When your curiosity is triggered, it allows you to illuminate many alternative pathways. Asking questions before you take action leads to fewer decision-making errors, even — perhaps especially — when responding to unexpected or novel challenges. Leaders who model inquisitiveness develop teams who show up curious and ready to collaborate. And don’t save curiosity just for brainstorming new ideas; the power of inquiry can reinvigorate existing systems and help guide you in crisis moments. Simply asking great questions to the right people at the right time can achieve extraordinary results.


3. Set learning-based goals

Flexing your curiosity muscles leads to continuous learning and improvement. Your team is more likely to be motivated when their work is framed around learning-based goals in addition to their performance objectives. And when rewarding performance, don’t forget to acknowledge the learning needed to get there. Encourage your people to adopt a mindset that emphasizes professional development, resilience, non-judgmental brainstorming, and problem-solving. And be sure to set learning-focused goals for your own leadership development too.


It’s easy to lose our sense of wonder as we take on more and more responsibilities. But reigniting your innate curiosity will make you a more dynamic leader, especially when you’re navigating ambiguity or solving problems. Ask and encourage questions, remain open, explore the possibilities, and see where it leads. You may be surprised by the powerful results.


Powerful question: What’s one idea above that piqued your curiosity, and how can you bring it into your work this week?

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