Learning Through Curiosity: Commitment 2 of the Conscious Leader

This is part 2 of a series I’m doing throughout 2017 on the book, “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success.” To learn more, see Commitment 1.

Commitments of The Conscious Leader

I commit to growing in self-awareness. I commit to regarding every interaction as an opportunity to learn. I commit to curiosity as a path to rapid learning.

Commitments of the Unconscious Leader

I commit to being right and to seeing this situation as something that is happening to me. I commit to being defensive especially when I am certain that I am RIGHT.


”Hmm, That’s Interesting…”

I once thought about writing a book titled, “Hmm, That’s Interesting…” My goal for this book would be to encourage others to take an approach of curiosity in their life. At the time I considered writing this book, I was surrounded by a lot of individuals judging everything—judging others, judging things, and judging themselves. 

I could see how this judgment was preventing them from fully enjoying life, being productive in their work, and leading effectively. Anytime something happened that wasn’t in alignment with what they believed should have happened, they unconsciously dipped into judgmental evaluation and fear-based thinking. 

In one instance a coworker of mine noticed that I wasn’t reacting during a situation in which provoked a great amount of worry in her. She asked why I wasn’t as upset and as worried as her.

“I don’t know. I just find it interesting that it went this way. I’m curious to see what happens now…”

She responded, “must be nice. I wish I had that ability to not let it bother me.”

“Well,” I said to her, “it hasn’t always been this way for me. But lately I’ve been trying to look at life from a place of curiosity. Rather than form a judgment, I try to approach situations in life with a ‘Hmm…that’s interesting’ mindset. I found it helps keep me calm in chaotic and stressful situations.”

I haven’t actually committed to writing this book, but found it fun to at least toy with the idea. I truly believe that a life lived with curiosity is a far more enjoyable life to live.

By taking an approach of curiosity to life, we can reserve a lot of energy. By focusing on what we have full control over—our thoughts and our actions—less time is wasted complaining, blaming, and being a victim. This allows us to learn with more agility, live with more peace and joy, stay focused and energized, and lead more effectively.


All Leaders Drift, But Only Few Shift

Like my coworker, it’s not uncommon for all of us to drift into unconsciousness from time to time. What it means to drift into unconsciousness is that we lose our presence in the moment. We get caught up judging, comparing, worrying, complaining, blaming, spacing out, and so on. We start to live from a place of fear and defensiveness.

It doesn’t matter who you are, you are going to drift.

The question is, will you choose to shift back to consciousness, to being present? And if so, how long will you wait to make the shift?

As I discussed in the first post in this series, conscious leaders lead from a place of faith, trust, and presence, which creates environments where people around you can flourish. It’s important, then, that you make the shift when you catch yourself drifting.

”The ability to shift is a master skill for conscious leaders.”


Making The Shift Into Wonder

The ability to learn through curiosity is key for sustainable success. In fact, as the authors discuss in this chapter, there are four competencies that are, by far, the greatest predictors of sustainable success:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Learning Agility
  3. Communication
  4. Influence

Self-awareness and learning agility make up Commitment #2: Learning Through Curiosity. These competencies are foundational if you want to create a successful and sustainable lifestyle.

But before you can make a powerful shift into curiosity and wonder, where you can take full advantage of growing in self-awareness and through agile learning, you have to become aware of the areas where you are stuck as a result of needing to be right. Areas where you are closed off from hearing criticism from others. 

Truth is, you can be successful without this commitment. In fact, this commitment is often missing from high-performing, successful leaders.  Leaders who are already successful get stuck in the trap of believing that to stay successful, they must do what made them successful in the first place. So they do what they’ve always done, and rarely are surrounded by people who will tell them to do otherwise.

But as Marshall Goldsmith points out in his book of the same title: what got you here, won’t get you there.

Often, what gets us to the level of success we are at now, is exactly what is keeping us from achieving the next level of success.

Therefore, as the authors point out, when we catch ourselves drifting into defensiveness and needing to be right, we must make the shift into open-ended curiosity, or wonder.

Conscious leaders lead from a place of wonder, and they’re all the better for it.

“Effective leaders learn to get into a state of wonder on a consistent basis.”


The Problem With Most Leadership Development Programs

Most leadership development programs teach you what to see.

They help you figure out the “3 keys to building influence,” or “5 steps for dealing with a problematic employee” and so on.

As a result we have a large pool of leaders who believe that the secret to being a good leader is having it all figured out, by knowing the 3 keys or 5 steps. This system works well for problems that have straightforward, calculative solutions, but less so for situations in which a right answer isn’t clear.

These same leaders, then, struggle immensely under situations and circumstances where there isn’t a “right” answer, where there is a lot of complexity and chaos. It is in these moments that we need conscious leaders who seek wisdom through wonder and observation. Conscious leaders who aren’t focused on being right, but on learning and understanding.

Great leaders don’t seek more answers. Rather, the seek bigger questions. They wonder. And then they live into that wonder.

I’m a Christian, so I often look to the life of Jesus for leadership guidance. And an interesting thing about Jesus is this: throughout the gospels Jesus is asked 183 questions, either directly or indirectly. He answered only 3 forthrightly. He wasn’t teaching what to see. He was teaching how to see. How to seek bigger questions, and how to find the right questions.

Life and leadership is less about seeking the right answers, and more about discovering the right questions.

The conscious leader seeks the right questions. The conscious leader is curious and wonders.

While most leadership development programs teach us what to see, conscious leadership is all about learning how to see.


Making the Commitment to Learning Through Curiosity

Transform who you lead by transforming how you lead. When you catch yourself drifting into unconscious leading and trying to defend and prove you are right, stop yourself. Make the shift. 

Move into open-ended curiosity. It’s the fastest and most effective way to grow, and will lead to a life and leadership practice that is both successful and sustainable.

Make the commitment:

I commit to growing in self-awareness. I commit to regarding every interaction as an opportunity to learn. I commit to curiosity as a path to rapid learning.

Go and encourage!