Leadership, Disruption, Curiosity and Vegan-Yogi-Artists

August 24th, 2017.

I believe curiosity sits central to good leadership. The most effective leaders I observe are able to remain open and curious towards their complex environments - they stay present and available to the disruption and tension around them, mining it for useful information. Let me come back to the leadership piece.

Last week we had a disruption. An old friend of Claudia’s asked if he could come and stay. Landon (Landon Gallant Art on Facebook) is from the U.S. and has spent the last 90 days in Europe staying at people’s homes, painting commissioned work, massaging, instructing yoga and gently spreading the Vegan word. Now I’m a middle aged, fairly agricultural bloke from New Zealand and it would be fair to say I noticed him in the house! However, and with thanks, Landon reminded me that there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

I am unlikely to hit the road anytime soon but his departure does have me asking myself questions about my own genuine curiosity and openness. Although I perform helpful disruption for a living, sometimes I need to invite a little more of it upon myself.

So how can a leader walk the path? They stay present, they notice, and they enquire. They get curious: About all the ways people are different from each other and have unique contributions; remembering that uncharacteristic behaviour from colleagues sometimes provides the greatest insight to what they care about; About how seemingly ambiguous or opposing demands can lead to deeper understanding with the right enquiry; About listening for where their organisation is groaning for change or needing to respond to it; About encouraging diversity for the broader creative input it brings.

The approach is one of towards, rather than away. Organisations are living systems - patterns of what sticks and what doesn’t. Noise in the system is merely feedback, which when embraced and engaged with, usually leads to learning and growth.

The kids are back to school now (at least in Scotland anyway), which signals the coming change in season. I love Autumn, it invites reflection and consideration for the next phase while there is also a certain pleasure in returning to familiar routines after summer. It’s a good time for some helpful disruption and curious enquiry.

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