Leadership Perspectives

Leaders need to keep learning

April 2, 2014

LearningSometimes, in the attempt to deal with the increasing volume and complexity of everything coming at us, we cope by trying to work harder and do more.  We can become myopic in our attempt to simply manage our environments.

How’s that working for you?

Probably not great because it’s exhausting and not a great strategy.  You already work hard and, for the most part, do as much as you can.  We’ve all heard the ubiquitous admonishment to “Work smarter, not harder” and struggle to figure out exactly what that means.  We want to work smarter, but what does that entail?

The problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know.  That’s why it is important for leaders to keep learning.  As a leader, you need to stop and take a more holistic view, one that accounts not only for projects and day-to-day tactics, but also for your ability to influence and your capacity to lead.

The developmental journey

The journey of developing one’s own capacity to lead – that is, both the being and the doing of leadership – is an intentional journey.  You must choose it, and decide to develop as both a leader and a person.  Here’s some very accessible tools available to help you.

  1. Feedback is an important developmental tool.  One can obtain feedback using an informal approach of simply asking questions (to learn how, click here), or utilizing a formal 360-degree feedback survey instrument.  Although many leaders don’t receive feedback well, learning to process feedback constructively is one of the most powerful things that you can do for your self-development.
  2. Leaders can work with a coach, who will use many tools including acute listening, power questioning, and constructive feedback to partner with the leader to achieve specific objectives.  Like many coaches, I will often do assessments that help increase the leader’s self-awareness and self-understanding.  Mentors and role models, who are themselves strong in the leadership competencies that the leader wants to develop, can also be invaluable.
  3. Leaders can avail themselves of formal learning opportunities such as classes on management and leadership.  On such opportunity – the New Manager Training Series – offered by Cape Cod Community College helps newly promoted managers learn the managerial skills to succeed (full disclosure: I am one of the instructors), but there are programs and classes available for leaders of all levels.  Such classes not only offer academic learning but opportunity for interaction with peers facing similar leadership challenges, which may be even more valuable.
  4. When is the last time you read a good book?   Not the latest James Patterson thriller, but something for your own learning and development?  For a handful of great books, check out some favorites – all of which are relatively quick reads – at www.PeelerAssociates.com/resources.  Or simply get started by reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a perennial favorite from Stephen R. Covey.
  5. Cultivate a connection with others.  When you cultivate connection, you show others that they matter.  This can not only pay enormous dividends to your organizational culture, but can also allow you to learn about yourself and your operation.  (For specific tips on how to do this, see my last blog post, Tapping your best resources to improve your operation.)

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