Lifelong learning and leadership are two phrases destined to be together.
Lifelong learning is a phrase that’s been around a while, and the thinking behind it was that knowledge, education and learning aren’t only confined to our childhood and the classroom but takes place over the course of our lifetime.
Here is a fascinating quote from Brian Tracy, the well-known sales and leadership trainer.
“If you read only one book per month, that will put you into the top 1% of income earners in our society. However, if you read one book per week, 50 books per year, that will make you one of the best educated, smartest, most capable and highest paid people in your field. Regular reading will transform your life completely.”
If this doesn’t inspire you to jump on, leaning, nothing will.
Now that we know what we mean, and that lifelong learning isn’t just a buzzword, but a route to understanding and capability, let’s explore it further.
Why Is Learning Essential for Modern Leaders?
Over recent years we have seen a shift in leadership thinking. Gone are the days when senior leaders were “authority figures” who were the font of all knowledge based on their intellect. We have since discovered that leaders who achieved sustained success were not necessarily those with the highest IQ, but those who had high EQ, more commonly known as emotional intelligence; we have written a piece on this recently which you can read here.
We know that change is a constant and leaders have realised that to deal with the continuous change in today’s business landscape, they need to keep developing:
- Their leadership skills aligned with a multigenerational workforce.
- Their ability to communicate in a way that inspires others to follow their vision.
- Their capability to engage and align employees with company values.
- Their skills to develop an environment where team members are inspired to become lifelong learners.
Brian Tracy, who shared the quote above, is one of the first personal development teachers I came across in the early stage of my career. He still lectures and consults with organisations today and is a real example of lifelong learning, running a thriving global corporation based on learning at 75 years of age.
He describes three types of learning that I want to share with you.
Maintenance learning is primarily about you staying up to date in your industry and area of expertise, whether that is as an HR Director, MD, Operations Director or Head of Talent.
The aim is that this type of learning keeps you up to speed and prevents you from falling behind.
Many leaders I talk to mention reading an occasional book and keeping current with industry blogs and believe that this equates to adding to their education and development.
Think again: Let’s talk about exercise briefly to illustrate this example.
Say you know that a 30–minute mild work out twice a week will help you maintain your weight and a general level of fitness, which is one good goal to have.
However, what it doesn’t do is build your cardiovascular fitness further or allow you to build more strength and muscle.
Do you get my point?
Maintenance learning is vital, and yet it will only keep you up to date, not move you forward.
Now, this is where you start to build your knowledge and skills in areas that you haven’t experienced before. This could be building existing capability further as well as developing new skills and expertise.
Maybe this is platform speaking or coaching at an advanced level.
Growth learning is about continually expanding your mind in a way that enables you to do things that you could not do previously.
Brian Tracey describes this as “learning that contradicts or reverses a piece of knowledge or understanding that you already have.”
So often companies have success with a product as a result of an unexpected problem or as a by–product of a failure. Take Viagra, for example; this was known as the first “lifestyle” medication when it was launched in the mid-’90s.
What many people don’t know is that Pfizer initially developed the compound (known as sildenafil) for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina (chest pain due to heart disease). However, during trials, male patients experienced a side effect, and the rest is history.
Shock learning can give you insights that enable you to either take advantage of a significant change in your company or marketplace. In Pfizer’s case, a product which brought in $2 billion in annual sales in its first ten years on the market.
However, many people are creatures of habit and leaders are no exception. Too often when something happens that is completely unexpected, it’s more comfortable to ignore it and stay with the norm.
Maybe it’s time to take the lesson from Viagra and embrace shock learning too. So how can you take your learning to a new level? Let’s explore this next.
Creating Learning Habits – How Can You Learn Something New Every Day
Here are a few ideas to get you started, remember new habits take time to become part of your daily way of doing and being so set yourself up for success and commit to consistency in whichever
habits you embrace:
- Commit to reading every day. Schedule time even if it’s 15-20 minutes.
Ask colleagues and leaders you are inspired by what they are reading.
- If you drive a lot, how about audiobooks?
- Thinking of listening, how about Podcasts, there are many to choose from depending
on your industry and who inspires you. Here is a link to ours for you too!
- Develop a network of go-to experts and ask them questions. Seek to understand
what habits they have created as well as learn from their expertise.
- Become a member of relevant professional associations and initiate networking.
- Attend conferences and training programmes: These could be industry, professional or personal development
- What’s the saying, ‘The best way to learn is teach someone else.’
- Make time to notice and observe what’s happening around you.
- Evaluate and reflect on what you’ve learned.
- Most significantly, apply what you’ve learned.
Finally, dare I say that some of your development is you investing in yourself. It isn’t always about your company funding your development. Decide to invest financially in you.
Plan what you want to learn and how you want to grow, then start. There is no time like the present.
Until next time.
About blue pea POD
At blue pea POD, we are in the business of enabling leaders and organisations understand who they are, their identity and purpose, creating the profitable future they desire now.
Blue Pea POD works internationally with a client base that includes the FMCG, Retail, and Pharmaceuticals sectors. You can subscribe to our podcast here and then if you would like to find out more about how we can help you get in contact here. Or call +44(0) 845 123 1280