If you have seen the reruns for the 1970's television detective series Columbo, or the subsequent made-for-TV movies, you'll remember that oftentimes just as frumpy, disheveled Lt. Columbo was finishing a conversation with a suspect and on his way out the door, he would invariably pause, put his index finger up to his forehead, turn back to the suspect, point his finger, and say, "Oh, by the way," and ask one last question. And it was the answers to those final oh-by-the-way questions that, when woven together, would ultimately help him solve the case.
Curiosity is our determined internal sleuth that regularly seeks out clues, hints and data to satisfy the huge appetite in each one of us that has little taste for stasis or status quo, but prefers instead a plate with generous helpings of answers to our whos, whats, whens, wheres, whys, hows, and I-wonder-ifs!
Even a casual glance around our offices or our homes provides overwhelming evidence of our insatiable curiosity. Substantial sectors of our global economy are designed, dedicated, and depend on creating and supporting technologies that feed our hunger for inquiries and answers, our need-to-know, 24/7/365.
Individually, we spend enormous quantities of time typing queries into search engines, finding out the latest news on our web-enabled PDA, and keeping current by cell phone.
In our various roles as leader-at work, at school, in our communities, even at home-we experiment, take risks, listen to diverse points of view, ask "what can we learn," when things do not go as expected, and search outside the formal boundaries of our organization for innovative ways to improve what we do.
The data suggests that our curiosity is overwhelmingly focused on uncovering the answers to what is "out there."
But what about what is "in here?"
When was the last time you allowed yourself the time and the space to be curious about you? When did you last apply the same energy and determination with which you pursue answers to what is "out there" to the questions about what is "in here": Who am I? What do I stand for? What do I fundamentally believe about the meaning of our work, and the direction in which we are headed?
If your honest answer to the question is something along the lines: "I don't do this, or at least not very much," or "I'm not sure," or "I've got a vague idea," or "I'd like to find out more," you are in good company.
And that is why we devote the entire first day of the two-day The Leadership Challenge® Workshop to an exploration of leader. Leadership is, first and foremost, an internal exploration of who you are. With that foundation, we can then examine and fine-tune what you do.
The first of the three prerequisites for a meaningful exploration of leadership is that you be curious—curious not about what is "out there," but curious about who is "in here."
Peter Alduino is President and Founder of Bridge Group Communications, LLC, a San Francisco Bay-Area based leadership-consulting practice providing comprehensive leadership development seminars. Author of The Citizen Leader™ Seminars, and a Master Facilitator for The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.