Curiosity May Kill The Cat, But It Will Make You A Superior Leader

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What kills the cat strengthens the leader.

If you have any cats in your life, you know that the adage “Curiosity kills the cat” is not just a saying; it’s a fact. Cats have an insatiable curiosity that overrides their instinct for self-preservation. And it can get them into life-threatening danger, over and over again.

Fortunately, though, you are not a cat. You are a leader. And leaders need a healthy amount of curiosity in order to be effective.

To put it simply: too much curiosity kills the cat; too little curiosity kills the leader.

Too much curiosity kills the cat; too little curiosity kills the #leader. Click To Tweet

In his book Non Obvious: How To Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict The Future, author Rohit Bhargava lists curiosity as one of the five essential habits of “trend curators.” (“Trend curator” is his term for a person who can predict the future by detecting trend patterns that others miss.) He defines curiosity as “always asking why, investing in learning, and improving your knowledge by investigating and asking questions.”

It seems self-apparent, doesn’t it, that “asking why,” “investing in learning,” and “improving your knowledge” are pretty valuable traits for a leader to possess. And yet I’m amazed at how many so-called “leaders” remain willfully—almost proudly—incurious about the world.

Because I speak throughout the country on leadership and strategic creativity, I’ve had the chance to observe, work with, and learn from hundreds of highly effective leaders. And there’s one thing I’ve noticed about every one of them, without exception: they are all lifelong learners. They all have a natural curiosity that makes them want to continually learn new things.

This makes good strategic sense, because you never know which “new thing” is going to be (or lead to) the “missing link” that provides you with the solution to a current challenge. When you’re curious about the world, you end up with hundreds, thousands, of these links—any one of which can give you that vital edge over the competition.

Where do you find these links? Everywhere. Here’s a partial list:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • TED Talks (you can see mine here)
  • Podcasts
  • Conversations (remember: everyone—with the possible exception of babies—knows something you don’t)


Talk to people. Remember: everyone knows something you don’t! Click To Tweet

Now, here’s a word of warning: There’s a very good chance that much of what you learn may not seem immediately useful. That doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s kind of the point. Individual pieces of information become the most valuable when they combine with other individual pieces of information. Kind of like how a couple of hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom, on their own, aren’t anything to get all worked up over. But put them together and, voila! Water!

So be curious about things! Ask questions! Learn, and then learn some more! Because curiosity won’t kill you.

Unless you’re a cat.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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