The Secret To Success For Future Leaders? Curiosity
As the future of work changes, leaders have to be willing to take risks and ask questions. Francesco Starace isn’t afraid to try new things. In his personal life, he pushes himself by participating in cycling races. At work, he has been named a top leader and manager and is constantly asking questions and learning so he can better serve his employees and customers. As CEO of Enel Group, Francesco leads Europe’s largest utility company by market capitalization with more than 73 million global customers and 68,000 employees. I had the chance to interview Francesco for my book, The Future Leader, and he shared valuable insights from his distinguished career in Italy. From his years of experience, Francesco says success for future leaders comes down to one mindset: curiosity. Francesco put it this way: “Leaders have to have an inbred curiosity that keeps them hooked and connected with what changes or happens around themselves, not to lose touch.” As leaders stop being curious, they truly do lose touch with their teams, their customers, and their organizations. Those connections are vital to growing a business in the ever-changing world of work. Being curious is more than just learning about your company. Francesco says it’s paying attention and being interested in all kinds of things, even if they don’t seem relevant in the moment. Those things might someday be important, so curiosity can give yourself and your organization a head start on the competition.
Curiosity In The Fast-Paced Future Of Work The world is moving forward at breakneck speeds, and that will only increase. Leaders need to know what is happening and be prepared to adapt to rapid changes. Francesco says that’s why being curious is so crucial for future leaders—they need to understand what’s next and prepare for that. He put it this way: “We all know things are going to be faster, but we tend to ignore that when it comes to our own environment. I think one of the key roles of a leader is to push that into reality.” Curious leaders ask questions and consider various possibilities. They learn about the world around them and are aware of what could happen. That thirst for information helps them understand what is coming down the pipeline and have the ability to pivot and change as needed.
How To Develop Curiosity Curiosity is crucial, but it can’t be taught. Francesco says you have to find it and keep it alive. Some people naturally aren’t curious, while others are wildly curious. But almost everyone has some degree of curiosity inside themselves. It may be hidden deeper in some people or has been squashed with years of corporate drivel. “Often curious people get shut up and get pushed away because they ask too many questions. They are constraining because their mind is continuously moving around. That's a problem. A lot of curious people are like those left-handed people that learn to use their right hand but they're not really perfect at it because their best hand would be left. Curiosity is something that needs to be born with but has to be kept and worked at over the years,” Francesco said. To keep curiosity alive, spend time alone in your thoughts. Schedule time to think freely instead of going from meeting to meeting without giving your mind time to wander. Francesco likes to ride his bike alone, which gives his mind a chance to explore and ask questions. It’s especially important for leaders, who tend to be constantly surrounded by people and connected through technology. That regular time to be alone and practice curiosity keeps his natural curiosity alive. If you want to succeed as a future leader, you have to learn to be curious and ask questions. Paying attention to what’s happening around you and challenging the status quo is one of the most important things you can do.