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
- changing oneself
- changing others
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.