Why Great Leaders Are Always Learning
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy
All great leaders of men have one thing in common: They all have a high affinity for knowledge. They are constant learners; always learning new ways to solve conflicts, effectively manage teams, and grow both at a personal and professional level. On top of proactively seeking knowledge, they also use failures, success stories, and random experiences in life as learning opportunities.
But why are great leaders so obsessed with learning? Here is why:
1. Learning is intrinsically motivating
The human brain was designed to intrinsically yearn for knowledge. The brain is healthiest when collecting and digesting new information. As a consequence, leaders who love reading are motivated to:
- Get better at their jobs with each passing day.
- View life with more positivity, enthusiasm, and optimism.
- See every situation, good or bad, as a learning experience. They see challenges as opportunities, which motivates them to work harder for sustainable solutions.
- See opportunities where ordinary people see obstacles. They can easily see and focus on the bigger picture when pursuing a long-term vision.
- Are quite reflective. They are forever motivated to set aside time to reflect on life, collect their thoughts, and constantly assess the effectiveness of different strategies.
- They are always fired up to make amends or correct their behavior whenever necessary.
2. Continuous learning helps leaders stay relevant and effective
Old skills, data, knowledge, and information are great to have but not to rely solely upon. We live in a fast-paced world where knowledge becomes obsolete rather too fast. Great leaders understand this fact, so they invest in fast, relevant, and autonomous learning in order to stay updated and relevant in their respective fields. They are always in tune with changes in technology and are quick to invest in disruptive technologies in order to stay optimally productive and effective.
3. Continuous learning drives innovation
Innovation and creativity are prerequisites for effective business leadership. A leader who cannot create and innovate cannot lead his company to compete at the highest level in this day and age.
So, how does continuous learning help leaders improve their creativity and innovation?
First, great leaders are constantly studying what is happening in their industries and the economy as a whole. They will easily tell you what competitors are doing and are aware of new technologies that come onto the market. That foundational knowledge comes in handy when these leaders set out to innovate and conceive new ideas for their companies.
Secondly, continuous learning helps leaders stay at the forefront of innovation by making them comfortable with fresh ideas and opportunities. They become bold enough to experiment with new ideas, make mistakes, dig deep for solutions, correct their mistakes, and keep going until they get it right. They are comfortable allowing people in their teams to experiment and share their ideas.
Note: The biggest hindrance to creativity and innovation is the overreliance on familiarity and clinginess to the status quo. Leaders cannot be innovative when they only trust what they’ve always known and the strategies that worked for them sometimes in the past.
Lastly, continuous learning helps leaders understand the importance of diverse schools of thought. They are able to see and approach issues from different perspectives. They aren’t scared to seek different perspectives from their teams, peers, and even the people they serve. In the end, they are able to see and apply solutions they probably would have missed had they refused to engage other stakeholders.
4. Learning helps leaders become better versions of themselves
To lead others effectively, a leader must learn to lead themselves better. Great leaders understand this fact, so they are constantly looking into ways of becoming better versions of themselves. That’s why they read books by great leaders of the past. They attend industry events to immerse themselves in the wisdom of industry leaders. Most importantly, they pursue courses and training programs that help them develop their leadership skills, improve their personalities, and improve their level of performance. Leaders who take PMP certification training, for example, not only become better project managers but also improve their personalities. They communicate better, are better risk managers, and can engage stakeholders a lot more effectively.
5. Learning builds character and discipline
It takes discipline to build a culture of continuous learning and development. Learning is also quite demanding, from the tools, time, and budget needed for effective learning, whether the learning happens online or offline.
When learning from peers and subordinates, a leader has to be humble enough to receive uncomfortable feedback. This humility is also mandatory for a leader who has to admit the need to reskill, up-skill, or close skill gaps when it already seems like he has achieved everything career-wise. All these demands that ongoing learning places on a leader help the leader become more disciplined.
When you take personal development seriously as a leader, everyone under your guidance and leadership follows in your footsteps. And when your team members take personal development seriously for themselves, it becomes easier to achieve your set goals. So, stop procrastinating and start learning today!
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