This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
Learning is not compulsory…neither is survival.
– W. Edwards Deming
Many, if not most people go to school and college, and then, when they are finished, rarely open another book (at least one with big words in it). They may continue to grow their skills and knowledge through experience, but this is the slow boat to improvement.
Over the years, I’ve found that the primary predictor of executive leadership competency is the desire to seek, learn, analyze, distill, and share new knowledge. It doesn’t necessarily have to be within the leader’s current field or competency, nor does it have to be strictly via reading books. There are multiple path- ways to new knowledge, including online courses, magazines, and workshops.
Gaining new knowledge can also mean gaining new perspectives. As I discussed earlier, in a world of multiple sources of information, it is very easy to succumb to confirmation bias and only embrace information that fits our existing perspective. In reality, there is almost always some truth in every perspective. Challenge yourself to mindfully look at other perspectives on political, scientific, or social issues in an unbiased manner. You may not change your mind, but you will grow and your positions will be more authentic.
I try to read one fiction and one non-fiction book each month, which is sometimes difficult with my schedule. The non- fiction books, generally business-related, challenge me intellectually. The fiction, often science fiction or action thrillers, challenge my imagination. Each morning, I read The Wall Street Journal on my iPad, forwarding articles to friends and family that I find interesting. I purposely try to read articles from different political sources instead of only the ones that agree with my perspectives. I try to continually evaluate my perspectives, think about where bias is setting in and develop countermeasures to overcome the bias.
Think about your own pursuit of knowledge. What have you learned recently? What do you want or need to learn this year? How will you do it? What will you do with the new knowledge? How does it fit in with your new self-awareness? How will you encourage and provide opportunities for your team to learn?