Are You a Leader-Learner?

Or should that be “Learner-Leader”? Anyway, the question basically is, as a leader, are you pretty much always learning or have you decided that you already know what you need to know to get your job done?

I just had a client describe herself as a lifelong learner–and this isn’t the first time I’ve run across that concept. In fact, I’ve applied it to myself as well. To me, learning new things helps keep my brain energized and motivates me to stay active, not only in my professional field (resume writing and job search coaching) but on a broader and more personal scale.

What Makes the “Best” Leaders?

If you’re a leader in your company or organization, the concept of continuous learning becomes even more important, as evidenced by an article I found today (shared by a fellow LinkedIn Group member), titled “The Best Leaders Are Constant Learners,” by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Harold Jarche. It’s a thought-provoking article, and I need to read it a few more times to absorb all of it, but it definitely got my brain going.

To give one example of the core theme, the authors state: “As we attempt to transition into a networked creative economy, we need leaders who promote learning and who master fast, relevant, and autonomous learning themselves. There is no other way to address the wicked problems facing us. If work is learning and learning is the work, then leadership should be all about enabling learning.”

Why is Learning So Important for Leaders?

For one thing, learning is critical because we live in a world where change has become a constant, and many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by it. If you’re in a leadership role and can’t stay on top of change, you and the organization you lead could suffer serious consequences. As the article’s authors put it, “…leaders must scan the world for signals of change, and be able to react instantaneously.”

To put it another way, treading water won’t cut it in business today! In all probability, if your company isn’t moving (forward), it’s sinking or all too likely to sink in the not-too-distant future. As a learner-leader, you can make a significant difference in your company’s prospects by embracing continuous learning for yourself and enthusiastically promoting it throughout your organization.

Some employees might well push themselves to learn without your encouragement, but many more probably won’t–either because they lack sufficient motivation or because they don’t recognize the importance of ongoing learning. Part of your responsibility as a leader is to help your employees see that importance and open themselves up to learning opportunities. Not only that, but you need to ensure that their learning path isn’t a dead-end within the company or you could lose the newly energized employees to a competitor!

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