What sets successful chief executive officers apart?
This is a familiar question that many business articles have set out to answer over the years. From a thirst for knowledge, a dedication to growth or a deep understanding of the marketplace, one thing all successful CEOs have in common is an unquenchable curiosity.
A New York Times report from 2011 interviewed several prominent business executives and found that the majority of executives credited passionate curiosity as the driving factor behind their success. “It’s this relentless questioning that leads entrepreneurs to spot new opportunities and helps managers understand the people who work for them, and how to get them to work together effectively,” wrote reporter Adam Bryant.
Passionate curiosity is different from a mere interest in a topic or industry. As Nell Minow, the co-founder of the Corporate Library, describes, the phrase “passionate curiosity”, “better captures the infectious sense of fascination that some people have with everything around them.”
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Last September, the Harvard Business Review published an article entitled, Why Curious People are destined for the C-Suite. In the article, executives hailed the new era of the inquisitive executive. “Curiosity can inspire leaders to continually seek out the fresh ideas and approaches needed to keep pace with change and stay ahead of competitors,” said Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell Inc.
This fervent questioning and desire to learn has culminated in landmark business deals and produced some of the products we use daily. Regardless of the industry, deep curiosity is the motivating factor behind some of the most successful business executives.
“My greatest attribute is my need to learn everything I can about a given topic,” said Canadian mining executive Richard Warke. “Whether it’s technological advances in deep-sea mining or the discovery of less invasive exploration methods, I find the latest concepts or breakthroughs and learn as much as I can.”
Warke has more than 25 years of experience in the mining and resource sector. He credits his unyielding curiosity with his ability to build the Augusta Group, a multi-sector resource and mining firm that oversees a number of subsidiary companies.
Richard Warke’s passionate curiosity in part led him to establish Augusta Resource Corp., a company he grew and directed for almost two decades. In 2014, he sold the company for approximately $670 million dollars to HudBay Minerals Inc.
A number of the prominent executives in the Harvard report noted an enhanced ability to recognize growing markets as a result of their ceaseless curiosity.
This level of inquisitiveness is often infectious and can easily spread to colleagues, coworkers and employees, resulting in a corporate-wide appreciation for intuitiveness and innovation.
“Curiosity is the impulse guiding great strategic thinkers. They want to know what’s around the next corner,” points out Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor at Harvard Business School. “It also produces the exploration that allows for constant improvements and breakthrough innovations.”