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You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know!


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It’s a fast-paced world that we live and work in. That fast pace requires leaders—and, in particular, inclusive leaders—to be continually alert to what’s going on around them. No longer is it possible (if it ever was) to sit back and rest on your laurels confident that what worked yesterday will continue to work today and tomorrow.

Today’s inclusive leaders must be continually poised and ready to react to, and learn from, the myriad of inputs around them. That means that, now more than ever, inclusive leaders must be intellectually curious. 

Intellectual curiosity is the ability to be continually attuned to, and positively impacted by, the conditions, events and circumstances around us. It’s a trait that is perhaps best understood when we think of small children—to them, just about every encounter represents something new. They embrace these new encounters, new experiences and new pieces of information with enthusiasm. They’ve yet to form the filters that later cause some of us to ignore or overlook the inputs around us because we think: “been there, done that.”

Not so fast! Inclusive leaders, without exception, exhibit intellectual curiosity. To be inclusive, they must.

Inclusive leaders need to be endlessly curious, Sandy Hoffman, director, global inclusion, with Cisco told us when we were working on Becoming an Inclusive Leader. “Our organization is 70,000 employees who are intelligent people, probably using one-eighth of their mindset and potential,” she said. Inclusive leaders, said Hoffman, must be able to tap into the rest of this potential. “To glean the most out of employees, a leader knows when to lead and when to follow.”

Inclusive leaders recognize that there is something to be learned from everyone—their strong curiosity drives them to engage with those around them in all settings. 

Being open to inputs or “intellectually curious,” results in what many refer to as “luck.” Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, has studied luck and his findings reveal that we create our own luck. Those who others may refer to as lucky achieve the good fortune that comes to them because of four basic principles, according to Wiseman’s research. These principles are:

  • Maximizing change opportunities
  • Listening to lucky hunches
  • Expecting good fortune
  • Turning bad luck to good

These principles, we believe, are equally at play for inclusive leaders. Because they are open to input and intellectually curious they come across, and act on, information that others may have overlooked.

You don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why it pays to be continually curious in every setting. You just don’t know where that next lucky insight will come from. Be inclusive!

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