Leaders As Lifelong Learners: Are You Ready?

July 5, 2022   |   Julie Diamond

Every year companies spend approximately $366 billion dollars on leadership development, but when leaders aren’t in the right mindset and ready to learn, those dollars are wasted.

The fact is, even when time is set aside for development, leaders are distracted, pressured, and overcommitted. The mindset for reflection and growth just isn’t there.

Close-up of African American female student learning from books in a library.

No matter how good the training or coaching, whether or not someone is developmentally ready is one of the most important predictors of a successful learning investment. So the challenge remains: what does it take for learning to happen, and how do we get ourselves in the right mindset?

The Learner Mindset

As coaches and trainers, our clients are busy, over-extended adults with a lot on their plates. It’s hard to make time for learning when you’re coping with multiple roles and pressures–and it’s even more of a challenge when you know you’re already an expert. Leaders are where they are because of their expertise, and often, the more expertise and rank they have, the less familiar they become with being in the role of “learner.”

However, good leaders are lifelong learners; they’re deliberate about their learning and intentional with when and how they do it.

To determine if you’re in the mindset to learn, ask yourself:

  • Am I ready to look within? Leadership and personal development is a process of identity development. The focus is not just on theories or skills, but on how you think, perceive, behave, and feel. Knowing things is easy; reflecting on your behavior, actions, and emotions and how they influence those around us isn’t easy or comfortable.
  • Am I ready to make myself important? You can’t just dial in your participation when you are the main event. When the learning is about you, you need to be there. It’s all too easy these days to be pulled in a million different directions, but you need to make space and time for learning; it just won’t happen without you being truly present.
  • Am I ready to learn experientially? Learning how to respond, react, and bring new insights into unfamiliar settings requires practice. Knowing about something is not the same as knowing how to do it, in real time, under pressure, and on the spot. Some things you can’t just talk about; you have to do and practice…again and again.
  • Am I ready to be a rookie? The older and more experienced you get, the harder it is to be a beginner again. However, to learn things about yourself you haven’t known before, you need to re-learn how to be a newbie. You have to deliberately dislocate yourself from the expert role and open up to feeling de-skilled. This takes a conscious commitment and knowing that there’s a good outcome awaiting you.

We’d love to know what you do to make the most of your learning? What makes you feel ready to learn?