Why Learning Is The Key To Leadership

Oct 17, 2023 4 Min Read
A man attending a webinar, learning, leadership development.

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Lifelong Learning: The Cornerstone of Effective Leadership in a Rapidly Changing World

Today, leaders are constantly challenged to navigate unprecedented shifts in business models, tech advancements and workforce expectations. Now, more than ever, the ability to learn and adapt is not just a nice-to-have trait for leaders; it's an absolute necessity. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Here’s are eight reasons why learning and leading are intrinsically linked.

1. The Pace Of Change Is Accelerating

Leaders can no longer rely on time-tested strategies and proven models. The speed of technological innovation and the global dissemination of information have ushered in an era where change is the only thing that isn’t going to change. Leaders who commit to ongoing learning can anticipate these shifts and guide their teams more adeptly through them

2. Diverse Challenges Require Diverse Knowledge

Today's business leaders are confronted with a multitude of demands, from managing remote teams to leading hybrid meetings, or from navigating global supply chain disruptions to addressing concerns about sustainability, and a slew of other seemingly contradictory needs. Continuous learning allows leaders to acquire knowledge across multiple domains, equipping them with a big-picture understanding of diverse stakeholders and the best path to win-win solutions.

3. Teams Thrive In A Learning Culture

When leaders prioritise their own professional development, it sets a powerful example for their teams. To build a team that stays ahead of change, leaders need to demonstrate a culture of learning, where employees are encouraged to upskill, reskill, and take charge of their own career trajectories. Learning cultures not only boost employee engagement and job satisfaction but also keep the organisation agile, resilient and on the leading edge of innovation. One way leaders encourage learning while promoting team cohesion is to sponsor learning programs where the team participates together. As President John Quincy Adams is said to have proclaimed, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

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4. Decision-Making Requires New Skills And Knowledge

The decisions that leaders make have profound impacts on their organisations. With the benefit of continuous learning, leaders can base their decisions on the latest research, best practices and a deeper understanding of the complexities of their industry. Well-informed decisions can be the difference between propelling a team forward or facing unforeseen setbacks. In our data-driven society, whims and hunches don’t cut it anymore.

5. Digital Is Part Of Everyone’s Job

The digital revolution has led to a skills gap, with many organisations struggling to find talented applicants who are well-versed in data analytics, artificial intelligence and digital marketing. Leaders who are committed to learning can better understand these areas, guide talent-development initiatives, and ensure their teams have the competitive edge needed to thrive in the digital age.

6. Self-Awareness Is The Most Needed Leadership Attribute

Leaders need to be aware of their strengths, blind spots, preferences and biases. The learning process itself helps us achieve this. Learning in the areas of emotional intelligence, relationship building and personal branding can help leaders directly increase this trait. In fact, self-awareness is the first step in the personal branding process and in Daniel Goleman’s model of emotional intelligence. And as remote and hybrid work become the norm, the ability to connect with—and lead—teams virtually requires a heightened level of awareness of self (and others).

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7. Learning Creates Connections With Team Members

According to Gallup, leaders who score high in the strength of “Learner” on the Clifton Strengths Assessment provide stability by being prepared for inevitable situations of “not knowing.” Not always being the expert can create transparency for others and makes room for everyone to pitch in with their individual areas of true expertise.

8. Leaders Need A Strategy For Staying Ahead Of Competitors

Leaders who are dedicated to continuous learning are curious and can identify emerging market trends, innovate more effectively, and position their organisations to quickly capitalise on new opportunities. Being proactive in learning and adapting is the ultimate way to stay ahead of the curve—and ahead of the competition.

In his 1597 book, Meditationes Sacrae, Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “Knowledge itself is power.” And today it holds more truth than ever before. For leaders, the commitment to continuous learning is the only way to remain relevant and avoid becoming a reluctant relic. As the business landscape continues to evolve, leaders who stay curious and embrace learning will undoubtedly be at the forefront, guiding their organisations to success. Learning is leading.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

This article is also available in Chinese.

Edited by: Kiran Tuljaram

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William Arruda is the bestselling author of the definitive books on personal branding: Digital YOU, Career Distinction and Ditch. Dare. Do! And he’s the creative energy behind Reach Personal Branding and CareerBlast.TV – two groundbreaking organizations committed to expanding the visibility, availability, and value of personal branding across the globe. For more information on Personal Branding , please visit williamarruda.com. 


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