John Coleman’s Harvard Business Review article urges us to “Make Learning a Lifelong Habit” and to use Theodore Roosevelt as a model. Here’s the kernel paragraph.
“Roosevelt was what we might call a “lifetime learner.” Learning became, for him, a mode of personal enjoyment and a path to professional success. It’s a habit many of us would like to emulate. The Economist recently argued that with all the disruptions in the modern economy, particularly technology, ongoing skill acquisition is critical to persistent professional relevance. Formal education levels are regularly linked to higher earnings and lower unemployment. And apart from its utility, learning is fun. It’s a joy to engage a new topic. Having an array of interesting topics at your disposal when speaking to colleagues or friends can boost your confidence. And it’s fulfilling to finally understand a difficult new subject.”
Great stuff and a noble goal. Surely one of the critical skills for leaders is the ability to learn, quickly and surely. That makes it important for leadership development. So, how should we foster lifelong learning in our leaders?
Leadership development and lifelong learning skills
Did anyone ever teach you how to learn? If you’re in my generation (Boomer) or my children’s generations (X and Millennial) that probably didn’t happen. That makes the first leadership development challenge teaching leaders how to learn effectively.
Training on research is important, with an emphasis on the kind of quick learning that’s likely to be necessary. Let’s also assure that developing leaders master skills of fact checking and source evaluation. Learning skills are important, but they’re not enough.
Leadership development and habits that support lifelong learning
We must help leaders develop the habits that support lifelong learning. Reading is the master habit. Leaders who are readers will learn more quickly and more easily than their peers. Mastering the schedule is crucial, so we should help develop good time management habits. Making the most of time to learn is critical, so we should help leaders develop the habit of concentration.
Great leaders have always been learners. Let’s help our developing leaders become better lifelong learners so they can be better leaders.