Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.
– W. Edwards Deming
Many if not most people go to school, perhaps on to college, and then rarely open another book – at least one with big words in it. Sure they may continue to grow through experience, but this is the slow boat.
I’ve found that the primary predictor of executive leadership competency is the desire to seek, learn, analyze and distill, and teach and share new knowledge. This doesn’t necessarily have to be within the current field or competency, nor does it have to be strictly via reading books. Online courses, magazines, workshops – there are multiple pathways to new knowledge.
Remember that new knowledge can also mean new perspectives. As I discussed earlier, in a world of multiple sources of information it is very easy to succumb to confirmation bias and only embrace information that fits our existing perspective. In reality, there is always at least some truth in all perspectives. Challenge yourself to mindfully look at other perspectives on political, scientific, or social issues in an unbiased manner. You may not change your mind, but you will grow and your positions will be more authentic.
I try to read one fiction and one non-fiction book each month, and it’s a sometimes difficult with my schedule. The non-fiction books, generally business-related, challenge me intellectually. The fiction, often science fiction or action thrillers, challenge my imagination. Each morning I read The Wall Street Journal on my iPad, forwarding articles to friends and family that I find interesting. I try to continually evaluate my perspectives mindfully, thinking about where bias is setting in, and developing countermeasures.
What have you learned recently? What do you want or need to learn this year? How will you do it? What will you do with the new knowledge? How does it fit in with your new self-awareness? How will you encourage and provide opportunities for your team to learn?