Warren Buffet, the legendary investor in the early days of his investment career, would read 600-1000 pages in a single day. Nowadays, though in his 90’s still dedicates 80% of his day to reading.
Charlie Munger, Buffet’s business partner says they both live by the mantra: “Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.”
Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world is self-confessed book addict. He reads almost 50 books a year.
Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook in 2015 posted a challenge to the whole world to read a book every week for the entire year.
Mark Cuban, a self-made billionaire spends about 3 hours reading every day.
Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos, the list is endless. All these successful leaders credit their intelligence and success to their habit of constantly learning.
While I appreciate that you may not have the same time and energy to invest in reading a book, but I am sure you have 6 minutes to spare, to read this article.
Learning can take many different shapes, reading is just one of them, 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: Read books, watch youtube, attend webinars, listen to the podcast, attend seminars, study academic or business journals, learn from their employees or peers and more.
Let me ask you an interesting and mostly unaddressed and unexplored question: Which comes first, leading or learning?
Of course, learning comes first. Learning is one of the key traits and tenets of leadership. Great leaders are great learners. They are voracious readers. Learning is eating and sleeping for them, cannot do without it. Learning is key to growth and progress.
True and great leaders show a fascination and openness to continuous learning from everyone and anyone they interact, be it a shoe shiner or a fortune 500 CEO.
They never suffer from preconceived notions about where the next bite of learning will come from and are always receptive to new ideas, inputs, insights, and information be it any source.
Trust and know that teachers come in all shapes and sizes, all you need is to open your eyes and ears to it. They’re always asking “what’s next?” to grow themselves, their people, and their organizations. Learning agility should become the core component of any organization’s strategy if they wish to create “future proof” leaders because great leaders are great learners.
A leading leadership coach during his workshop was asked a deep question. “Do our senior leaders also demonstrate as much enthusiasm to learn as we do? Or these learning programs are only meant for junior and middle-level managers?” It is important to understand that unlike at junior levels, senior leaders are normally not “nominated” or “pushed” to participate in any learning process. Thus, learning at the top level has to be very much intrinsic and voluntary. This question bothers many employees, as there are many leaders who think they know everything; they are beyond learning.
A know-it-all mentality could be the beginning of the end.
The leaders who do the most harm to an organization and its people are the ones who think they have arrived. If you scan business history, there are plenty of so-called icons of leadership and management “whose corpses litter the road of downfall.” Understand this; an organization is not static. It’s a dynamic living breathing thing. No good leader can believe he or she knows everything there is to know about the job today, tomorrow, and the day after.”
So, if you think you are as good you are (Ego Talking), then it’s time to change your thinking.
The famous American moral and social philosopher Eric Hoffer said, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
Given businesses pace of change, organizations cannot afford to hire or retain “Dinosaur thinkers.” Dinosaurs are those employees or leaders who are resistant to continuous learning and growing, change, and better ways of doing things. They halt companies’ growth and progress and slow down an organization’s ability to respond to the ever-changing business climate of today’s world.
On the other hand, “Cockroach Thinkers” are those employees or leaders who embrace change, unlearn, learn, adapt, and adjust with time and tide.
Dinosaurs, who were the biggest, largest and most physically powerful creatures on earth ruled the planet for more than 150 million years but became extinct. Cockroaches however have been able to survive for more than 280 million years without becoming extinct. They were around long before us and they will outlive and outlast the human species, much in the way they outlasted dinosaurs. Why?
The reason: Their learning agility and adaptability. Like many leaders, Dinosaurs didn’t have learning agility, so they couldn’t adjust or adapt, either because they didn’t feel they needed to, or couldn’t understand why they needed to.” The cockroach is actually a gifted learner always adjusting and adapting even in environments that may seem a bit hostile.”
Ask yourself if you’re thinking style is based on the dinosaur model failing to learn and grow, or the cockroach model where you are continually learning, adapting, and adjusting to an ever-changing environment.
I know, you may not find it flattering to think in terms of cockroaches, but believe me, no one can teach you the lessons of survival better than a cockroach.
Leaders shape the organization and learning shapes the leader.
Learning is the ultimate master skill. When you fully engage yourself in learning—when you throw yourself wholeheartedly into observing, experimentation, reflecting, reading, you’re going to experience improvement.
Goodness becomes greatness.
If you want to become a great learner, Let, me give you an action plan: Keep asking yourself!
What am I learning now?
What will I learn tomorrow?
If you really want to become a lifelong learner, then never be afraid to use the three little words: “I don’t know.”
Learning requires keeping an open mind, observing, listening, reading, and exploring.
Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula and Edward T. Cokely In a Harvard Business Review article, “The Making of an Expert, writes it takes 2.7 hours of practice per day to improve at a skill – whether playing tennis, honing your golf swing or learning keys on the piano. It should be deliberate practice, not a one-time event. So, when it comes to learning more is not less and less is not more. Less is less, and More is more. When it comes to getting great at leading or anything for that matter, you have to keep on learning.
What are the characteristics of a lifelong learner?
They spend more time in learning activities.
They keep asking questions.
They don’t suffer from a know-it-all mentality.
They are not afraid to admit mistakes.
They ask for feedback regularly, and when they accept it as a gift by taking it seriously, whether the feedback is positive or negative.
They encourage others to experiment, take risks and accept failure by asking “What can we learn?”
Always remember this: “There is something to be learned every day, both by looking in the mirror (Self-reflection) at yourself and by looking at the people around you (observation).”
Learning is the gift of growth. Give yourself and your people this gift.
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