Choose to Learn

In order to excel in your work, in your life or as a leader, you need to commit to continuous learning. Many leaders know this, but many more are missing the opportunities for powerful learning that could really help them get ahead on their goals. Leaders are encouraged to learn on the job. The problem is that many don’t because they are either too busy, they forget, they don’t know what they need to learn, or they don’t have the resources they think they need and end up learning by chance or command. Neither one is very powerful.

There are so many opportunities to learn, and there is so much to be gained by learning that it simply doesn’t make sense to relegate your learning to the whims of chance and command. You need to learn by choice. Learning by choice means carefully setting up your own learning opportunities based solely on what you need to obtain better results, and it is based on multiple assumptions.

Learning is leadership. Learning is an essential component of leadership. Some experts go so far as to say learning is leadership: a leader’s constant quest for the improvement of the business, people and results. As a leader, what do you need to learn? What leadership skills, strategic practices or management techniques will help you be more effective? Look at your results, and notice where there is room for improvement. What do you need to learn in order to improve those results? This is the kind of learning that supports powerful leadership.

Learning is profit and competitive edge. The soul of business is innovation; the soul of personal leadership is the innovation of the self. You can’t have one without the other. If you want to have, run or be part of a skin care facility that succeeds in a time of change, you need to be willing to change, as well. Think about it. If another company is doing better than yours, what do you need to learn to be better able to compete? If you personally are stuck in a rut in your career, what do you need to learn to get a more competitive edge? Without asking these questions, you will start to languish in mediocrity, and that’s no place for a leader. Refuse to buy into the assumption that the economy, the market you’re in, or your products and services are creating your results. If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, go out and learn what needs to change. You’ll feel more in control, and you will learn to lead the way to a more powerful and profitable place.

Learning is life. In addition to learning for all of the practical and rational reasons that contribute to your effectiveness as a leader, learning is part of the fun of life. When was the last time you picked up a new sport, game or hobby? These things are learned, not because they have to be, but because you want to learn them. Your vision and goals will be infused with a new sense of exuberance when you commit to learning what you need to learn in order to achieve them. You will know that you can do anything you want, as long as you know how to learn.

Try this simple exercise to sharpen your approach to learning.

  • Think about your vision or an important goal.
  • Brainstorm—what do you need to learn in order to achieve this vision or goal?
  • Choose one area in which to focus your learning, and choose the one that is likely to have the biggest impact.
  • Ask yourself: “What’s the most powerful way I can learn in this area to get the best and fastest results?”

This approach will steer you away from learning by chance and help you choose your learning, so it’s more strategic and leads directly to your vision. If you really want to lead well and live well, you must learn to learn well, too.

Joelle K. Jay, PhD, is an executive coach specializing in leadership development and the author of The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership (Praeger, 2009), which shows leaders how to improve their effectiveness by learning to lead themselves. Her newsletter, Inner Edge Insights, offers articles, exercises, tips, quotes, and success stories from real leaders to help you excel. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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