Role of Mindset, Curiosity & Openness to Learn for Effective Leadership

Pranjalee Lahri
Pranjalee Lahri July 08, 2020

My introduction with Anil Nair was necessitated by a webinar we were planning to do jointly with a client leader a couple of seasons back. A seasoned L&D professional with over 2 decades of experience, he was the perfect choice!

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to not just work with him on various thought leadership initiatives but also get to know the real leader in him. Unsurprisingly, the current COE Lead & Head, Organizational Learning & Leadership Development at Zydus Group, is authentically himself in his professional and personal avatar.

Recently, I had an opportunity to interview him on Leadership - the importance of EQ, Connectedness, Mindset, and Curiosity in learning and leading for Plethora Learning’s Leadership Insights podcast. Needless to say, it was insightful and packed with learning.

While his extraordinary leadership journey, from a humble beginning to being at the top of his game, is a lesson in itself for all of us to grow and succeed, it is his motto of 'building people to build the business', his appreciation and usage of his mindset, curiosity, and openness to learn and lead for effective leadership that truly left an impact on me.

Do we need leadership skilling?

A question I often toy with is ‘is leadership innate or can it be learned’? Meaning is being a leader a teachable skill? The question leads me to multiple perspectives. On one had there is a belief that ‘leadership can be learned, but it can’t be taught’. Now don’t get fooled by the seeming synonymy between the two. The former is an active synthetization of knowledge with application and practice, while the latter is a passive intake of information. Association for Talent Development’s ‘Leadership Can’t Be Taught, but It Can Be Learned!’ best describes it.

Teaching leadership to a class of students, or even giving a seminar on leadership to executives, is about as effective in developing leaders as reading a cookbook would be in developing chefs. It’s not just the information, but it’s also the doing that develops skills—and being a leader demands a specific skill set, just as being a chef does. That’s why leadership can’t be taught, but it can be learned. And learning leadership is akin to learning any other skill. Beyond knowledge of the subject, there must be an appetite to be a leader and the courage to act in accordance with the principles of leadership.

On the other hand, there is a strong belief that leaders are born owing to the sheer amount of leadership characteristics that cannot be cultivated. Example: Not everyone who has the charisma and might to influence people. Not everyone has the ability to stand their ground no matter how great the odds, or the threats. These are qualities are inborn.

But that’s debatable too.

The plethora of learning and information available today makes everything possible. Leadership skilling included.

The common denominator for leadership, however, remains rooted in Curiosity, Growth Mindset, and Openness.

Curiosity, Growth Mindset and Openness

According to Harvard Business Review’s The Business Case for Curiosity, curiosity allows leaders to gain more respect from their followers and inspires employees to develop more-trusting and more-collaborative relationships with colleagues.

Curiosity can be cultivated in what Dr. Carol Dweck defines as a “growth mindset,” or one in which you believe that you can improve and tend to have a desire to learn.

While Openness has been identified as an essential trait of successful innovators and creatives throughout history. With an appreciation of diverse perspectives and a willingness to try new things, you can better navigate daily challenges and discover novel solutions. Studies even show that openness to experience positively correlates with increased job performance and more creativity, as per Psychology Today.

In essence, the three skills tie into one another to lay the foundation for inspired leadership.

Listen to Mindset, Curiosity & Openness to Learn and understand:

  • Value of multi-functional experience
  • Trifecta of innate talent, opportunity & luck
  • Must-have the desire to learn, imbibe & practice
  • Entrepreneurial ability is key to leadership
  • Key ingredients to becoming a passionate leader



For more podcasts featuring well-known leaders from across several industries, visit Leadership Spotlight.


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