Why The Best Leaders Are Full-Time Learners
By Kelsey Meyer
Tell me something you’ve learned recently. It’s a question we ask in most interviews to determine whether a candidate has the intellectual curiosity we look for in team members. If she can’t tell me anything she’s learned in the last month, I know it won’t be a good long-term fit, simply because an eagerness to learn isn’t inherent. Last year, I wrote an article titled “Why Leaders Must Be Readers,” and while I still wholeheartedly believe this, my thinking was too limited. Reading is just one way to learn.
Leaders must be learners. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, but it’s just as important. I respect leaders who are continuously learning because I know they’re challenging their own assumptions and bringing more knowledge to the table each time we converse.
Learning can take many different shapes, so here are a few examples of ways that you can continuously be learning as a leader — and encouraging your team to do the same.
Not to beat a dead horse, but reading really is important. Read the opinions of others, and discover the ways in which you agree or disagree. Debate topics you’ve read about with your team; I promise you’ll learn from them.
Listening to podcasts is another great way to learn. If you aren’t sure what you should be learning about, one of my favorite podcasts is “How to Do Everything.” You’ll learn about everything from bug drones to how to end a text conversation.
Engaging in presentations, specifically question-and-answer sessions, is my favorite learning practice. One of our investors, adventur.es, hosts education sessions monthly on topics ranging from game theory to why we get fat. As a leader, you should encourage these types of events during the workday to challenge your employees to learn something outside their specific job responsibilities. This will stimulate their brains by making them focus on something unexpected, which will undoubtedly enhance their creativity and brainstorming skills at work.
If it sounds like too much work to coordinate a speaker, use a company to facilitate events. Engaging with experts in varied industries will open your team’s minds to attacking problems from different viewpoints. And let’s be honest: You can’t get much return on your investment (your employees) if you don’t continue to invest in it, so make an effort to show your team how important their growth is to you.
You might be glad to be finished with school, but don’t you kind of miss the interesting classes? Challenge yourself — and your team — to attend a new workshop or class once a quarter. Choose skills that are completely outside of your function, or something that would be complementary. Woodworking, cooking, or coding classes can exercise different parts of your brain and allow you to think more critically.
Learning doesn’t always have to mean learning something completely new. I took an Excel class in college, but I’ve forgotten 50 percent of what I learned. I’ve recently been using YouTube in five-minute increments to reteach myself some of the more complicated Excel functions, and it’s working wonderfully. Nothing sticks forever (except maybe riding a bike?), so relearning can be an extremely valuable activity when you find yourself losing a few of your finely tuned skills.
Incorporating learning into your everyday activities requires a change in habits, but it’s one that’s worth the effort. People who don’t push themselves to continuously learn fail to come up with new ideas, struggle to obtain new perspectives, and grow stale in their skills — and they don’t get the job. Become endlessly useful to your team, your clients, and, most of all, yourself by learning something new every day.
Content originally published at Forbes; written by Kelsey Meyer.
Kelsey Meyer is the Cofounder and President of Influence & Co. a company that assists individuals and brands in growing their influence through products and services ranging from creating and publishing bylined articles to facilitating in residence programs for brands and much more. Influence & Co. is one of the leading providers of high quality expert content to the world’s top publications.