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Leaders As Learners

“I love working for a leader who thinks they know everything,” said no one ever.

Why do we cringe when working with know-it-alls? It’s because we intrinsically know that no one can ever know everything and anyone who thinks no more learning is needed is proud, rigid, and potentially deluded.

No one’s favorite colleague ever has those character traits.

People in leadership roles who refuse to have an open mind and realize that learning is an absolute necessity to success are not leaders, but rather road blocks.

I’m about to get specific: learning includes revisiting a situation that hasn’t worked in the past.

You know those dismissive statements of, “we tried that x number of years ago and it didn’t work.” Those conversations are not valid to an authentic leader.

Authentic leaders stand in the attitude of a learner. Always.

Instead of considering it their duty to order and dictate and command, authentic leaders realize they are to be learners themselves and invite those around them to do the same.

Authentic leaders learn with those around them.

Here are three simple ways to ensure you are an authentic leader and a lifelong learner:

  1. Be a reading bulldog: Millions upon millions of books have been written over the ages by people who knew something you do not. Take advantage of their knowledge. Be intentional about carving out time to read and be a bulldog about protecting it. This can also apply to podcasts and informational videos.

  2. Invite opposites: Learning cannot occur if you only interact with those who think the same as you. Not only is it good to hear a different take, but it also gives you opportunity to grow in working with different personalities (added bonus required for successful leadership).

  3. Practice “I don’t know” statements: When the time comes for you to address something you don’t know (and it will come), have a few phrases already practiced that allow you to give yourself (and others) permission to highlight a knowledge gap and create a learning opportunity. Something as simple as, “That is a new one for me - let’s do a Google search together” can work wonders. You not only let them know you’re comfortable with being a learner, but that you encourage a learning environment. If learning is not possible in the moment, a statement such as, “I’m writing that one down so I can look into it” states that you know your boundaries and will work on increasing them.

Let’s learn together, authentic leaders!

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