Curiosity: A Leadership Essential

Recently, I talked with a lean manufacturing consultant. He works to find and remove inefficiencies across all of the systems and operations of a Fortune 500 company. What key quality that makes someone in his role successful I wondered. “Curiosity” he stated without hesitation. For leadership in an organization to locate and remove waste in its operations, it must want to know, be diligent to uncover, and be committed enough to remove it.

It should come as no surprise that Scripture also identifies this key characteristic for wise leaders. Proverbs 25:2 says “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” God calls his people, across all professions, to rule over and subdue the earth. God has revealed to us what is needed for salvation, but in creation, he has left much for us to discover.

Kings or leaders in manufacturing, government, academia, science, homes, and beyond will only fulfill their callings if their minds are curious to the glory of God. We must learn to uncover things that have not yet been seen. The consultant also said that one of the hardest things for leaders to identify in manufacturing is atrophy. A system that once worked well may slowly accumulate inefficiencies or may not maximize new knowledge to become more efficient. Either way, the process is not working as well as it should. Thought it once worked well, leaders are blind to the present problems. And that is a problem that plagues many leaders today.

We know that there are limits to curiosity. After all, curiosity killed the cat. Certainly, we ought not to probe into the secret things that belong to the Lord our God alone, nor should we pry into business that is not ours, nor seek to innovate where God’s commands are clear. But where it is fitting, how do we break out the ruts that bind our thinking and blind our eyes? What characterizes an appropriately curious person? Here are a few indicators:

  1. They are never content that they have found all of the answers or that what has worked in the past will automatically work in the future.
  2. They ask good questions. About their circumstances, of other people, of themselves, and of God.
  3. They listen. They believe that the ordinary people around them will provide much of what is needed to search out answers to make needed changes.
  4. They gently persist until they find answers.

Finally, people who are merely curious about what is wrong, inefficient, or less than ideal will never be good leaders. True leaders must and will curiously inquire about what will convince and enable people to embrace new ideas and processes to the glory of God.

Do you want to be a leader? Be curious. It is your glory to search things out that God has left for you to discover.

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