As a Leader, Be Continually Learning

Ron McIntyre
3 min readMay 27, 2024

Leaders must be continuous learners. I always respect continuously learning leaders because they challenge their assumptions, bring more knowledge each time we converse, and inspire their teams to do the same. The same applies to employees, who can benefit from continuous learning by gaining new skills, broadening their perspectives, and staying ahead in their careers.

Leaders have a crucial role in fostering a learning culture. They often encourage and sometimes demand that employees learn new skills, systems, or processes based on the company’s needs. However, trust and engagement will be limited if the leader is not actively part of the learning experience, leading by example and providing resources and opportunities for learning.

There are also too many cases where managers pay lip service to training because it is dictated by senior leadership. In these cases, we often find employees take the assigned training, but the manager or boss doesn’t have time or doesn’t want to invest the money in letting the employee use their new skills. This can lead to the employee losing the training or taking it to the next job.

Learning can take many different shapes, so here are a few ways to continuously learn as a leader — and encourage your team to do the same.

Read at least one book per month.

Reading is important. By reading the ideas, thoughts, and actions of others, you can discover how you agree or disagree. You can then debate the views you’ve read with your team; I promise you will learn from the discussion.

Become a Listening Machine

Being open to new ideas is a key aspect of continuous learning. You can learn from listening to podcasts, for example. Listening intently to conversations around you and in meetings will open your eyes to new opportunities. Resist the temptation to interrupt. Analyze what you heard, then respond appropriately, hopefully with positive questions or actions. This openness to new ideas will make the learning process simpler and more effective and foster a culture of innovation and adaptability in your team.

Provide Engaging Events

As a leader, you should encourage question-and-answer sessions during the workday to challenge your employees to learn something outside their responsibilities. This will stimulate their brains by focusing on something unexpected, enhancing their creativity and brainstorming skills.

Be an Example — Action speaks louder than words.

Challenge yourself and your team to attend a new workshop or class once a quarter. Choose skills that are entirely outside of your function, or that would be complementary. Woodworking, cooking, or coding classes can exercise different parts of your brain and allow you to think more critically.

Relearn and Unlearn

Learning doesn’t always mean learning something completely new. Nothing sticks forever (even riding a bike?), so relearning can be a precious activity when you lose some finely tuned skills.

Skills can also become antiquated and have no economic value, so it is always a good idea to check the marketplace and decide if there are some skills that you need to let go of or replace. These are always challenging assessments but critical for you and your organization.

Sometimes, skills can move into a niche slot and be very profitable if you are willing to continue in that skill and anticipate the marketplace for the niche’s size reduction. Cobol is a perfect example; experts have been telling us there would be no need for Cobol programmers, yet today, the people who know Cobol are getting some excellent income from niche projects. Understand the risks you face when you go down this path.

Embracing continuous learning is not just a habit. It’s a necessity. Whether you’re a leader or an employee, failing to push yourself to learn continuously can lead to stagnation. It hampers your ability to come up with new ideas, gain fresh perspectives, and maintain the relevance of your skills. In today’s competitive world, this can be detrimental to your career.

Takeaway: By learning something new daily, strive to become more valuable to your team, clients, and yourself. Never be afraid to relearn or unlearn any skill. This is what will make your life more exciting.

Leadership Question: How do you and your team walk the talk regarding learning, reading, and soft skills? How can you empower people to share positive experiences?

Notes:

Keys: |Application: Leaders and Employees |Status: Tactical |Duration: DNA Embed |Impact: High

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Ron McIntyre

Ron McIntyre is a Leadership Anthropologist, Author, and Consultant, who, in semi-retirement, is looking to help people who really want to make a difference.