Over the last decade, Adam Bryant has interviewed more than 500 CEOs for his landmark column in The New York Times. From brains to ambition to humility, Bryant discovered the list of qualities that make up a successful leader is long. But what is the elusive trait at the top? In a new article for Strategy + Business, Bryant reveals the most important leadership quality across the board.
The most important characteristic of a leader, beyond high IQ or confidence, is a quality called “applied curiosity.” Different from our natural, hard-wired curiosity as human beings, applied curiosity is a more specific variety. “People who have it engage in relentless questioning to understand how things work. And then they start wondering how those things could be made to work better,” explains Adam Bryant. “They approach everything with an inquiring mind-set—whether it’s making sense of shifting consumer habits or the global macroeconomic trends that are shaping their industry.”
What separates the best of the best is how much they question, probe, and process everything they’re experiencing—and then look for insights and patterns. Such a questioning mindset has to be able to look forward just as much as it looks backwards. Bryant writes, “If one old definition of wisdom is that it’s a sense that ‘I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it plays out,’ then wisdom for leaders today increasingly means unlearning what they already know in order to explore what-if scenarios for an uncertain future.”
Read the full article here.
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