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Creating Successful Leaders

What do many effective leaders have in common? They believe in continual learning and development. Big-name CEOs like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are avid readers who are constantly gobbling up books. Former president John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” And the legendary Henry Ford believed that, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Strong leaders are avid, continual learners. They don’t stop seeking new opportunities after they’ve graduated or once they’ve landed a job; they treat every day as another chance to acquire knowledge and skills.

Why is lifelong learning so essential for leadership? How does curiosity and exploration build character, aid in personal development, and position you as a leader? Here are four ways:

1. Continuous Learning Makes You Adaptable

Today, the workplace landscape is shifting and evolving at a lightning-fast pace. We never know what tomorrow will bring and how our team will react. Therefore, effective leaders must be highly adaptable, quick on their feet, and innovative.

To remain relevant, leaders must endeavor to continually learn. New challenges are best faced if the leader is willing to gain new knowledge and adapt/adjust their thinking. There’s a reason medical doctors are required to continue their specialized education long after they graduate from medical school. Could you imagine going to a surgeon who was using standard practices from the 1940s?

The same is true in any office setting. Standards change; innovations occur. Capable leaders stay on top of those changes, adapt, and guide others to adapt as well.

2. Well-Rounded People Make the Best Leaders

To become well-rounded, you, as a leader, need to learn a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and areas of expertise. You don’t need to be an expert in everything, but it’s important to have a working knowledge of the world outside your niche, as it broadens your perspective, helps you understand others’ viewpoints, and gives you foundational knowledge in unfamiliar areas. Dare to step outside your comfort zone. Read history or philosophy if you’ve always been a numbers person. Take public speaking classes if you’re shy (Toastmasters is a great club for this). Learn a language. Focus on areas you’ve told yourself that you’re bad at, and give it another go. You may surprise yourself.

3. Learning Helps You Problem-Solve

If you’re constantly making an effort to learn new systems, programs, ways of thinking, etc., you’ll be more creative and mentally nimble when it comes to problem-solving. If you train your brain to perform many different tasks (no matter what they are), you’re enabling yourself for outside-the-box thinking.

4. Your Actions Will Encourage Others to Keep Learning

As a leader, you set the standards. Your pursuit of innovation and discovery will encourage your team to also prioritize continual learning. Demonstrate that you’re willing to dive into uncharted territory, get your hands dirty, and make mistakes. Your example will help develop a team that is willing to get creative, take a few risks, and figure out innovative ways to overcome obstacles.

How will you commit to continual learning? What will you do this week to help expand your horizons or learn a new skill? Start today!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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