Leaders Are Learners by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC
A significant challenge for many leaders is to assume that their experience and expertise earned over years of working in their industry is all they need to know. As people move up the corporate ladder, their knowledge and expertise are often the keys to getting to the next rung.
However, the higher up the ladder you move, the fewer people there are to question you or to point out any oversight, mistakes, or lack of specific knowledge you may have. As a result, leaders who fail to continue learning can easily find they no longer have the knowledge and expertise to make effective decisions and lead their team, department, or company.
In his bestselling book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” Marshall Goldsmith discusses the need for leaders to continue to learn. This learning does not need to be focused on their industry, but it needs to continue to move them forward to developing new and more effective habits and processes.
The Beginner Mind
The idea of a beginner’s mind is from Zen Buddhist teachings and involves looking at things in life from that of someone with no preconceived notions or years of experience. It is a way of cleaning away the automation out of thinking about things, opening up the possibility of seeing a process or challenge in a new light.
In essence, using the beginner’s mind is a mindfulness exercise. You are not evaluating issues based on past experiences or assumptions. Instead, you are looking at it in the present, which may open up options and alternatives that would be invisible or clouded by those existing assumptions.
New Ideas and Concepts
The ideal of lifelong learning involves the ability to constantly take in, evaluate, and implement new ways of thinking. In many ways, it is as much about personal growth as it is professional growth, although the two areas of life are intertwined.
Unlike taking a course or attending a seminar once a quarter, lifelong learning is typically self-directed and completely self-motivated. Lifelong learning becomes the motivation to keep learning new things, expanding your horizons, and having a more holistic understanding of the world around you.
Leaders that continually engage in learning continue to grow. They have a passion for new ideas, incorporating new concepts, and being open to possibilities. They are also people who develop new skills, report increased satisfaction with their job and their life, and have the ability to interact and connect with others to continue to learn and build their understanding.