Curious Leadership: Answers from the Experts



By the Turknett Team

Curiosity has always played an important role in leadership and in business. But curiosity is not often talked about, despite being so critical. What is the importance of having curious leadership? Why also would it be so important to have curiosity embedded in the organizational culture? We decided to turn to our team of experts to answer these tough questions and explore the benefits of curiosity. We asked them two questions: Why is curiosity important in leadership. And, why is curiosity important in organizational culture.  

Answers From the Experts:


Lyn Turknett, Co-founder and Co-chair

Why is curiosity important in leadership? I find it incredibly hard to come up with a succinct answer to that question – I think curiosity is core to being human – but if forced to boil it down, I’d say there are two big reasons: First, leaders today must be constant learners – always growing, always adapting, always open to what’s next. We’ve known for a while that learning agility predicts leadership success. Curiosity is at the core of that ability to continually reflect on mistakes, learn new skills, and welcome challenges. Curiosity also helps leaders build relationships – curious leaders are fascinated by other people. Second, only curious leaders can build the kind of innovative cultures needed to survive. Curious leaders ask questions rather than just give answers, rarely shut down debate, and promote learning environments where everyone is a part of innovation and change. Why is curiosity important in organizational culture? I don’t think there’s any disagreement about the fact that all organizations have to be adaptable to survive – we all know the stories of Blockbuster, Kodak, and the entire taxi industry. I think curious people within organizations, and a culture that encourages curiosity to flourish, is essential for success. There’s even research that supports how important curiosity as a trait is to successful problem solving. One of my favorite HBR articles is The Business Case for Curiosity. As the author says, “the impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities is a basic human attribute..” Organizations and leaders that encourage natural human curiosity will be ahead of the game in innovation and adaptability.  

Dr. Patricia Thompson, Senior ConsultantDr. Patricia Thompson

Why is curiosity important in leadership? Leaders who stay curious are less prone to rest on their laurels, sticking with what’s worked for them in the past. Instead, they are voracious learners who think critically and strive to expand their knowledge base. This allows them to challenge their own thinking, keep abreast of trends, and be more strategic. Why is curiosity important in organizational culture? In our fast-paced, ever-changing environment, curiosity is more important than ever. Curious organizations are more prone to be agile, because people are encouraged to constantly question what they’re doing and how they’re approaching problems. In turn, this sets the stage for developing creative solutions.  

Michael Session, Senior Consultant

Why is curiosity important in leadership & organizational culture: In general, I think of curiosity as the antidote to judgment. If judgment denotes the end of a process or discussion, curiosity keeps it open. Great leaders live in two realities. One is the world of what they know and it is that which fuels their confidence. The other is the world in which they are aware that there is much they don’t know and it is that which keeps them up at night. Curiosity is the path that enables them to fully exploit the intellectual resources in their organization to help discover the things they didn’t know they didn’t know but were delighted to discover. Much the same process informs cultural evolution. Culture evolves to facilitate solutions to particular environmental/circumstantial challenges. As the environment and circumstances change, the culture has to evolve with them to be viable. Curiosity as a form of engaged attention is necessary to notice that circumstances may have changed and that the existing culture isn’t working as source of solution to those changes.  

Anne Quiello, Senior Consultant and Host of Women in Leadership

Why is curiosity important in leadership? Wonder, curiosity, and inquiry are the sources of all our learning. As leaders, when we are curious and invoke inquiry over advocacy, questions over advice giving, our learning accelerates. Opportunities are more obvious, perceptions are broadened, and wisdom and discernment from past mistakes grow. Clay P. Bedford, an early and mid-20th century industrial innovator is quoted as saying “you can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” Why is curiosity important in organizational culture? According to research led by Michael Bungay Stanier, the benefits of a curiosity-led culture are stronger humans – increased courage, confidence, humility, and stronger performance – increased learning and engagement, innovation, resilience, capacity for change, just to name a few. Organizations which hire for intellectual curiosity tend to create curiosity-led cultures which enables stronger overall performance.  

Miranda TroyMiranda Troy, Senior Consultant

Why is curiosity important in leadership? The good leaders that I have known, coached and worked for are the ones who rebel against the phrase “We’ve always done It this way.” They are curious 🧐 about new ways of doing things, new people and new perspectives. They ask “Why”? And they are brave enough to try the new ideas. Why is curiosity important in organizational culture? Curiosity drives innovation and creativity. The companies that succeed in this world are the ones that know this and tap into it, creating psychologically safe environments that nurture curious mindsets and don’t point blame.  

Tim HuffTim Huff, Senior Consultant

Why is curiosity important in leadership? As an under-rated leadership trait, curiosity can help leaders create proactive and forward-thinking team members who feel free to explore different and better ways to do things. Leaders who are curious give team member space to learn and grow through their effective use of curiosity-based questions. Why is curiosity important in organizational culture? Maintaining a non-judgmental and learning-based culture would be near impossible without a curiosity-based leadership climate. Curiosity can help unlock a culture of innovation, vulnerability, and connectedness among team members.  

Bill DickinsonBill Dickinson, Senior Consultant

Why is curiosity important in leadership? The value of curiosity is that it reflects learning agility. A curious disposition conveys possibilities and open-mindedness. “I want to learn, collaborate, and innovate with you”.      

Marty GuptaMarty Gupta, VP Strategic Services, TLG

Why is curiosity important in leadership? In a rapidly changing world, curiosity – challenging the status quo and constantly seeking new ways of doing things – is imperative. Great leaders are intensely curious about ideas that come from companies and industries outside their own, and in fields such as art, history and literature. Why is curiosity important in organizational culture? A culture of curiosity is key to sustained innovation. This includes challenging assumptions, rapidly testing new ideas, and being willing to fail.  

Susan HitchcockSusan Hitchcock, Founder & Host Emerita TLG Women in Leadership, Founder of the Age of SHEroes

Why is curiosity important in leadership? Curiosity is very important to leadership because it’s the impetus of innovation. Leaders with curiosity are open minded to fresh ideas and are not afraid to go in a different direction. Why is curiosity important in organizational culture? Curiosity is important to organizational culture because it supports open communication and allows people to learn from each other despite their differences.  

Richard StoneRichard Stone, Chief Storyteller

Why is curiosity important in leadership? Curiosity both protects leaders from not taking information shared with them at face value. Being curious equips you to look at data and ask why to dig deeper to understand drivers of your business. Curiosity is also the engine for innovation. Leaders who are interested in completing this question will be more alive to possibilities within their organization and in the marketplace. What if…? Why is curiosity important in organizational culture? Organizational culture tends to become reified and stagnant over time. Pretty soon you begin hearing phrases like, “That’s not the way we do things here.” Curiosity can lead us to challenge what is often sacrosanct and taken to be gospel, and look at ways we can constantly refresh the organizational structure and culture to make them more relevant, and better designed to help us achieve our objectives.   Want to get to know our consultants and staff? Check out their bios!