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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Lifelong Learning

leadership and continuous learning

Strong leaders are avid, continual learners. They don’t stop seeking out 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? Read on…

1. Continual Learning Preps You For Inevitable Change

In order to remain a relevant leader, you must learn and continue to learn. Just because you earned a leadership role 10 years ago does not necessarily mean you’re equipped to lead today. Each situation you encounter presents new challenges that can only be accomplished with an appetite for new knowledge. There’s a reason why 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 be well-rounded, you need to learn a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and areas of expertise. You don’t need to be an expert at everything, but it’s important to have a working knowledge of the world outside your niche, as it gives you a greater sense of perspective and maturity. Go 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 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 create a team that is willing to get creative, take a few risks, and figure out how 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!


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life long learning while working full timeContinued growth and lifelong learning is a not-so-secret priority of many successful professionals.

It can be difficult to give self-improvement the attention it deserves—with daily distractions and to-do’s constantly vying for your attention.

Growth and its requirements can be intimidating, often tiring, and rarely convenient, but if you’re committed to your true aspirations—to honing your skills or establishing a new set completely—there are a few key options for building your expertise while working full-time.

Get a mentor.

Connect with people who have the job or knowledge you desire and who epitomize “success” to you. Networking is an incredibly powerful tool for a variety of reasons, but especially demonstrates its value for people seeking direction and advice. Attend an event, preferably one that attracts the kind of professional you’re looking for—niche meet-ups work great—and be honest with your intentions. Get ready to ask the right person, “Can you offer any advice?”


Many priceless learning opportunities are hidden under the veil of pro-bono work. Volunteering your time will give you some schedule flexibility, hands-on experience, and valuable connections with people in the field.


There are numerous flexible and inexpensive options for professionals looking to learn. Read books, listen to podcasts, subscribe to blogs. Get in a daily routine of discovering something new every single day.

In addition to publications, consider enrolling in a class. Whether it’s online, through Community Education, offered in seminar form, or part-time through a college, education can be energizing, fun, and necessary for professional growth.

Stretch yourself.

One of the best (and only ways) to improve yourself is to test yourself. Only by opening up to new (and often intimidating) experiences can you realize what you’re capable of. Say “yes!” to new opportunities, and uncover any necessary bravery later.


Making a commitment to self-improvement not only gives you an edge in the professional word, but carries over to everyday enjoyment. Finding great people to look up to, devoting your time to projects that energize you, growing your mind, and pushing your boundaries sounds like living to me.


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cheering photo

Copyright Margaret Smith, UXL: Creating Successful Leaders

One of the activities I often use in my career-based workshops is one that involves your personal highs and lows. It gets you thinking about your greatest moments and your worst moments, the times you felt like you were on Cloud 9 and the times when you felt like just throwing in the towel.

The reason I enjoy giving this activity is because it gives direction; it makes you realize what you like most about your career, what you like least, and what really, really needs to change. It also helps give you a voice–to ask for what you don’t currently have. Not finding the support you need at work? Seek it out. Not finding your optimal productivity? Think of when you were most productive and figure out how to recreate that environment.

This activity will give you a good starting point, but it may take some further detective work and guidance to truly figure out the next steps you need to take to be happy at work. I’m here to help with those next steps. In the meantime, take ten minutes out of your day to reflect and spend meaningful time on the following activity. Enjoy!

Grab a pen and paper and jot down a few sentences in response to the following prompts. Then, spend some time thinking about what your answers mean and write down an action plan to achieve your best self.

1a. Think of a time when you were the most productive. What were the circumstances and why do you think you were highly productive?

1b. Think of a time when you felt the least productive. What were the circumstances?


2a. Think of a time when you felt a strong sense of belonging or community. Write about it.

2b. Think of a time when you felt the least sense of belonging. Write about it.


3a. Think of a time when you were learning the most. What were you learning? How did that time feel?

3b. Think of a time when you were learning the least. What were the circumstances?


4a. Think of a time when you were having the most fun. Why do you think that was?

4b. Think of a time when you were having the least fun. Why?


It is important to give yourself time to reflect and think about these questions, but it is just as important to create an action plan after you’re done reflecting. What areas matter most to you? Do you care about productivity, but are not concerned with learning? Do you want to prioritize a sense of belonging in your life and career? List some ideas that will help you maximize your priority areas.

If you’d like to discuss this activity, or if you have any questions, please reach out and contact me at any time.


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