An integral part of good leadership is making time for the hard work that continual learning requires. Purposeful leaders are lifelong learners. They appreciate the true value of learning to improve their leadership so they enrich all those around them, keeping them inspired and engaged to contribute to their fulfillment.
When Charles Brindamour became CEO of Intact, he blocked three to four hours every morning to gain a better understanding of areas that could influence his company or the lives of his employees. “Learning to have perspective on things is really important. It is never all black or white,” he said, adding: “If you don’t make this a priority, you risk the organisation becoming complacent.”
Consider the following reasons to keep learning:
Learning helps you identify and live your purpose.
You can’t live your purpose without continually learning about things that may inhibit or benefit your goals. Purpose and learning are two sides of the same coin, the one must inform the other. While your purpose will motivate you to keep learning, learning itself will ensure you keep acquiring the skills and the knowledge you need to stay on track. The knowledge you gain might even cause your purpose to evolve into something you never imagined in the beginning.
Neither learning nor living purposefully is a destination. It is the satisfaction and contentment gained throughout the colourful journey of life, enhancing one’s wellbeing and fulfillment.
Learning helps you to add value to the lives of others.
If we are to lead purposefully and be taken seriously, is it not incumbent on us to constantly empower ourselves to add real value to the lives of those we have the privilege of leading?
As a leader, you need to develop new skills and stay abreast of factors that could influence your organisation and all its stakeholders. Making time to learn will help you to make sustainable decisions and lead with innovation. However, it does not stop there. If you are committed to life-long learning, it will also inspire others to invest in their own growth. This will help you to build a stronger, more capable team. It is important to remember that when you become a leader you are not only responsible for developing yourself, but also for developing others.
Learning keeps you humble
N.R. Narayana Murthy, co-founder and chairman emeritus of software giant Infosys, said: “The day a leader closes those feedback channels is the day when a leader’s power starts diminishing and he or she starts doing things that are completely wrong.”
Leading with an open mind and open door requires a certain degree of humility, admitting you don’t have all the answers and leaving room for others to contribute. This means you must not only be willing to learn from the experts, but also from the laymen. Having the character to put ego aside and collaborate is now more important than ever before. Being open to continuous learning can help you to keep the ego at bay.
Learning helps you to see the opportunity in a challenge
Another invaluable source of leadership development is facing uncomfortable and difficult experiences. If you are open to learning while dealing with the less pleasant tasks, it can be the proverbial “spoon full of sugar that makes the medicine go down”. When facing business or cultural challenges, a learning mindset will allow you to see the opportunity in the challenge. Leaders who invest in continual learning are better equipped to solve challenges because they are abreast of what is going on in their business environment and they develop the attitude it takes to collaborate and address challenges head-on.
Learning keeps you relevant
We have to be mindful of the fact that change is inevitable. We are getting older, the next generation is finding their feet and the world is moving on, whether we like it or not. Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline is based on the premise that “in the long run, the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is your organisation’s ability to learn faster than its competition.” If you don’t adapt, you will become irrelevant, like Kodak and Blockbuster learned the hard way. And how can you adapt if you don’t make time to learn?
Simply put, I believe leaders need to be far more conscious and passionate about excelling and dedicated to achieving through continual learning. In essence, good leaders are the product of a never-ending process of skill and character development.
Make learning a daily priority. Excuses like “I don’t have time” will not prevent change from impacting you. Create opportunities to learn every day, whether it means blocking time to read and learn from an expert, opening your mind to learn from your team or looking for what you can learn from every challenge.
This article was first published by Leadership Online and is republished here with permission.
*Brian Eagar is the founder and CEO of TowerStone, a leadership centre that empowers leaders to build a values-driven culture for sustainable success.