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  • Writer's pictureMark O'Neil

The 10 "C's" of Leadership. The Penultimate "C": Curiosity




As a reminder, this is the second to last post that I am doing on the 10 C's of a great leader. Thus far, we have discussed 8 of these attributes (Character, Communicator, Cultivator, Compassion, Competent, Confident, Collaborative, Collegial). Next month, I will complete the series with Courage.


Your feedback has been invaluable to me and some of you may recognize your suggestions. If nothing else, this series has helped me clarify my thinking on leadership while serving my executive coaching clients as well as possible.


Normally when writing a Blog, I go to my clients or some established research to support my proposition that there are at least 10 critical criteria for a leader to possess to make them effective. Coincidently, they all begin with the letter "C", mainly for ease of memory.


This time though, I chose a more reliable source for my data; my 5 year old grandson. While spending a week watching him while my daughter and son in law went for a brief respite. I was reminded of a young child's favorite question: 'WHY? ' It is not a "One and done " proposition. It is redundant, repetitive and reflects his unbound curiosity.

I'm sure that anyone reading this who has children or grandchildren knows exactly what I am talking about. The questions don't stop with "why?". In fact, a child's curiosity is evident through his formative years.


We are all born with a built in sense of curiosity and we grow that sense as we progress to adulthood. Those who nurture it properly (with the help of their parents or other influencers) carry it into adulthood as a very strong characteristic of great and effective leadership. Some eventually stop asking 'WHY'? Is it because they have a sense of insecurity about asking the question? Or is it because they feel they have the answer based upon the assumptions (sometimes faulty) which they have developed over time around the question?


In his 2009 book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek emphasizes the value of curiosity in providing inspirational leadership. He advocates for starting the conversation about mission, vision and values by starting with the question: WHY do we do what we do?


MOST CEOs FOCUS ON WHAT THEIR COMPANY DOES AND HOW THEY DO IT, BUT TO LEAD INSPIRATIONALLY AND BE SUCCESSFUL, THE GREAT ONES HAVE AN UNCANNY UNDERSTANDING OF WHY THEY DO WHAT THEY DO.


Sinek relates to the Why question, not only in identifying why her company does something, but why she hires the people that are energized by her why and inspires customers who have a similar why when they purchase a product or service and stay with it. He does not argue that what and how are not important, but his fundamental argument is that if you start with why, your results have much more staying power. He gives detailed examples (Apple, Southwest Airlines, John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King) to show that his approach works across the business, political and even societal spheres. His examples are compelling.


I believe that this is a great place to start, but does not only have to do with a company's purpose. It also has to do with how an executive approaches his/her work. Here are some other uses of curiosity that seems to me to lead to inspirational leadership:

>Why does it work the way it does?

>Why doesn't it work the way we intended?

> Why did the decision we made create a new strategic differentiation..or why didn't it?

>What would happen if we....?

>What inputs to this product/service do we not understand? Can we do without them? Is there a better, faster or less costly way to do this?


My favorite way to get at the why was painfully obvious to the people I worked with over my 40 year career. I would habitually take off my glasses, make eye contact with the person I was speaking with and say "Help me understand....". It became somewhat of an office joke! In my mind, the only unacceptable answer to this question was..." because we have always done it that way".


Otherwise we were well on our way to exploring our curiosity for the benefit of our or organization. What do you think?


Mark








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1 Comment


dkerr
May 21

In science the most important question in making good research is first why and then how?

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