Be more interested than interesting

By Gro Reinertsen

This statement was presented to me early in my career, and the awareness about this has followed me ever since. Awareness of having the spotlight on the person you are talking to and not letting the attention shift to yourself and your own appearance, your knowledge, and your solutions. To be curious and respectful towards the other person's knowledge, perspective, thoughts, and opinions. I bring this awareness with me regarding my own behaviors and when assessing others in my work in Executive Search.

In Executive Search processes, personal capabilities is one measure that is evaluated along with results achieved, experience and education. How does the individual candidate fit into the requirements and wishes of an employer towards a certain role? Who can in the best way help build that culture and create the results an organisation needs?

Leaders come in different forms, with different personal characteristics, and they create results in different ways. Through my extensive experience with recruitment to leadership roles, I have experienced that curiosity and humility are qualities that can greatly contribute to leaders' success, and not least to employees thrive and succeed together with their leader.


Amy Brann (The Curious Advantage Podcast # 21), describes curiosity as "interest with an extra spark". Through curiosity for others, we show a genuine interest in the person we talk to and interact with. This is essential for building good relationships, both in our working lives and in our private arenas.


By being humble about others' skills, opinions, perspectives and ways of carrying out tasks, we will more easily listen and learn from others. Jennifer Paylor is a leader in coaching and leadership development at IBM. She describes humility as a mindset that is open and not self-centred. This does not mean that we do not also think about ourselves, but that we also understand the way others think. This enables us to embrace the world and acknowledge that we do not know everything ourselves.


Being curious and humble as a leader does not cease to be agile and results-oriented. On the contrary, such a leader can facilitate a high degree of security and through this room for innovation, development, job satisfaction and good results. Nelson Mandela, a leader who has my deepest respect as a leader and as a human being, is a good example of this. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he refers to humility as one of the most important qualities one can have to create change and peace. He says that if you are humble and show others that you are not a threat to them, you will be included and listened to. Through his leadership, Mandela showed both a great degree of humility and also genuine curiosity and a strong presence in encounters with others.

My advice to leaders and everyone else

Be more interested than interesting. Never stop being curious and open to new ideas and people that can contribute to new perspectives and ways of seeing the world.  Allow yourself to be challenged and be open to changing course and meaning. In interaction with others, we can all become wiser and richer.

References and recommended reading/listening

  • The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
  • The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
  • The 100-day code, how to succeed in a new leadership position by Agnethe Ellingsen
  • Podcast: The Curious Advantage Podcast (Spotify) or
  • Youtube: Oprah Winfrey in conversation with Nelson Mandela