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Creating Successful Leaders

To wrap up this series on learning agility, I thought I’d provide some examples of how this set of attributes leads to greater success.

We can better understand what learning agility is when we set it up alongside what it is not. As outlined in the post from two weeks ago, learning agility can be broken down into four categories: Innovation, Reflection, Performance, and Risk-taking. The Center for Creative Leadership out of the Colombia Teachers College breaks it down in this way:


Do you challenge the status quo when trying to make improvements, OR, do you make do with what you have at your disposal?

There’s nothing wrong with making do with what you have. But when that becomes your M.O., then you are probably limiting yourself in vision. When it comes to all the major breakthroughs we see in history, they all shared the same characteristic of bravely pushing the envelope on what is possible.


Do you stay calm in the face of a stressful situation, OR, do you use stress as energy to get things done more quickly?

This skill can be especially difficult. We all like to think that in stressful situations, we always remain calm and focused. But if we’re honest, we can point to many instances when our stress and emotions got the better of us.

Being an agile performer means that we release the rigid expectations we apply to ourselves and to those around us. The more we stay entrenched in a stubborn view of how everyone else ought to behave, the more stressed out we get. The more stressed out we get, the worse we perform. I’m sure you see how this can become a pretty miserable cycle.


Do you use past failures as lessons, OR, do you quickly put your failures behind you and focus on the next challenge?

If you tend toward the latter, you’re probably repeating many of the same mistakes without even knowing it. Examining how you screwed up is hard, since it shakes up our ego. But a good learner swallows their pride and uses their failures as lessons, which reduces failure in the long run.


Do you take on challenges that are ambiguous, new, or otherwise challenging, OR, do you take on challenges where you know you’ll be successful?

Too many of us avoid throwing ourselves into anything unfamiliar, but because an agile learner uses failure as a lesson, they know that new experiences may yield short-term discomfort and failure in return for long-term success. When failure is reduced to a necessary discomfort with a life lesson inside it, the idea of taking on something new becomes much less scary.

All these characteristics enable the agile learner to see opportunities and fearlessly pursue them, embracing failure as  a catalyst for insight, and new challenges as welcome motivation. And this can be you! It starts with the little challenges and reflections, a bit of open-mindedness, and it snowballs from there.


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