Byron's Babbles

Living & Leading Like Curious George

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 25, 2014

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Who isn’t a fan of Curious George? No matter your age, the inquisitive little fellow who always seems to get into one scrape after another has, in all likelihood, captured your heart. I think I am such a fan because I still live every day just like like him. In fact, as you can see from the picture on this post, I have an area in my office dedicated to him. When I am at Harvard University I always have to stop into the World’s Only Curious George store to do some shopping and get my “Curious George Fix.”

Perhaps his popularity lies in the predictability of his unpredictability. You know that as soon as the man with the yellow hat leaves the house, warning George to be careful, George is going to get into trouble. And when George starts getting into trouble, he only digs himself deeper. The more you poke around, question systems, and look for new ways of doing things, the more you will frustrate some people. As a leader, though, this is what you need to be doing. All to often, however, it’s easier to leave the status quo untouched. This can really get organizations in trouble. To assume you can “arrive” and be done growing and changing is maybe the biggest mistake anyone can make. And the more you push for those out-of-the-box changes, the more you’ll frustrate those who are satisfied with keeping things the way they are.

Children naturally gravitate towards creativity and fun. But life has a tendency of breaking many of us of that. I am so blessed I have been able to resist this tendency because curiosity is a beautiful thing. It leads to new discoveries and new adventures, as long as you’re willing to pursue it. As Margret Rey (who created Curious George with her husband, H.A.) observed, “George can do what kids can’t do. He can paint a room from the inside. He can hang from a kite in the sky. He can let the animals out of their pens on the farm. He can do all these naughty things that kids would like to do.” As leaders we need to remember curiosity is a beautiful thing and needs to be embraced and encouraged. One cannot give enough credit to the Reys. H. A.’s delightful illustrations and Margret’s clear and precise turn of phrase may appear effortless, but that’s only because they labored over each book to achieve that perfect look and tone. Don’t get so tangled up in details, systems, and processes that you forget to have a little fun along the way. There’s an adventure around every corner if you’re willing to look.

If you embrace creativity in life and encourage creativity as a leader, know that things will get messy and chaotic. Rarely will you find order in the middle of creativity. As an artistic leader, I know that I’m going to have to put up with a bit of chaos in the creative process. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. The insights, new directions, and “art” you’ll create for your school, organization, or business through the process make it worth the effort.

H. A. and Margret Rey each looked to the child within. “I know what I liked as a child,” H. A. once said, “and I don’t do any book that I, as a child, wouldn’t have liked.” By portraying George as a servant leader, they really created a great role model for all of us. If you’ve read the books or watched the cartoon’s you know George’s goal is always to help people. In helping people, however, he often gets into big messes. Doesn’t this sound familiar as a leader? Many of the characters in the books get frustrated with George. Even the one that loves him the most, the man with the yellow hat, get frustrated with him. Again, sound familiar? Which is what you’ll sometimes, unfortunately, find as a servant leader. Facilitating change, growth, and dealing with life is often messy and frustrating.

As a leader, however, the most joy I receive is in the mentoring, coaching, and creatively developing the professional growth of our team members. There are many young and talented leaders in our organization right now that have very promising careers ahead of them and I am so honored to serve them in taking that journey. Their success, advancement, and ultimately, outstanding service to others makes me as happy with them as the man in the yellow hat is with Curious George.

So, my challenge to you is to live and lead a little more like Curious George!

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  1. Leading Curiously | Byron's Babbles said, on April 24, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    […] I consider myself a pioneer in the era of the curious leader, where success may be less about having all the answers and more about wondering and questioning. A curious, inquisitive leader can set an example that inspires creative thinking throughout the entire organization. Leading-by-curiosity can help generate more ideas from all areas of an organization, while also helping to raise employee engagement levels. One of my heroes is Curious George – that little monkey is not afraid to explore new and exciting things. I strive to be like Curious George. In fact I have have blogged about this in Living and Leading Like Curious George. […]

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