…because Life Never Stops Teaching.

A common discussion over the past several months has been how leaders stay relevant in today’s dynamic economic and political environment.  What was relevant five years ago is passe’ today.  What is relevant today will likely be on its way to obsolescence three years from now.  What is even more surprising is how many leaders seem to believe they can stay relevant with the skills, knowledge and attitudes learned years before.  They lament the need for different outcomes for their business (for profit or non-profit) and yet spend little time actively engaging in the process of staying relevant, the process of continuous learning!  Let’s break down each of the key areas of learning with some ideas to stay relevant in each one.

Learning Relevant Skills – Skills are the things you need to know how to do to be an effective leader.  Goal Planning, Effective Communications, Time Management/Priority Management are just a few of the key leadership skills required to be an effective 21st Century Leader.  So, how to keep these skills relevant?  Recognizing what you don’t know how to do is the first step in the process of learning.  Assessing current skills is important to understand where the skill gaps may be.  For instance, most leaders recognize the importance of goal planning yet cannot describe their goal planning process.  Many leaders recognize the importance of effective listening yet have never learned how to listen well.  Objectively assess your skills against the need to be an effective leader and fill in the gaps!

Learning Relevant Knowledge – Knowledge is knowing when and where to appropriately use the relevant skills you have for effective leadership.  Knowing when and where to ask the right questions, when and where to delegate or do yourself, and balancing the planning role vs. the controlling role are just a few examples of leadership knowledge of an effective 21st Century Leader.  Because knowledge is also information in context, the only way to learn new knowledge is to consciously put yourself in new situations to exercise your ability to leverage new knowledge.  There is an expression that, “learning by definition, will always feel unauthentic.”  This is absolutely true when leveraging new skills in new situations and context to create new relevant knowledge.  Consciously, and proactively, put yourself out of your comfort zone to learn and embrace new leadership knowledge!

Learning Relevant Attitudes – Attitude is the want to achieve success as an effective 21st Century Leader.  It is also habit of thought that must be developed beyond the traditional training realms.  Once you find the opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and leverage new skills in a new context, the initial experience will be awkward.  Creating a new relevant attitude means replacing old habits of thinking with new habits of thinking through repetition.  Being accountable to developing these new attitudes will push you past the initial awkwardness to a point where the new skills and knowledge come naturally and require less conscious thought.  Use accountability and repetition to consciously and subconsciously develop new leadership attitudes!

Learning new relevant skills, knowledge and attitudes is continuous process.  The reality is that once you’ve mastered a new set of skills, knowledge and attitudes, life will likely teach anew and present yet new learning opportunities.  I had the recent pleasure of listening to Leo Brubaker, Chief Operating Officer of Centro, which grew to a $400M company in 10 years, speak at a Young Professionals recognition event.  Several times during his presentation, he spoke directly of needing to “learn how to make money” and “learn how to run a business” over the course of his tenure with the company.  As a young professional (under 40 years old) he understands, as all effective leaders do, the importance of continuous learning to making leadership a way of life!

What are you learning today to keep your leadership relevant for tomorrow?

Lead well!