Leaders set the tone for an organization. They must be agile in their responses to the ever-changing marketplace and business climate. Leaders are charged with growing organizations and should never stop learning because learning is an essential part of the growth process.
Learning can take various shapes within an organization. It can be organic, formalized, personalized, or on-demand. Whatever the shape, learning needs to be part of a leader’s commitment to improve both personally and professionally.
There are two fundamental lessons for “learning leaders” who want to grow personally and help grow their organization: vulnerability and failure.
Comfortable being vulnerable
The first lesson in the commitment for leaders to be learners is becoming comfortable with vulnerability. Learning leaders do not have all the answers and admitting that with confidence makes the leader authentic. Leaders must go first!
According to Patrick Lencioni, in his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business:
“The only way for a leader of a team to create a safe environment for his team members to be vulnerable is by stepping up and doing something that feels unsafe and uncomfortable first.”
Being first means becoming comfortable with vulnerability.
Never stop learning from failure
The second lesson of learning – closely tied to vulnerability – is how to use failure. The old saying, “Failure is not an option”, is not realistic. Even though failure is not a strategic goal and we do not desire to fail, it is always a reality.
Leaders who value the impact of learning on growth and talent retention drive an organization where learning is part of the organizational DNA. Those who set the example in their commitment to learning create organizations that are serious about learning. How a leader uses failure to learn can set a good example for how to use these important lessons for improvement.
In the field of academic medicine M&M (Morbidity and Mortality) Conferences are used to examine failures and medical errors. These are powerful in learning what went wrong and finding answers to correct problems and improve medical care. The key objective of a well-run M&M Conference is to identify adverse outcomes associated with medical error, to modify behavior and judgment based on previous experiences, and to prevent repetition of errors leading to complications.
If Medicine finds value in learning from failures, should more organizations not do the same? Yes!Leaders who are learners set an example and establish the value of learning within an organization.
The power of executive coaching for learning leaders
Leadership and executive coaching is an important part of learning. It enhances the leader’s ability by helping them understand:
- their growth mindset
- their relation to failure
- the role vulnerability plays in their leadership
- how to be a better, active listener
Like learning from failure and vulnerability, listening is a fundamental part of success as a learning leader. In his bestselling book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, well-known Executive Coach, Marshall Goldsmith states:
“80 percent of our success in learning from other people is based on how well we listen.”
Are you hearing more than listening? Listening takes practice. It is a learned skill that successful leaders focus on to become better.
Leadership & executive coaching is part of sound leadership development.
It can be incorporated to help leaders become more self-aware and learn to be more approachable and authentic in their influence. Another great resource on how learning makes a better leader is a book titled: Learn Like Leader: Today’s Top Leaders Share Their Learning Journeys.
The value of investing in learning
Learning leaders never stop learning! It is an investment in time and money. Many leaders give excuses of why they cannot take time to learn.
Learning should be a priority and not an option.
It is an investment that successful learning leaders embrace. According to Dr. Brad Staats, Associate Professor of Operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business:
“Today’s fast-paced, ever-changing, global economy requires us to never stop learning or we risk becoming irrelevant. Savvy leaders recognize this means investing in their own learning journey, so they can develop the processes and behaviors required for ongoing success.”
Dr. Staats’ recent publication, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, illustrates the importance of making the lifelong investment of learning.
When executive coaching is used with other learning initiatives, it helps develop a deeper purpose for the leader. Developing the complete leader involves being committed, setting an example, and making an investment in self and others. Learning leaders focus on learning as a strategic resource in personal and professional development.