…It’s not OK to avoid Learning How!
It’s not a secret that continuous learning is an important element of staying relevant in today’s business environment. While there are a multitude of reasons and business drivers why this is our reality (technology, global enterprise, socio-cultural shifts to name but a few), it still amazes me how often ignorance is used as an excuse for not keeping up with change, to which I usually respond with the opening quote. At some point, all leaders arrive at a point of “I don’t know…” relative to their business. However, leaders must never fall for the, “…but I’m not going to worry about it” as a means to avoid learning what they need to know.
In my experience, there are two primary reasons leaders fall into the trap of avoiding the right level of personal development necessary to stay relevant. The first is lacking a complete understanding of what they know and how much they know is still relevant. The second is confusing knowing how to do something new with knowing how and when to effectively apply their new information. We will break down each one here.
Leaders who have over a decade of leadership experience under their belt can easily fall prey to this first blind spot. They fall into a mindset that sounds like “It has worked well over the last 5-6 years so why change?” and/or “I have over (name your number) years doing this so I know what I’m doing.” What they become blind to is the changing conditions and environment in which they lead to the point they end up reacting to the new reality putting them and their organization at risk of irrelevance!
The best way to avoid this level of blindness is to balance the leadership decision making process with input from clients (voice of the customer) and input from the members of the organization who deal directly with those clients (sales associates, customer service representative, engineers, etc). This is what I refer to as “Ground-Truth”. Knowing what clients are saying in alignment with what the front lines are saying is a great way to be proactive in effectively meeting the needs of the market!
The sorry state of leadership development is attributed to the second blind spot. When leaders believe that merely knowing something new (training) is the end game, they unknowingly sabotage their own development efforts. It is not what leaders know, it is how you apply what they know that keeps leaders relevant in their industries and markets. I would go so far as to suggest the content (how & what) of effective leadership has not changed much in the last 50 years. However, the context (when & how) of effective leadership changes weekly (daily in some cases)! Effective leaders learn from how they apply what they know and how they exercise this applied learning on a continuous basis. They proactively address the constantly changing definition of what is relevant head-on in order to stay ahead of change!
It is said that learning, by definition, will always feel inauthentic. It means leaders will be uncomfortable in times where they don’t know the answer. Avoiding the discomfort of what they don’t know to lead effectively is not OK. Taking the right approach to continuous leadership development ensures the leader AND their teams enjoy sustainable success!
How are you truly developing your leadership relevance?