You are not leading unless you are learning. Leadership and learning are, in the words of JFK, “indispensable to each other.” And if you take learning to the next level by sharing with others, you are accomplishing what I believe is one of the true hallmarks of leadership.
Leading is learning and learning and sharing is leading.
Never. Stop. Learning. No matter what you do in life, live by the motto “Learn something new every day!” I have told that to my children, my nieces and nephews, new employees that I have mentored, colleagues on really good days, colleagues going through a rut, and now I am sharing this with you. But if you are reading this, you likely subscribe to this mantra. Learning is the key that opens up every possibility that we might create and turn into reality. It will also help select the best opportunity that is born out of these possibilities.
But, reader beware…
We all have so much information at our fingertips that many of us believe that we are ‘learning’ everyday…all day long…non-stop. But this information overload may have us all fooled into thinking that we are learning every time we pick up our ‘smart’ phone. Learning takes focus. We are hardly focused each time we reflexively grab our phone every 6.3 minutes. Now, I am not saying that you can’t be focused while reading some great stuff on your smartphone. You are likely reading this from your smart phone right now (and hopefully you think it’s great). Here are 3 ways, however, that we can slow down and focus as we are learning…and leading:
Timing is everything: do not be tempted to bury your head in your phone at a meeting that you are not interested in. You are doing a disservice to your colleagues and unless you are firing off a vital email that you forgot to hit send on, you are not accomplishing much. Your distracted and are likely distracting others. Setup some time during your day to focus on learning. If you think that you do not have time for this, most of us can’t afford not to dedicate some time to learn.
Content is king: pare down some of the scores of resources that you turn to for learning. Create a list on Twitter of your followers that provide the right information
Focus: don’t just skim. This is very tempting, and sometimes it is all that is possible. However, begin to try to drill down. Think of some of these great articles and information as just the tip of the iceberg. Dig deeper. Some of us do this naturally to quench the thirst for knowledge without even thinking. To others, let this be your catalyst to sparking the fervor for learning.
Another facet of learning is that one should never stop asking questions. Questions offer the path to greatness and those with a large ego often believe questions make you look less intelligent than you are. Contemplating and having the courage to ask the ‘right’ questions with the right direction are an invaluable tool to great things.
Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing. Have a great day and do great things!
Leaders that are looking to shine through their own hard work, perseverance and positive attitude are never looking for the spotlight. Those that are looking to get credit (or worse “take credit”) are those that waste their time doing this rather than getting their hands dirty doing any work. I remember a terrible example of someone trying to steal credit in my professional life. Our organization had just had a new management team come in and the leadership team was going around the room explaining roles, responsibilities and some quick accomplishments of programs in each of their divisions. As we went around the room, another department head who had been overtly insecure in her new job role proceeded to take credit for a program that I had been intricate in developing. I had helped to lead a team of professionals who had been dedicated and focused on one thing – getting the work done. That’s all, simply just getting the work at hand done and done well.
We have all heard the phrase “use it or lose it”. This applies to many aspects of our life, not just the often associated physical fitness part of our lives that we immediately think of after hearing this. It applies to our brains, our psyche, our influence, and in the leader’s world, our learning ability. In the life of the leader, learning is the capacity to effect change as a result of turning new information into action. The greatest of leaders do this proactively in response to new information that must be integrated in a world where information overload and more data “magically” translates into “better” outcomes.
“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” Bruce Lee
Now Bruce Lee may have intended to illustrate that a wise man is simply more capable of learning. However, I believe that Mr. Lee’s point that we are to reflect on through his wise words is that there lies more power in the art of asking questions and in training the mind to be more inquisitive, than to presume we have all of the answers.
Communication is simple. Quite simple, actually. People hear what they want to hear. Conversely, people also express what they think others want to hear as well. It shouldn’t be surprising, with these two tenets of communication then, that there is often communication mishaps that occur on a regular basis. This happens at work, this happens at home – it happens in life. Communication is almost always filtered through another person’s perception. The messages that enter into one’s mind have a lot of information and experience to compete against – and that is not even considering the emotional aspect.
Good leaders know how to do many things very well. In fact they excel at almost everything. However, the most effective leaders that rise above even the greatest of leaders, know best how to skillfully communicate. It is the hallmark of great leadership – to be able to convey to others the vision and the mission of the organization, put succinctly to inspire and motivate others to ACT. The most intelligent people can have the greatest ideas and vision and believe that they have inspired others to act. But did everyone hear the same thing? Is each individual inspired to carry out their task knowing where they fit in the big picture?
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Henry Ford once said “Any man can learn anything he will, but no man can teach except to those who want to learn.”
When I think about being able to learn the skill set required to be an effective Leader, I think that this quote nicely summarizes my belief that leadership skills are NOT easily learned. You need to want to be a Leader to learn to be one. There exists a thirst inside those who truly want to be a Leader – a thirst for learning at every step of the way. Learning when we succeed and learning more so when we fail. And what sets the Great Leaders apart from the not-so-great leaders in our ever-changing world is that the Great Leaders want to share what they have learned with others. Furthermore, you really need to know what being a Leader means before you can begin to transform yourself or help to transform others – and remember, it is not about “making it to the top”. Continue reading You Need to Want to be a Leader