A Learning Leader

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A recent conversation with an entrepreneur caused me to consider the importance of leaders as learners.  We define learning as problem solving, gaining knowledge and experience.  Leaders that demand total certainty for themselves and their teams will stifle growth.  Certainty can actually hinder creativity and keep us from exploring new ideas or concepts.

Leaders that demand that they have all the answers and be fully competent can short circuit their own development.  A learning leader becomes an impactful leader.  To become a learning leader requires humility, resilience and openness.

It is important for leaders to consider the categories of learning, which include knowledge, skills and problem solving.  These three categories of learning are essential to help us strengthen our credibility, improve confidence and move the business forward.

1.) Knowledge: What areas of your business do you want to learn more about?  According to a study by Degreed we commonly learn through relationship.  Commonly this occurs through connection with our boss, a mentor or other peers.  Now that you are a boss or manager, where do you go to collaborate and discuss challenges?   We know from brain science that we learn the most when we are really interested and curious about a subject matter.  Clarify your passion to ensure you stay up to date!

2.) Skills: As you consider your skills, where are you most strong and where do you need to improve? Studies indicate that the top five skills for the future include: empathy, listening, flexibility, strategic thinking and problem solving.  Are you strong in these key areas?  The half life on skills is about 5 years – in other words the skills you gain today will be obsolete in about 5 years.

3.) Problem Solving: What is your problem solving process for yourself and your team? Many times leaders will get in their brain and seek to solve problems devoid of a strong methodology.

It is easy, as a leader to think that we have arrived or that the skills and tools that brought us here will serve us today. There is truth to carrying over your strengths to the role, yet without a tenacity for learning, curiosity and skill obtainment, we may be left behind.  The intent is not to gain this learning just for our own benefit, but for the learning itself.

Consider the framework that Kelly Palmer outlines in her book “The Expertise Economy”  

We learn best under these 4 conditions –

1.) Relevance – You see the value in the learning you want to take on.

2.) Mindset – Your brain is in curious mode and you believe that you can master the skills

3.) External Factors – The environment is primed for you to learn more

4.) Emotion – You are in a positive state to learn more.  You can’t really learn when you are grouchy!

These four conditions will be critical as you seek to be a learning leader and advance your organization forward.