Leaders are Lifelong Learners
The world we live in has ever-increasing change. Everyone including leaders is forced to quickly respond and shift in ways on how businesses operate and work gets done. It is critical that leaders have the ability to learn quickly and faster than their competitors to keep their competitive advantage.
Learning is about resisting bias against doing new things. It is seeking growth opportunities and pushing yourself and your company to acquire new skills while still meeting the day-to-day operations. Learning to do things a new way, or different from what we are used to can be uncomfortable for many. We resist change and this includes learning new things.
Our existing knowledge we have becomes obsolete quickly. We need to encourage our teams to create new knowledge. For example, when I worked at an institute of technology, I was tasked to learn all I could about digital file storage options. I was learning about terabytes and zettabytes when the industry was still using Kilobytes and the newest technology was megabytes which was mind-blowing at that time. I was fascinated to learn about the future and the potential storage capacity not even comprehending how our world would even need that much storage space.
Learners in any environment need to be engaged in learning. They need to be encouraged to find solutions to jobs and tasks that we don’t have yet. According to a Harvard Business Review study, they determined leaders that are quick learners have four attributes that help them along the road we call success.
Great learners continually strive to aspire to new understandings. They are motivated to self-improvement always.
When we are confronted with a roadblock, like learning a new software or system. Our first response is to resist. For example, my son got me a new laptop for Christmas. It was a wonderful and unexpected gift. After laboring for a week on a paper I was horrified to learn that the paper I submitted to my professor was not the one I wrote. Somewhere along the way, my actual paper got lost on the cloud. I searched the cloud and my hard drive and could not locate the actual document. I was frustrated because, throughout the writing process, it kept auto-saving. Thankfully I finally found the paper. When confronted with new learning we often focus on the negative which prevents us from moving forward.
Research has discovered that shifting focus from the challenges to benefits increases your motivation to tackle new projects and learn.
Receiving feedback on how others see you can be painful but it also provides an opportunity for growth. Accept the fact that we often see ourselves in a biased or flawed opinion. Accept responsibility for your own learning. Be humble with feedback and seek learning opportunities.
Curiosity is what makes us try something new until we can do it or understand it. I think of my youngest when he was a toddler, he got a grow with me basketball hoop. He would practice all the time to dunk the ball. Most of the time he would miss. He always used wonderful self-talk and would sing a little tune he made up saying “that’s all right, try again”. Over and over with every miss, he would sing. Great leaders retain the childhood drive of curiosity.
We live in a society where we strive for excellence. We are taught to play to our strengths, so the idea of not doing something well can immobilize many. For example, I was reteaching a teenager how to make pancakes. This was a skill he doesn’t continue to use so he lacked confidence in his ability. He became frustrated when he made a mistake, slopped batter, or didn’t get the pancake flipped perfectly the first thing he did was put himself down and he wanted to quit.
Great learners accept that with every new skill you return to the beginner state of learning and great learners do not give succumb to negative self-talk. We need to become comfortable with saying “I don’t know” or “I forgot”. Showing others that we are vulnerable and keeping a positive attitude allows us to learn at a faster rate.
Lifelong learning is a commitment to ongoing education, through self-teaching, experiences, podcasts, reading, and more. People who embrace lifelong learning embrace a growth mindset. Lifelong learners seek opportunities for continuous learning to enrich their lives. We are responsible for our own learning.