Effective Leaders Need To Learn

As part of my job I do a great deal of training. One thing I am increasingly noticing is that often so called “leaders” send their teams on courses but say that they are too busy (important). They forget that effective leaders need to learn.

Anyone who says they are too busy to learn new skills or to acquire new knowledge is a dangerous liability to their organisation. The speed of change is so great that one of the few ways you can gain an advantage over you competitors is to continuously learn and then use that knowledge to change ahead of the competition. “Leaders” who don’t continuously learn but rely on those they “lead” to acquire the essential knowledge will be quickly left behind. Not only that, but members of their teams will become frustrated with the lack of example from the top. A leaders who is too busy, or even worse considers themselves too important to learn, or who thinks they do not need to update their knowledge is no leader at all.

There is a reason why professional bodies insist that their members engage in continuous professional education no matter what their level or experience. Unless you are prepared to keep up to date in your area then your ability to practice your qualification must be in doubt. Unfortunately, too many people in positions of power think they are above all that.

A few years ago I was involved in running a week long course for several members of a major organisation. Everyone below director level was expected to attend the course but when it was suggested that the directors should attend they said they were too busy and just wanted a quick half day resume. Needless to say after all the training had been done the organisation had major problems implementing what everyone had gained from the course as the directors did not understand the reason for the changes.

As I was part way through writing this blog I was very happy to read an article on the site Inc.com concerning Laxman Narasimhan the CEO of Starbucks. Despite holding qualifications at what most people would consider to be the highest level he realised that there was one particular training course that he had not undertaken, but would enable him to become an even better CEO and leader. It wasn’t and MBA or Doctorate, it wasn’t some high level leadership or management course, it was a 40 hour training programme to become certified as a Starbucks barista. He learnt so much of importance on that course that he wrote a letter to all employees announcing that in order to stay close to the company’s culture, customers and challenges he would continue working in the stores for half a day each month. What a leader!! If you want to be an effective leader then whether you are a CEO of a major corporate or a leader of a small department then follow his lead. Learning doesn’t have to be at the highest level. Often the most effective learning is understanding what goes on every day.

Everyone needs to learn, all the time, and that includes the boss.

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