Seeking new and better ways to do things is part of being human. We no longer use flint rocks to start fires, and we now know penicillin is a safe, reliable drug for treating bacterial infections. Human ingenuity has led to new discoveries that have changed our lives in remarkable ways.
It turns out that being curious also gives us an advantage in leadership. When we are curious, we approach problems with a creative mindset, which helps reduce the stress associated with the challenges in our work. Being open to new information helps us avoid the tendency to look for answers that support our pre-existing assumptions. Consequently, we make fewer decision-making errors. Just imagine how a touch of curiosity could generate more thoughtful and less defensive dialogue in our board and finance meetings.
Being curious at work is linked to lower levels of conflict as well as more innovation and positive change. This matters because congregational conflict is a key factor associated with emotional exhaustion among clergy.
As we continue to steer through one of the most disruptive periods in recent history, congregational leaders will do well to cultivate personal and institutional curiosity. On the institutional level, gauge the curiosity in your organization by asking how comfortable team members are bringing up new ideas. If you don’t get the response you’re looking for, really listen to why they are reluctant to make suggestions and make it safe for people to share.
On a personal level, recognize that one way stress takes its toll is by wearing us down with the monotony of work. As difficult as the last two years have been, we can use curiosity as a lens to imagine what God is calling us to do that is new and different. Ask more questions and diversify your interests. Instead of expecting more of the same, how we can be witnesses and participants in the new thing God is doing? What can we learn from success or failure? What do we want to know more about? We don’t need to have it all figured out, but be curious. You never know what God is up to.
By Mihee Kim-Kort
By Amanda Baker
Before you go…
“Why” is often a child’s favorite word. Whatever we say simply prompts them to want to know more. Children touch, explore and constantly ask questions to understand more about the world around them. Curious leaders should do the same.
Let’s not forget that God is able to “accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20). Leaders refuse to assume that things must be the way they are now. Keep inquiring. Keep listening. Keep imagining. The leaders we need today may not have all the answers, but they are asking great questions.
Feel free to let me and the Alban Weekly team know what you’re curious about. Send a note to email@example.com.
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity