The power of being curious in leadership and life

You don’t have to be a fan of the award-winning TV series Ted Lasso to relate to the scene where Ted plays a high-stakes game of darts with a wealthy, entitled Rupert Mannion. Ted baits Rupert into a wager by throwing a couple of darts using his weaker right hand, fooling him into thinking he is an average player. Convinced he is certain to win, Rupert accepts. Ted then changes his throwing hand and segues into a monologue about how he has always been underestimated. If Rupert had been curious enough to ask if Ted had played a lot of darts, he would have told him he played every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with his father, from age 10 till 16. Ted easily wins the game and the wager and quotes famous poet Walt Whitman, who said, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’

The story illustrates the power of curiosity. It’s like a Swiss Army Knife for leadership success. Great leaders ask probing questions that challenge the status quo. They are equally curious about how to deal with obstacles, as well as possibilities for growth. They uncover hidden insights, challenge people to step up and inspire innovation within their teams.

It seems like curiosity is also an asset in our broader relationships. Todd Kashdan of George Mason University is among the world’s top experts on the psychology of well-being, psychological strengths, mental agility, and social relationships. He has been studying curiosity for over twenty years and has authored five books, including Curious? His research has found that people who are curious are often viewed in social encounters as more interesting and engaging, and they are more apt to reach out to a wider variety of people. In addition, being curious seems to protect people from negative social experiences, like rejection, which could lead to better connection with others over time. “Being interested is more important in cultivating a relationship and maintaining a relationship than being interesting….,” says Kashdan.

🙋 How do you stay interested and curious as a leader? 🙋‍♀️

Best regards, Brian