Learning is a lifelong skill. Learning is required for advancement. Learning is essential to leadership.
Many people see graduation as an escape from school and abandon learning. The secret of great leadership is the never-ending quest to learn.
The last chapter in John Kotter’s book, Leading Change, had a profound impact on my understanding of learning. Kotter shares two stories in which unimpressive people transformed themselves into incredible leaders. The secret to their success was compounded growth. Just like money in the bank grows through compounded interest, an investment in learning pays dividends over time and produces leaders.
Leaders must constantly observe what’s going on around them and be able to make connections between people and ideas that no one else can see. Constant learning and exposure to new ideas is vital to see connections.
Most people equate learning with going to a class or reading a book. Here are a few more ways you can maximize your learning:
- Volunteer for a challenging project. Learn by doing.
- Mentor someone. When you teach you learn.
- Journal. Document your decisions. Periodically review what you wrote and see whether your reasoning was sound. You’ll refine your decision making and learn from your own thinking.
- Take an assessment. Then use what you learn to improve how you interact with others.
- Ask questions. Forget the small talk. Ask why. Ask probing questions to uncover ideas and insights.
One of the best compliments I ever received was, “The Donna I call today will not be the Donna I talk to a year from now.” My friend and colleague recognized through my insatiable curiosity and passion for learning that I am on a constant growth trajectory.
One last tip about learning – it’s not receiving information that makes it learning, it’s the application. Do something with the knowledge you gain. It’s in doing that you truly learn.