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  • Jon Mechan

Curiosity as a Leadership Mindset

"I don't care, I want someone to blame."

You can learn a lot from bad leaders.

We had been troubleshooting a major outage all weekend, and my team lead and I were sitting in a too-small meeting room with an angry boss. We were trying to explain that we had solved the technical issue, and were now getting into root cause analysis to find out why it had happened.

Our boss didn't care. He just wanted someone to blame and shout at.

Needless to say, this wasn't constructive or productive. We left the meeting and carried on digging into the issue.

You can learn a lot from bad leaders. A lot about what not to do.

Since that moment I have tried to practice curiosity as a leadership mindset.

What does that mean? Well, rather than getting angry or upset when something goes wrong, trying to get really curious about it instead.

If a great team member is suddenly underperforming at their job, get curious. Ask them about it. Make sure there isn't something going wrong at home, or with a relationship with a colleague. Maybe there's a skill gap that you can help them close.

There's a major outage in one of your systems? Fix it, then get curious - how did this happen? How can we prevent it from happening in future?

Your boss is acting strangely. Seek first to understand - maybe there are discussions going on above your pay grade that you aren't privy to. You might not get any answers from them but being curious rather than paranoid is a much healthier mindset.

Curiosity and Self-Reflection

This mindset is all the more powerful when you turn it on yourself. One of my favourite questions to dig into things came to me from the wonderful Robert Ellis:

"How did you create, promote, or allow this to happen?"

If there's an issue in your team, an objective or deadline that was missed, absolutely get curious with your team. But also get curious with yourself.

What was your part in this? How can you ensure it doesn't happen again? What can you do differently next time?

I believe as leaders that our actions almost always play some part in what happens in our teams. Whether it's in defining the culture and the accepted norms, or in role-modelling good (or bad) behaviour.


Practicing a mindset of curiosity not only helps you perform better as a leader, it's actually far less stressful that getting red in the face and shouting at people.

What do you think? Will you give this a try?

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