It’s a question that’s been asked by business professionals for as long as there have been companies to lead.
This article from Forbes focuses on the need for lifelong learning to be an effective leader. It starts by saying, “If you’re not learning, you’re not leading.” It then goes on to say, “Being a compassionate leader requires you to be a proactive life-long learner, to stay informed on things that will affect the people you influence, your stakeholders.”
All of that is true, and more. Being a great leader requires constant effort to seek information and growth from new places. It also requires the humility to acknowledge that you don’t know everything and the willingness to learn whatever you can. That education can come from a lot of different places, if you know where to look. The article offers a few great ideas to get you going, and here are a few more:
- Seek insight from outside your industry - What’s going on in the larger world? What challenges are the businesses and organizations around you facing? How are they overcoming them? Getting involved with organizations outside your own can provide the framework to see a problem in a new way, or to show you a problem that you didn’t know existed. And, sometimes it’s just as important to hear what questions are asked as it is to hear the answers to them.
- Find a mentor – Find someone that is further along in their career, someone that you can build a relationship with and ask for guidance. Look for a person who can challenge you and make you think differently.
- Learn from people who have done it - Follow the paths of people who’ve been successful and also people who have failed. Seek out the backstory on how a company got to where they are. And remember, there’s just as much insight to be gained from people who have failed as there is from people who have succeeded. You’ll want to know what pitfalls to look out for and what to avoid.
- Serve a non-profit organization – Recently, I asked a member of our executive team to find a non-profit and get involved. By becoming a board member or volunteer, you can get exposure to the business and become less insular. Join something like a local chamber of commerce or a non-profit organization for access to information, networking and new perspectives.
Whatever opportunity you choose to pursue, seek application learning. Find experiences that you can get involved with; that’s where the real life-changing learning takes place.
If you are not learning, you are not leading. Being a compassionate leader requires you to be a proactive life-long learner, to stay informed on things that will affect the people you influence, your stakeholders. If your company provides a generous professional development budget and time off to learn, lucky you.