It is back to school for many students, including my wife and me. We are in the second half of a M.A. program in Global Leadership. Our classes are all online with our cohorts through Azusa Pacific University.
Learning is important for leaders, whether structured (formal school or program) or unstructured (self-taught and informal).
Bobby Clinton identified “maintaining a learning posture” as a characteristic of leaders who finish well. I want to finish well, but I have a practical question…
How does a person maintain a learning posture throughout life?
In my personal study and survey of leaders on different continents to help answer this question, I have identified 6 breakthrough disciplines of unstoppable learning.
The Continuous Learning Cycle: 6 Breakthrough Disciplines of Unstoppable Learning
1. The first element is humility. This character quality involves the recognition of needs, and the realization that one does not know it all.
2. Humility leads to a second discipline: hunger or curiosity. This includes the drive and desire to learn and improve, as well as what Livermore (2010) calls self-efficacy-the confidence that the leader can learn.
3. The third element is actual learning. Elmer (2006) emphasizes the importance of learning from and learning with those whom we are serving as key step in cross cultural effectiveness. Watkins (2008) also mentions learning from direct reports as a key strategy for effective leadership. Bobby Clinton said the ability to learn is “the all-purpose tool, the Swiss Army knife, that leaders need to carry at all times.” The central theme of Thomas’ book (2008) is how a leader can learn from crucible experiences for personal growth, and how organizations can effectively use experience to accelerate leadership development. The greatest actionable insight in Thomas’s book is the development of a Personal Learning Strategy. Great leaders have developed and continue to benefit from a Personal Learning Strategy based on insights gained through reflection on crucible experiences and a passion for learning.
4. and 5. Teaching and leading are the fourth and fifth disciplines of unstoppable learning. I put them together since they are so interrelated. Tichy (2002) says, learning, teaching and leading are all intertwined.
6. Feedback is the six discipline of unstoppable learning. As a leader is teaching and leading, he or she must also be learning. The discipline of getting feedback demonstrates a learning and growing posture. It then cycles back to humility and then hunger to improve the next time around.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” (JFK, 1963) It is clear that one must continue to learn to increase his leadership acumen and effectively lead in any culture, team or organization.
What other disciplines or elements have you identified or experienced that keeps you learning?
- Livermore, D. (2010). Leading with cultural intelligence: The new secret to success. New York: AMACOM.
- Elmer, D. (2006). Cross-cultural servanthood: Serving the world in Christ-like humility. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Watkins, D. (2003). The first 90 days: Critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.
- Thomas, R. (2008). Crucibles of leadership: How to learn from experience to become a great leader. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.
- Tichy, Noel (2002). The leadership engine: How winning companies build leadership at every level. New York: HarperCollins.
- John F. Kennedy (speech prepared for delivery in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963)
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