Lifelong Learning & Leadership – Do you really think you know it all?

This week I have been running several leadership workshops, some full day some half.  At one company there was a gathering of 13 leaders responsible for over 265 people between them.  The age range spanned from 30’s to 60’s and were a mixture of men and women.  (It was almost a 50/50 split between the genders which made a pleasant change).

Lifelong learning often starts with reflection

At this particular company, they had only booked me for a half day training session but specifically wanted my future-proofing leaders programme.  As this normally takes at least 2 days to deliver the entire programme I had to focus in (with their agreement) on the first, and most important aspect, which was getting the leaders to have a good, long, honest, hard look at themselves and their own styles of managing teams and people. This to me is a crucial aspect of lifelong learning- the ability to reflect and avoid the, “We’ve always done it this way” mentality.

lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is for all of us

What I found interesting was the difference in how the different leaders responded and what they took on board across the age range.

The ‘younger’ members were open and seemed willing to take on what was being imparted taking part enthusiastically with the activities.  It wasn’t that they had to learn, they had after all already achieved their rank and were actively managing their teams.  They just seemed to be more open to new ideas, thoughts and suggested tweaks to their management style.  They seemed to appreciate that you never finish learning, however high up you might ascend, and longevity for a leader is to keep evolving and embracing the new.  They embraced the notion of lifelong learning. This was borne out by their remarks on the feedback forms afterwards where they all stated they had enjoyed the course and had picked up some pointers that they had not thought of before.

The ‘older’ members appeared more reticent.  I got that they had been in their roles longer and had probably been on more courses then most of the rest of us, however their attitude was more jaded.  They did not willingly participate, there was a bit of grumbling and ideas that the younger members grasped quickly they were struggling with.  One gentleman specifically fed back that he didn’t personally feel a need to change but would get his team members to use the tools!  I am not sure how you get a team to follow your lead if you don’t set the example yourself. Lifelong learning is not just the province of your juniors, it should be something you model yourself.

lifelong learning leadership

In my opinion you never stop learning.  Granted, along the way, you may hear or see things that you have heard before put differently, but that doesn’t mean they are not right.  If any of us, including those at the very top, truly believe that they have nothing more to learn and are perfect in every way then I tremble for the future of those companies and hope that their tenure at the firm will come to a natural conclusion, in the not too distant future.