Would you, as a leader, like to know how you can tell when you’ve “arrived”…when you’ve come to that point where you can stop working, growing, learning, and reaching beyond your current comfort zone? I can tell you in one word.
There will be pushes to victory and points where you can pause, celebrate, and recharge; but being a leader means you never completely stop along the journey. If you do, you cease being the leader.
As leaders, we must be continual learners. Harry S. Truman said it years ago: “Leaders are readers.”
I’d like to expand the idea beyond just reading to the avenues we as leaders need to explore in our continual learning process.
Learn from others.
A few years ago, I picked up a book called 48 Days to the Work You Love. Little did I know it would launch me in a totally different direction in my life and work. As I read that book, I learned from Dan Miller the value of finding and doing work you love, and how you are innately wired with certain strengths to do the work that best suits you. I was intrigued.
I engaged Dan as my coach, and together, we laid out a plan for what would eventually become Strength Leader LLC. Today, I continue to learn from Dan and from other mentors like John C. Maxwell.
It’s been said that you will be the same in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and books you read. Are you as a leader reading and learning from others?
Learn from experience.
If you sit in a public venue and watch people, you will notice a disturbing trend. Just about everyone is hunched over a phone, texting messages to people you can’t see, while life happens right in front of them. This is especially disturbing when you see a group having a meal together…and no one is talking!
As much as I love my electronic gadgets, there are points every week where I purposely set them aside and focus on real-life experiences. This could be attending a conference with other business leaders or attending a concert with my husband and daughter. It could be traveling to new places and exploring different cultures firsthand. It could be trying something new. But I make sure on a regular basis, I make time for experience.
We all know bosses who sit in the corner office and never speak to anyone except those who come to meet with them. These are bosses and not leaders. Leaders get to know their people at all levels. If you’re a CEO, one of my strongest recommendations would be to get out amongst others and experience life. Its lessons are invaluable.
Learn from mistakes.
It is great to learn from experiences, even if some of those experiences end up being mistakes. Mistakes are simply indicators that you have tried something. If you never try anything, you will never make a mistake…but you will also never know the lessons that come from those mistakes. Don’t fear mistakes – learn from them.
Learn from necessity.
It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. We as leaders learn because we have to. We find creative ways to increase income and cut expense because we have to meet budgets. We learn new technology because we have to be innovative. We learn to deal with different personalities because we have to lead teams. We learn to work efficiently because we have to meet goals. Necessity pulls us forward – stretching us beyond our current comfort zone. As we reach out to do what is necessary, we grow as leaders.
Learn from history.
Most know the saying, “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
As leaders, we spend a great deal of time looking toward and planning for the future. And we should. But we should also frequently take time to study the past. Study what great leaders have done right – and do those things: and study where leaders have failed, and avoid those mistakes at all costs.
Ask yourself on a regular basis:
- Have I read a new book and met a new person?
- Have I had a real-life experience recently?
- What have I learned from my latest mistake?
- What do I need to learn in order to do the necessary?
- What can I learn from history as it pertains to my current situation?