It is always a huge red flag for me when people complain about learning because of the work attached to it. This is a sign that we have seen that leaders lid and they will only take their department to the level they are currently at and no further. Without internal expansion of yourself there is no hope for external expansion in your organization. I truly believe growing leaders create growing organizations. If we have the discipline to be learners and apply what we learned to continually enhance our people and systems we will see over time substantial growth.
As far as growing I can only communicate the way I personally grow so lets look at ways that I grow as a leader.
1. I READ A LOT
I know this is the boring answer! It is like when someone asks you “how did you lose weight” and you respond “I ate right and exercised”. That is BORING but effective and the same is true when it comes to reading! Harry S. Truman once said, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
Reading expands your knowledge, sets discipline in your life to actually sit down and read, creates a catalogue of information that you can return to in the future, and helps you enhance your time management skills. Reading is important for a leader and effective for all great leaders. Now when it comes to the type of books you read there are a plethora of options and what you choose may depend on the season of your life. I read a large variety of books everything from leadership, to faith building, to creativity, to biographies and that is to keep me from being singular focused as a leader.
A few of my favorite leadership books are “Leadership Pain” by Samuel Chand, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith, “Axiom” by Bill Hybels and of course “The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
2. I LISTEN TO A LOT OF PODCASTS
Podcasts are what consume my time driving and my workouts at the gym. It is the perfect place to hear a variety of leaders as most podcasts are interview style and get exposed to new leaders or organizations you have never heard of before. Most podcasts are very practical in nature with the advice given and when you hear a great episode they are great to send to your team. A quick tip I listen to my podcasts on 1.5 or 2 speed to get through them faster. This may sound weird at first, but you get used to it and now sometimes when I am listening to a podcast it sounds slow and I think it is turned off when it is not.
A few of my favorite podcasts are “The Learning Leader Show with Ryan Hawk”, “Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller”, Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast”, “The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast”, “The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes”, and “Creating Disney Magic with Lee Cockerell”. The list could go on and on, but these are a great start!
3. I ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS.
I have learned that being a leader that is a “know it all” actually makes you a leader that “knows nothing at all”. Great leaders are like sponges that learn from others and can ask the appropriate questions. I like to go into an new organization with fresh eyes discovering how they do things and why they do it that way. I am fascinated with the systems and structures of great organizations and the best way to learn is to ask.
So you need to find a leader that is farther a long in the process than you and ask if you can have 30 minutes with them to ask a few questions. Make sure you have your questions prepared in advance so that you respect their time and so that you get the most out of the conversation.
Also attend a few conferences a year and learn the art of networking and question asking during the break out sessions. I promise you the more you sharpen this skill the faster you will grow as a leader.
4. I LEAD OTHERS
Now knowledge is useless unless you apply it and many times we as leaders don’t realize how much we actually know until we actually use what we know. The greatest way to do this is develop leaders inside your organization. Take what you have learned and help elevate the people on your team, invest in their leadership growth, and allow them to ask you questions. This will grow you as a leader and grow your organization.
A simple easy way to develop a small group of people is to have your team read and discuss a leadership book together. Have them read one chapter a week and then spend several minutes discussing it at the weekly meeting. You can also attend conferences together or webinars together. As you grow together the ceiling to organization grows!
Be a leader that learns because growing organizations are led by growing leaders!