Great minds keep asking questions throughout their lives.
Doing so they grow, they develop, they broaden their perspective,
they face their own ignorance ready to learn and understand.
From year to year, the ways in which leaders develop change – they align with the needs of the environment, ways of doing business, take into account research on key success factors of individual leaders, the psychological profiles of “new generations”. Increasingly and louder, there is talk about authenticity, vulnerability, being in the moment, but voices that call for profit, result, success are not silenced. It’s not easy for today’s leaders!
Out of a desire to be first and foremost helpful to my clients, I turned to literature. Neither more nor less than Leonardo da Vinci. Inspired by his postulate over the last few years, I have been practicing a program called “Renaissance Leadership.” It is based on seven basic postulates. The first of these is CURIOSITY.
Leonardo da Vinci is often said to be “undoubtedly the most savvy man to ever live.” He uncompromisingly sought answers to new and emerging questions and did not accept yes as a response. Everything he observed and studied was from three different angles. Whether it was dissecting animals or painting a human body. The reason for this, as he said himself, is that if you want to know the subject of your interest, you need to consider it from above, from below and from the sides; to defile it and to look for the beginning of each part.
When it comes to leaders, it is precisely the change in perspective that contributes to conscious leadership. And this is precisely one of the skills that is most difficult to embrace and make perfect. Sometimes it happens because of strong beliefs, rich experience, overdeveloped ego, a sense of insecurity and a need for control and the like.
In addition to changing perspective, rigor is also very important for curiosity. This actually means that it is important for each study to be strict with oneself and view their conclusions as someone else’s. One way is to prepare yourself to explain your points of view and attitudes, as if you want to present them to someone and convince them. Leonardo would often place a mirror and look at his drawings from a “reverse” perspective, because at the time he had the impression that they had been drawn by another hand and could view their quality more objectively.
Leonardo used to say that the search for knowledge gives him freedom. Looking from another perspective, freedom can also be understood as a precondition for knowledge and curiosity, in general. If leaders nurture an ancient, open-ended mind frame, they expand their universe and enhance all abilities. Only free leaders, open-minded, curious, can be the true support and guidаnce for their people.
Creative problem solving
Curiosity is important to leaders for many reasons. One of the more important ones is the ability to solve problems creatively. Unfortunately, our school system does not support the development of curiosity and the skill of asking questions. Indeed! In order to develop curiosity, it is important that we learn to ask questions, without the burden of “having to find the right answer” or “that must be the right question.” Sometimes there is not only one correct answer, and it is not enough to ask a single question.
The best questions arise when a question that has already been asked is rephrased and the search begins without the pressure of having to find that one, best answer. A change of perspective can help a lot here.
For example: “How to get water?” “How to get water to us?” has led to the development of agricultural irrigation systems. Freedom to ask questions and seek for answers is the key to developing curiosity.
Another important reason for developing curiosity in leaders is continuous learning. If one of the basic roles of a leader is to develop people from the team, it implies that the leader himself must work on his own development in order to be a good example and to monitor (or lead) the development of people.
Leonardo has often said that, as iron rusts from not being used, stagnant water is polluted and intellect decays if not used. One way to encourage continuous learning (at work) is through out-of-work activities.
Good leaders have (at least) one hobby that they passionately work on and are very good at. When a hobby becomes an integral part of a leader’s life, it means that they have already adopted the habit of asking and answering questions:
– what are my goals?
– what do I need?
– where do I find a good teacher?
– how do I overcome obstacles?
Through the hobby, leaders have a broader perspective, which is precisely one of the three basic principles of curiosity.
Another way to learn continuously as a tool for developing curiosity is to learn a foreign language. We can do this at any age. This activity not only forces you to make mistakes and learns from them, but it also forces you to, unless you can find the right word, find another way to explain / describe what you want. Isn’t that just what curiosity is all about ?! Take a step further: Commit to your native language. Explore words you don’t use often or whose meaning you are not sure about. Make a dictionary of less used words.
Development of emotional intelligence
A very important aspect, which is being increasingly addressed in today’s business, is emotional intelligence. It is well known that it can develop throughout life and is an awareness of ourselves, of others, of how we build relationships, make decisions, manage our emotions and manage stress. By developing curiosity, the flexibility to change perspectives and ask questions, we emerge from a position where we have become numb and thus become aware of our strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, we open ourselves to listening and respecting the interviewee’s opinions and perspectives and patiently gathering knowledge before making decisions. When we approach situations freely and comprehensively, we make them manageable and prevent stressful situations or we make them easier.
How to develop curiosity?
For a start, ask yourself:
- How curious are you?
• When did you seek knowledge only for the pursuit of understanding and substance?
• What did you gain from this effort?
Next, move on to analyzing the people around you.
• How many would you call “the embodiment of curiosity”?
• How are their lives enriched by this?
One of the easiest steps to developing your curiosity is going to a bookstore. Why exactly there? It’s simple: there you will find notes, a block, a notebook,… of the right format and layout, which from now on will become your constant companion.
Carry the block with you everywhere and keep track of your insights and questions, ideas, impressions and observations. Write down everything that inspires you: questions you ask yourself during the day, ideas that come to your mind, thoughts about the people you admire, short lines of conversation you have throughout the day, and others that you remember as interesting, etc.
You can use the notes in another way: Give yourself the task of putting together a list of 100 questions that are important to you. It is important that any questions are listed as long as they relate to the answers that are important to you. But write questions quickly, out of your mind, without worrying about spelling and legibility. Do not even pay attention to the fact that some questions are repeated (in other words only). This is exactly what will point you to areas of particular interest to you. When you’re done, read all the questions and pay attention to the areas where the questions come from – relationships, work, money, fun…
To finish this exercise, select the ten most important questions. Commit to seeking clarity and understanding. Don’t stop at the first answer you find. Find at least three answers for each of your top ten questions.
When you are done with this activity, or at the same time, whatever you think is better, you can start making observations on different topics. You can download some topics from your top 10 questions. Topics can be: emotions, observation, aesthetics, animals, relationships, traffic, etc. Note your observations immediately or collect them and note them in the evening, in peace, in your home. If you want to make the whole game interesting, you can discuss topics with a friend and share your observations.
And now you are going to a bookstore.
In the next issue of Business Coaching Magazine, the second postulate of renaissance leadership: “The Advantage of Experience over Theory”