Tag Archives: innovation

3 Reasons Why Learning Is Essential To Leadership

learning is the key to leadership

If you’ve read books or attended conferences about leadership, the topic of learning must’ve taken up a large chunk of the discussion, right? It always does.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” as John F. Kennedy said.

But if I asked you why learning is essential to leadership, would you be able to give me a clear answer?

Not easy, is it?

Here’s my answer in three points:

Leaders must be learners, because leadership is about

  1. changing oneself
  2. changing others
  3. changing the world

So is leadership all about change?

Yes it is.

Real leadership is transformational, and that means it’s in the business of growing people and changing things for the better.

  1. Leadership is about changing yourself

The premise behind this first principle is that leadership is not about personality, but behavior. So becoming a leader means improving your behavior, and your two sources of learning here are your past and other people.

You learn from your past by developing a high degree of self-awareness, by spotting your mistakes and by adjusting your behavior accordingly. Seeing mistakes as opportunities is crucial.

You learn from others by observing, listening and asking for advice. Good leaders look and listen more than they speak. How can you inspire people if you don’t understand their needs and motivation?

  1. Leadership is about changing others

As the American businessman H. Firestone said, “the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.

So good leaders inspire people to learn and go beyond their comfort zone. The best way to achieve that is to teach by example and become a role model. Ultimately, your goal as a leader is to produce more leaders.

  1. Leadership is about changing the world

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” as Steve Jobs famously said. So if you don’t have a vision to make things better, you’re not a leader.

But before challenging the status quo and transforming your organization, you first need to be an effective learner. You must become “the change you want to see in the world.”

All in all, great leaders have no choice but to be peak learners, and peak learners are well positioned to become great leaders.

Leadership is not an outcome, but a process, and that’s why learning is an integral part of it.

Economic growth is impossible without learning

cause of economic growth

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” as a former president of Harvard University famously said.

Whatever its primary purpose is (or should be), education has a huge effect on any country’s productivity and economic health.

When you look at the data, you see a clear correlation between the education level of a population (enrollment ratio) and its country’s GDP. Today, let’s go further and explore how learning is actually the main driving force behind current economic growth.

First off, how does an economy grow?

If you remember your economics class, you know growth usually depends on the increase of the four traditional production factors, namely

  1. Land
  2. Labor
  3. Capital
  4. Entrepreneurship

But in reality, these inputs are typically hard to change in developed economies. Instead, as some recent theories have proposed, economic growth comes down to two things:

  1. Working smarter (human capital)
  2. Using better tools (technology)

So, in knowledge economies, getting better beats getting more. Of course, working harder, using more machines, and extracting natural resources from more land will generate some growth. But that’s not where most of our productivity gains have come from in the last decades.

Rather, it has come from working smarter and using better machines. In other words, it’s been the result of a more efficient use of existing assets. Let’s look at the two ways of achieving that.

Human capital refers to the knowledge, skills and experience of a country’s workforce. By and large, the more trained and educated workers get, the more productive they become. The general principle behind this is the specialization and division of labor, which has been one of the most powerful economical force since the Industrial Revolution.

Technological innovation refers to the development and adoption of better processes and products. Even if they disagree on how much of the growth can be attributed to new technology, all economists agree it plays a major role. For example, Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow pegged it at more than 80%.

Now what drives the increase of knowledge and technology?

Effective learning, of course. In a world where change is ubiquitous, there no better way, sorry, there’s no other way to succeed.

Therefore, peak learners are really the core of economic growth.