There is an old saying:  “Curiosity killed the cat.” 

I bet you heard that from your parents at least once in your life. It was what I call a “slow down” note — as in, slow down John before you get somewhere you do not want to be (read: trouble). Its first cousin, “Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it” is another of those “slow down” lines designed to instill some reflection and perspective.

But there is another point of view, especially for those career-minded managers and junior executives who are determined to rise through the ranks in pursuit of greater success:

Forget the cats, curiosity is one of your most important skills. 

Being willing to ask questions, to push back against any number of potential evils —  conventional wisdom, the status quo and aversion to risk —  just to name a few, may not make you the most popular person in an organization but someone has to do it because an organizations, any organization, needs it.   Personally I would rather have a curious, pain-in-the-butt manager or executive who is always asking those “why” questions that many times go unanswered, or, more importantly, to have someone who is willing to ask those “why not” questions.  Sometimes a company’s greatest innovations occurred because someone with a nagging curiosity and a healthy dose of temerity challenged established norms of product or service development and blurted out, “Why not?”

As my friend and client, Claudia Eisenmann, FACHE, so aptly point out in a recent blog post, The Rural Hospital Voice, curiosity is essential for success.  It is integral to effective leadership.

As you begin your climb to the top, be curious, ask questions and do not be afraid to get your hands dirty exploring.

Do not let some vice president of this is the way it has always been temper your curiosity.

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