The Humility Curiosity Connection

Humility and curiosity are two significant pieces in the leadership puzzle. They are connected by the importance that learning plays for each piece. Together, they create opportunities for creativity and new ideas to emerge.

Caldwell, Ichiho, and Anderson (2017) describe twelve interesting aspects of humility in leadership. These include, self knowledge, teachability, and dedication to continued learning. Each of these traits is centered around the idea of learning. This is where curiosity comes in: curiosity is a cornerstone for learning and discovery.

Curiosity, as a leadership approach, means not needing to have or know all the answers. It’s about allowing answers to emerge through meaningful moments of diligent searching and gentle inquiry. Winthrow (2020) stated,

Leaders who embrace curiosity and a sense of adventure exhibit high levels of observation, commitment to reflection  on the nature of progress, understanding of the levels of context, and appreciation for surprise based on a deep-seated learning posture, which they embody in daily interactions.

Curiosity in leadership, like humility, may be cultivated over time and with expereicnce (Winthrow, 2020). As one strengthen’s their curiosity muscles through practice and reflection, they also strengthen their ability to learn, which in turn contributes to staying grounded in humility.

Questions to Consider:

What do humility and curiosity mean for your leadership context?

Take a moment to recall a difficult leadership situation or interaction. Did you employ curiosity and humility? Why or why not?

What can you learn from this prior experience that might be helpful to your leadership interactions today?


Caldwell, C., Ichiho, R., & Anderson, V. (2017). Understanding level 5 leaders: The ethical perspectives of leadership humility. The Journal of Management Development, 36(5), 724-732.

Withrow, L. R. (2020). Fostering Curiosity, Asking Powerful Questions: Lessons of a Leadership Coach. Journal of Religious Leadership, 19(1), 69–82.

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