Leaders are Learners

In a recent extensive survey conducted of 90 top business leaders, one of the questions proposed to the group was:
“What personal qualities are most important in running your business effectively?”
Charisma, “dressing for success”, time management and many of the other formulas that pass for wisdom in the business were not mentioned. Instead, the 90 leaders mentioned persistence, self-knowledge, and willingness to take risks and accept losses, the importance of commitment, consistency and challenge. But above all, they talked about learning.
Leaders are perpetual learners. Some are voracious readers, others learn from other people. Some, like the late Sam Walton, are legendary for spending a great deal of time learning from customers. Most good leaders learn from experiences; good and bad. Most of the leaders mentioned mentors and key moments in their careers that shaped their philosophies, aspirations and managing styles. All of them regarded themselves as “stretching”, “growing” and ” breaking new ground.”
Learning is essential for the leader. It’s the source of energy that keeps momentum flowing by sparking new ideas and new challenges. Those who do not learn do not survive as long-term leaders.
Specific skills these leaders possessed are:
A. The ability to acknowledge and share uncertainty
B. Embracing error
C. Responding to the future
D. Becoming interpersonally competent (e.g. listening, nurturing, coping with value conflicts, etc.)
E. Gaining self-knowledge
In fact, these listed skills are essential skills for leading successful organizations. The importance of the leaders being perpetual learners is magnified when you recognize that they pass this value on and create a learning culture throughout their entire organization.
Look at what some of the country’s most successful and progressive organizations spend on training for their people:
* Intel spends on average of $3,000 per person per year.
* Arthur Anderson insists that its consultants spend a minimum of 130 hours per year in special training.
* Motorola spends over $100,000,000 on training and says it gets a return of $3.00 for every $1.00 spent.
* General Electric spends 4% of its payroll on special leadership development projects.
You know what these companies all have in common? Their commitment to training begins with the top leaders. They are perpetual learners and they walk their talk.

What skills does your organization focus on? What’s your education budget? Are you, as a leader, a perpetual learner?
The difference found in organizations with a high priority on learning and those without is leadership, without which organizational learning is unfocused- lacking in energy, force, cohesion and purpose.