Effective Leaders are Lifelong Learners – Here’s Why

Sky Capriolo

Learning absolutely does not stop after formal schooling ends. We all have to learn new technology as it comes out. On-the-job-training is essential to move forward. As we experience new facets of life, we have to learn new things to adapt and thrive. Lifelong learners crave new information, novel experiences and expanding their knowledge regularly. As you’ll read below, those who seek out learning opportunities have the edge over those who think they already know it all.

At Motivation Excellence, we value our partnerships with other companies. One such relationship we enjoy cultivating is with Jeff Sucec of Performance Potential, Inc. Sucec (pronounced Sue-seck) is a longtime management and leadership coach, author and speaker. His company uses innovative approaches to help businesses maximize growth potential. Sucec is also an avid believer in the inherent value of creating a company culture of lifelong learning.

“The greatest opportunity for competitive differentiation comes through the personal and professional growth of your people. Therefore, it is incumbent for companies to create “learning organizations” for individuals to embrace the reciprocal responsibilities of becoming lifelong learners,” says Sucec.

Sucec adds that leaders who exhibit this trait are far more effective than leaders who have the “know-it-all” or “expert mind” attitude, as Sucec labels it.

“Leaders who embrace an “expert mind” orientation place limitations for ongoing success on an organization and impede the growth of their employees…Leaders who opt for this approach also fall victim to ongoing “expectancy bias.” This means they pay attention to, and inappropriately quickly endorse, information that aligns with their prior preconceived notions. They also promptly discredit new information that does not fit their view of the world. The corresponding decisions can have disastrous consequences.”

In contrast, Sucec says, a leader with a lifelong learning approach fosters curiosity and asks many questions, leading oftentimes to more questions, and the decision-making process gets more expansive and dynamic. This path can lead to better opportunities for growth, inclusion and innovation.

Sucec is not alone in this assessment. Leadership author and speaker John Maxwell agrees that curious leaders never stop growing because they never stop learning. When someone is open to feedback, they are more approachable, coachable and better aligned to grow. Being open-minded is critical to learning. We wrote about that in 2020.

Learning is Part of Living

A quest for curiosity isn’t bound by the borders of your business world. It enhances your personal life too! SkillsYouNeed.com reports that lifelong learning boosts confidence, self-esteem and mental adaptability.

There’s never been a better time to be a lifelong learner! We live in a time when getting answers to questions is literally at the tip of our fingers. When I was a kid, we had to go to a library and conquer the Dewey decimal system to find actual books to answer our questions. Now we can ask Siri or Google and the library is transported through our phone! 

With the ability to access great breadths of information comes the responsibility to consume it wisely. Make sure you’re consulting credible sources, cross-referencing findings and challenging your already held beliefs.

Sucec agrees, adding, “It is critical to vet your sources.  Are you visiting well-recognized sites/sources, and is there useful “word of mouth” endorsement from individuals you respect? These are two approaches I regularly use to guide what and where I learn, and the quality of the perceived value.”

With those tips in mind, by all means, use the internet and all its resources to explore your passions and curiosities. Learn more about Betty White (she just turned 99!). Find a video about jumpstarting your vehicle’s battery. Get a tutorial on the amazing things your camera phone can do. You see? Lifelong learning is within your grasp right now!

Back to Business

We know a thirst for self-education is a great trait of an effective leader and a well-rounded person. We also know that being open to learning will be necessary as we forge our way into longer lives and careers. A Pew Research Center study found 87% of adults in the workforce acknowledge that further training to acquire new skills will be needed to keep up with changes in the workplace.

If you feel like you’re a stunted learner and don’t know where to begin to light the internal fire of curiosity, start small and fan the ember slowly. Pick a new topic to explore each week and spend at least 10 minutes a day reading about it. Once a month try a new hobby or exercise. It could be ballroom dancing in March and rollerblading in April. Learn a simple knitting technique in July and have your computer teach you the card game Hearts in October. Talk to older people, younger people and those outside your set social circle. Be an active listener.

Sucec says dedicate yourself and you’ll enhance your lifelong learning skillset.

“Being a lifelong learner does require discipline, dedication to a routine, and recognizing and appreciating when you’re in a “state of flow” – when time virtually stands still and your energy seems limitless – and this newly acquired knowledge aligns with a current or newly discovered passion.  You get energized by the overall process and some “ah ha!” moments, then you share the acquired knowledge with others and get reinforced by favorable responses. That’s when you realize you want to replicate this process in other arenas and you get hooked!”

Recently, three of our Motivation Excellence colleagues studied and took the Certified Incentive Travel Professional exam created by SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence). All three of them have long careers in this industry and found the process for this certification not only interesting but valuable to their continued education in this industry. You can hear directly from Business Development Director Tom Betley in a short video on our website.

We all have the ability to be lifelong learners. Remember, your capacity to learn is directly correlated to your willingness to learn. Even if you’re not intentionally setting out to gain knowledge, you can always set yourself up to be ready when the opportunity happens. I’ll leave you with Sucec’s thoughts on the power of intention as it relates to this topic, (and honestly, many others).

“Embracing a “glass half full,” (not half empty) mindset is critical. You must regularly imagine what you want to accomplish. Life is precious and every moment must count. When you position yourself as a receptive vessel for new experiences and knowledge, focus on the present moment, and have gratitude for what comes your way, then synchronicity takes hold…you internalize that being a lifelong learner is the only path that truly makes sense. Then the adventure begins!”

Happy travels all!

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