How Curiosity And The "Tenth Man” Will Make You A Better Leader

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I don’t believe curiosity killed the cat, I believe the lack of curiosity did. I also believe it can harm leaders if we choose to believe we are always right. As leaders we are used to making decisions and accepting the consequences, both good and bad, it’s part of being a leader.

Good leaders are often seen as good leaders because they most often make the right decision more than they make a wrong one. This pattern of success can lead to an unhealthy thinking process that says, “I am usually right,” which can lead to “I am always right.” This is a slippery slope for leaders. I have been on this slope and slid down it many times.

When we slip into the habit of thinking we are usually or always right we get stuck and our mind can become a breeding ground for “My Way or The Highway” thinking. One word for this is arrogance.

When we think we know the right decision to make or the right direction to go it’s time to practice the Tenth Man Principle. In the movie World War Zthey talk about the tenth man.

“If nine of us look at the same information and arrive at the exact same conclusion, it’s the duty of the tenth man to disagree. No matter how improbable it may seem, the tenth man has to start digging on the assumption that the other nine are wrong.” (1)

We aren’t trying to stop a zombie apocalypse like they were in the movie but we are trying to think different about, well, how we think! I call it intentional confusion or simply, being curious.

How To Practice Tenth Man Thinking

  • Before accepting something as fact look at the other side.
  • If you have a theory or belief, try and disprove it.
  • Before making a decision consult another opinion.

Tenth Man thinking isn’t to just do the opposite of what you think is right. The point of Tenth Man Thinking is to be perpetually curious and open to other opinions that may challenge you.

I like what Mark Twain said, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, you should pause and reflect.”

When we think we are right, or worse, know we are, we don’t bother to stop and seek other options or opinions. Our mind is set, immovable, and rigid. Curiosity allows us to be flexible, open, and aware.

Lack of curiosity often leads to contempt of others’ thoughts and opinions. This can all change with a different way of thinking. Or, answering a simple question that I will leave you with today.

Are you open to the possibility that, on occasion, you may be wrong?

(1) World War Z. DVD. Directed by Marc Forster. 2013; Los Angeles, CA: Paramount Pictures. 2013 (Clip located at 57:15 - 57:30)

Photo Credit: c Lario photo ID: 612566123