Just like any other professional practice, leadership is both an art and a science. The science part is knowing the theory and principles of leadership and the art is how we apply them to our own situations. Just like any other profession (engineering, medicine, accountancy), leaders need to be continually enhancing their knowledge and developing their skills. The truly successful leaders all have a strong commitment to continuously developing their capabilities through active learning. They are constantly putting in the extra effort to get better in their chosen field. Regardless of the industry we operate in, as leaders, we are no different.
We know that nothing stands still in the world of business and, in order to remain ahead of the curve, we need to continuously grow our own skills and capabilities. This requires an insatiable curiosity for knowledge about our profession (leadership). We must continuously seek out new and different theories to better understand both the science and the art of leadership. We can then apply this science in a manner that meets our particular needs (the art part of the equation).
So how do we become continuous learners? I read an article recently, Leadership and Learning by Will Lukang, which identified a number of specific activities that leaders at all levels should seek to adopt to help them become continuous learners.
Read often. Reading the latest articles, books and magazines on leadership is an inexpensive way of learning new things and can be done at your own pace. Brian Tracy believed that every leader needed to put aside one hour per day to read about leadership. How much time are you spending reading about leadership?
Get and be a mentor. You can learn from others experiences: both their successes and their failures. Find yourself a mentor, someone you respect and trust and learn from their experiences and avoid the easy mistakes. You should also seek to become mentor for your own people. Share your experiences with your team to help them learn and get better.
Putting your hand up to take part in a new project can help you learn new things, meet new people and really challenge yourself. This is particularly the case if the project is something outside of your comfort zone.
Nothing helps you learn more than experiencing something yourself. It is important to make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes can be a valuable learning tool so don’t be afraid to fall down because you can always get back up and go again. As Richard Branson said ‘You learn by doing, and falling down’.
Remember if you want to be great leader, then you need to develop the ability to consistently learn new and better ways to lead your teams. As John F. Kennedy said ’Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other’. How are you enhancing your understanding of the art and science of leadership?