Leaders Who Learn

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”  – William Pollar

Leaders are not all created equal. In the world of leadership training and development there is one key factor that I have seen as a differentiator between good leaders and great leaders.  Great leaders tend to be interested in continuous learning and personal development. They jump at the opportunity to expand their experience or shift their paradigm with new information.

The corporate environment is full of people who have spent many years gaining the experience they have and climbing the ladder and at some point, they start to believe that they have what they need to lead the organization, and that’s the point where they stop being learners.

The belief that you have what you need and do not need to learn or continue to adapt to the changing business environment is one of the biggest failure points for people at the top of organizations. The world around us is evolving, growing and changing constantly. The business environments that our leaders are in day in and day out are increasing in complexity, yet some feel like they can lead the same way, with the same approach and information. I believe one of the most important jobs of a leader, outside of creating a high trust environment for their team, is to be constantly learning.

Organizations need people at the top who are still curious, believe there is still a lot they can learn and are humble enough to admit it.  In the environment of high innovation and change, leaders need to focus their time on learning, sharing their knowledge and challenging their teams.

The best leaders, coaches or mentors that many of us have had were able to balance two types of learning opportunities.  They invited us to learn by giving us access to their knowledge, expertise ad experience.  The second learning opportunity was when they challenged you to be better than you were at a specific skill, talent or task.  A great leader has a goal to make each of their team members better today than they were yesterday.  And as leaders, if we aren’t learning and challenging ourselves the same way, then how is it possible that we can provide the right learning environment for our teams?

Leaders need to lead their organizations by example, not by words. They need to invest in themselves as much as they invest in their people. They need to show that standing still is going backwards and that you constantly need to be involving and adjusting your skillsets and having experiences that cause you to shift your paradigm. Change is the only thing constant in our business environment today. And to create resourceful people who are adaptable to change they need to be challenged to learn something new every day.

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”  – Jack Welch

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