In last week’s article “The Power of Your Daily Activity” it was articulated that leadership success (and in fact all success) is determined and underpinned by the focussed daily activities, repeated over and over again. It is not through luck that success suddenly materialises, although to some looking in from the outside, it may appear that luck has a part to play. It is through the relentless pursuit of excellence on a daily basis that success begins to form and eventually materialise. It was the great professional golfer, Gary Player, who said “The harder I work, the luckier I get ”. Gary was a shining example of the power of the daily activity as he religiously refined his craft on a daily basis, and became one of the greatest professional golfers of all time. He understood that in order to continue to lead in his field and to remain relevant, he had to continue to evolve. And so it is with the Leaders of today – to remain ahead of the game, and to remain relevant, we must continue to evolve. And to do this, we must continue to learn.
The quote from American philosopher, Eric Hoffer, sums it up beautifully – “In times of change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists”. Leaders know that one of their core responsibilities is to lead their people through change – they also understand that they never really arrive, that they are a constant work in progress and that there is always another level to attain, and another objective to achieve. They know that if they stand still, even if they are on the right track, they will get run over. They are either green and growing, or they are ripe and rotting. And to remain green and growing, they understand that they must continue to learn – the moment they stop learning is the moment they stop leading. To a leader, learning is critical and fundamental to their leadership. So much so, that it becomes part of their leadership DNA.
So how does a Leader make learning a part of their leadership DNA? Here’s how :
- They learn from mentors. Leaders seek out mentors who they trust and who can teach them from the wisdom of their experience. They also surround themselves with key people, creating an Inner Circle or MasterMind Group who they trust and who can share experiences and insights, as well as provide them with meaningful and authentic feedback. This often enables the leader to fast track their learning and implement quickly.
- They learn from past performance. Leaders are always reviewing their performance and the performance of their team. They consistently conduct a critical review of what worked well and what didn’t work so well, and identify how they could do it better next time to drive a different and more positive outcome. Their focus and priority is on constant and never ending improvement (CANI).
- They are voracious readers and researchers. Leaders are always curious and searching for new information and new insights that they can immediately apply in order to improve their leadership and their effectiveness. They will often read many books at a time and be constantly researching topics to ‘stay ahead of the game’. They understand that in order for their team to learn and to develop, they must show the way.
- They maintain a daily discipline of learning. Leaders understand the principle that ‘where focus goes, energy flows’, and ‘what gets scheduled, gets done’. For that reason, they are committed to making learning a part of their daily agenda, and will schedule at least 1 Hour of Power each day, dedicated to learning. And this is a commitment they hold, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – it is non-negotiable.
- They learn from their mistakes. Leaders understand that they are not perfect, and nor do they want to be. They know that from time to time, they will make an incorrect call and get something wrong. Rather than dwell on the mistake and criticise themselves, they will analyse where they went wrong, identify the lesson in the error, and seek to ensure that the mistake is not repeated. They know that their leadership growth is based on facing challenges and learning from their mistakes.
- They learn from their successes. As important as it is to learn from their mistakes, Leaders also understand that it is critical to learn from their successes. What was it that lead them to be successful, was it something specific, or was it a combination of things? Knowing this enables the Leader to ‘rinse and repeat’ to replicate the success and to create a path for others to follow.
- They learn from their people. Leaders understand that they do not need to know it all, and nor should they. Great leaders will encourage and empower their people, and leverage off their specific knowledge and experience, so that the entire team can prosper. They understand that a ‘rising tide will lift all boats’, which can not only benefit the team, it can also add another dimension to their leadership.
- They pay the learning forward. Most importantly, the Leader understands the criticality of passing on the learning to the people so that they may develop and grow their capability and effectiveness. They know that to hold on to learning and not pay it forward is selfish, and can undermine their leadership. It is through the sharing of knowledge and experience that will enable the team to develop and grow, and ultimately underpin a success team.
As a Leader, are you a learner? Do you make learning a priority and commit to learning as part of your daily leadership agenda? Remember, ‘learners will inherit the earth’. If you are already an awesome learner, sensational – keep up the fantastic work and watch your leadership soar. If you are currently dipping your ‘learning toe in the water’, make a decision and a commitment right now to become an awesome learner. In fact, make a decision to become a life long learner and make your leadership growth intentional – your people and your future self will be ever so grateful!
Here’s to you being an awesome learner!!
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About : Darren is an Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant, Trainer, Facilitator, Speaker. A passionate and driven individual specialising in personal development, strategic planning, coaching for advocacy & enhanced performance, situational and servant based leadership, executive coaching of people leaders, emerging leaders and ‘high potential’ individual contributors within the Enterprise & Government market, personal change management, and strategic workshop facilitation & training.