Yes, that one. The one you’re thinking of. Although it may not seem wise to follow the example of the monkey that ate enough of a puzzle to get sent to the ER, it might surprise you to realize just how many admirable leadership qualities that this mischievous monkey truly possesses.

Why is Curious George a great model for leadership development?

IMAGE CREDIT: KPBS

He uses his resources. The first time I thought about Curious George as a model for creativity and leadership, it was while watching a Valentine’s Day episode. George realizes that he wants to make valentines for many of his neighborhood friends, but is running short on time. He explores the empty apartment for tools to help speed up his work- utilizing things like blocks and his tricycle- before finally settling on sponges and an unplugged waffle iron (see left).

When we’re in positions of leadership, we sometimes get accustomed to throwing money at problems. Can we have someone do this for us? Can we buy a new version or copy of something when it gets old, or lost? But in the absence of ample resources, we must resort to doing what we can with what we have. George is excellent at this, and great leaders can be too.

He collaborates. George is a popular monkey. Whether he is in his apartment in the city, or at his house in the country, he surrounds himself with people and animal friends that can help him explore the world, achieve things he wants to get done, and teach him about what he wants to know. This type of collaborative spirit extends beyond his home and out into the world, where he tries out things like working in restaurants and painting office buildings. While I constantly wonder how a monkey can legitimately be employed anywhere, I have to admire his strategy.

IMAGE CREDIT: PBS

Collaboration can be hard when ego gets in the way. Positions of leadership can sometimes come with a “lone wolf” mentality, that brings with it a reluctance to work together. But George doesn’t have that. He is eager to bring his friends onboard with mysteries he’s trying to solve, and actively encourages human and animal alike to share his curious take on the world.

He’s curious. This may be both the most obvious, and most valuable quality that George has. All of his adventures stem from the desire to learn something. Why does this look as it does? Where is that sound coming from? How can I do this for myself? And, often, how do I solve this problem? George is open to learning, listens intently when processes and concepts are explained to him, and he often seeks opportunities to apply what he’s learned. The results can be hilarious at times, but more often than not he comes away with a lesson, and so does the viewer/reader.

Being placed in a position of leadership doesn’t mean we’re done with learning, by any means. It’s important to stay open to new ideas, information, and the opinions of people that you’re working with. Staying curious, truly adopting this mentality on a daily basis, can help us combat the “know-it-all” tendency that can accompany a title or power. Keep the question, “what can I learn from this?” in the back of your mind as you work and serve each day, and you’ll be well on your way to leading curiously.

What else could we learn from Curious George? Are you a curious leader?

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2 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons from…Curious George

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