Curiosity may be negative for the proverbial cat but it is a fundamental component of transformational leadership DNA. Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink define this approach as “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Curious leaders approach complex issues with a mindset that is not driven by existing constraints or predetermined pathways rather, they search for the connection between why change is necessary and how to move their organization towards change.
Truly effective leaders instinctively and intentionally live out this belief through their actions. For decision makers this approach is counter intuitive to institutional training, practices and belief structures. Typical leadership practices approach continuous improvement with the mentality of how do they address the issue within the existing institutional structures. From the onset this typical approach will yield typical results. As a transformational leaders you must be anything but typical.
Truly effective leaders instinctively and intentionally live out their beliefs through their actions. Many of their actions as a leader will be counter intuitive to institutional training, practices and belief structures within your organization. The ability as a leader to recognize and navigate through challenges will be the difference between systemic vs situational change. Leaders must be the agent for empowering the organization to continually ask why they are doing what they are doing in order to understand if their work is aligned with the intended outcomes. Successful organizations must resist this temptation and go with the flow – proceed with a beginner’s mind.
Curious leaders understand reform efforts need to be approached with a fresh set of eyes open to all possibilities for truly impactful and sustainable results to occur. Curious leaders need to have the courage to withstand the institutional resistance that will come in an attempt to protect status quo. These transformational leaders must also have the courage to relinquish positional authority and practice distributive leadership. Distributive leadership comes through empowerment, collaboration and shared accountability as the norm and expectation for all.
We were all born with innate curiosity and over time social norming confines our instincts. Curious leaders cannot fly in the face of institutional practice but rather, find ways to change the belief structures that define the culture thus unlocking vast innovative growth potential in the organization and the collective personnel talent within their organization.
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