It was back in the early 1960’s when John F Kennedy said:
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
I have been delivering leadership training and leadership talks for many years and the more I read about leadership, talk about leadership and think about leadership, the more I realise I don’t know about leadership.
There is no such thing as instant leadership. Leadership is like a plant. It needs nourished and watered and fed to help it to grow. The best leaders recognise that to grow as a leader you must have a thirst for new knowledge, new concepts and new ways of working.
Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, captured this thinking brilliantly in his book Winning, when he said:
Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself;
When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
Your success is our goal hand-written in chalk on a blackboard
We are always growing – as a human being, as a colleague, as a parent. But the moment we become a leader in the workplace, everything changes. Success is no longer just about personal growth. It is also about growing others because the essence of true leadership is to see leadership potential in others and turn this potential into ability. The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.
For this to happen we must be role models for learning.
Rosabeth Moss Kantor said:
Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach.
The most powerful form of teaching is to lead by example. Recent history teaches us that we must embrace and learn the new skills of today’s fast-paced, data-rich world if we are not to be left behind. To be left behind is to become a follower rather than a leader. Think Blackberry.
Here’s a simple thought – to earn more you must learn more. The salary you receive from your employer will be determined by the value you add. The more you know the more valuable you become.
Some years ago I received this piece of advice from a mentor. She told me:
“JJ, be so knowledgeable, competent and brilliant at what you do, they just can’t ignore you. Become indispensable”.
What great advice.
Learn what the best do and develop new awareness. With better awareness, you make better choices. With better choices, you will get better results. Investing in learning and getting your skills to top notch is the best investment you’ll ever make.
A South African flag with a shadow overlay of Nelson Mandela symbolising freedom.
Every leadership journey is a journey of learning. When Nelson Mandela delivered his inauguration speech on 10 May 1994 as the President of South Africa he talked about “the person he had become” and the “journey he had walked” in making his leadership dream of a “new South Africa” come true.
When we embark on our leadership journey of learning we give ourselves a focus, a structure, a purpose. We make a statement that we don’t want to be ordinary or mediocre but that we want to be confident and credible.
Develop a love for learning because the best in every walk of life always do. Shimon Peres, the former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner once said:
If you eat three times a day you’ll be fed.
But if you read three times a day you’ll be wise.
One idea discovered in one book can change the way you see the world. One idea you heard on a podcast could transform the way you communicate with people. One idea found in a blog could drive your business to remarkable success.
My experience tells me that when the leaders in any organisation stop developing, so also do their people.
Speaking at a conference earlier this year I was asked for my definition of a really good leader. Not an easy question to answer because it is such a subjective question. Here it is. I’d like to share it with you:
Leaders are born and leadership can be learned.
The best leaders are often born leaders,
but the very best leaders are leaders who are willing to learn.
Remember, the learners of today are the leaders of tomorrow.