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Leadership Thought #362 – Never Stop Learning

May 31, 2012

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Leaders should be in a constant learning mode.  Once you think you know it all, give up the reins of power because you will become detrimental to your organization. While some fundamental beliefs may remain true regardless of the circumstances, most of what takes place in business is in a constant state of flux.  Your goal should be to stay ahead of the change curve not fall behind it.  One way to do this is to keep asking questions and seeking answers.  You can never be smart enough.

There is a famous biblical quote that “pride goeth before the fall.”  I’ve seen this happen many times with companies and individual leaders.  At some point, usually when there has been a certain modicum of success, the organization/individual starts looking backward for answers rather than forward.  They start to believe what made them great is what they already know not what they proactively decided to learn.  Instead of looking outside for answers they keep everything close knit and inside the organization.  Business is moving very quickly these days.  It’s amazing how easily you can fall behind when you take your foot off the knowledge gas pedal.  There is always some organization lurking around the corner looking to take advantage of your competitive vulnerabilities.

The fact is that the higher you move up an organization, the more you are paid to think rather than do.  Anyone can master a particular task given enough time, training, and effort.  Deciding what to do and why and how to best allocate scarce resources is another issue altogether.  Decision making should be a thoughtful process not a “seat of the pants” gut driven exercise.  Confidence is never an acceptable substitute for wisdom. You may get lucky and get it right sometimes, but eventually the odds will catch up with you.  Hubris is a very unattractive trait in a leader.  Moreover, having strong opinions without any basis in fact is a waste of everyone’s time.

There is also nothing “cool” or commendable about being knowingly misinformed or stupid.  When I drop my kids off at school, I always encourage them to learn something new that day.  When I see them at the end of the day, I ask them “what did you learn today?” Personally, I also make it a goal to learn something new every day.  Learning needs to become a habit.  It’s easy to become intellectually lazy and not put forth the effort, especially when you live a busy life.  However, if there is one variable that separates the most successful people, I know from everyone else, it is their commitment to always getting better and smarter at what they do.  You should never stop learning…