Curiosity has been identified as a primary trait of effective leaders; its main benefit being a way to meaningfully connect. But if curiosity is merely asking questions, is that really enough? There’s an essential step that comes after curiosity that many leaders are missing: EXPLORATION.

Exploration is taking the time to dig in and find what’s underneath the surface. It’s not the transactional Ask-Answer-Accept-Move On. That model is ineffective and superficial, and can actually result in the opposite of the intent to connect deeply, causing low morale, disengagement and lack of trust.

An example: Curiosity is the intake form at the doctor’s office. Exploration is the conversation that helps unearth what may be far from the obvious symptoms.  Which is most important in getting the patient the help that is needed?

The best leaders spend a significant amount of time on exploration. Doing so creates concrete awareness, opens up possibilities, and unleashes imagination. So why isn’t this more of a conscious effort for leaders?

It takes time. And we are so deep in Performance Addiction that taking the necessary time to explore excavate, understand and learn is culturally undervalued.  We don’t explore because we think we already know the answer and/or are in a frenzy to deliver results. Expectations must be met (or exceeded) so that we can get more work, have more profits, increase shareholder satisfaction, etc. When we take the time to explore, an experience of the heart, our brains are nagging at us that we’re falling behind. This sense of urgency causes us to skip the vital exploration step and go straight from curiosity to solution.

As we witness spiking rates of mental illness, low morale, etc., all which affects us individually and organizationally, it’s clear that we need a major shift. So, what can leaders do? We must move from force of effort (which resides in the head) to exploration and deep listening (which resides in the heart). When guided by the heart through exploration, the force of effort in the brain eases. Creativity will flow. Innovation will flourish. Happiness will rise. Which environment do you think workers will choose? What is one thing you can do to move from force of effort to power of the heart?  The results will surprise you in the best way possible.

The power of giving time and space for true exploration is the distinction between good and great leadership. It’s up to leaders to make exploration a priority for themselves and their teams… to sit in the power of the heart and notice what bubbles to the service – which, in fact, may surprise you and move your forward and faster than the perfunctory asking of a few questions under the guise of being curious.   Your culture will thrive by doing so, and the effort to bringing discovery to fruition will become a more easeful and impactful  process.

The new formula for success:   Curiosity + Exploration = Discovery for Innovation and Impact