“The Learning CEO” is a phrase I coined a number of years back to help my clients understand the high correlation between actionable, applied knowledge and success as a leader. As an advisor to CEOs, there is little doubt that I’m passionate about CEO development. There is one simple reason why…it works. Great CEOs are like a sponge when it comes to the acquisition of knowledge, the development of new skill sets, and the constant refinement of existing competencies. In today’s post I’ll examine the benefits of being a Learning CEO.
I get along very well with successful CEOs largely because our relationships are often focused on both the acquisition and application of knowledge. Conversely, I have little patience for those leaders who are “too busy” or “too smart” or “too important” to learn. Put simply, if you’re not learning you have no business leading. I believe Michael Angelo said it best when he uttered the words “Ancora Imparo” which when translated from the Italian means “I am still learning.” By the way, his first public use of this phrase was noted to have been on his 87th Birthday. I don’t know about you, but I’m still learning. I try and have the mind-set of learning something from every interaction I have, as well as making sure that I give something of value to others in my interactions with them.
Let me be clear that when I speak of “The Learning CEO” I’m not promoting intellectual elitism, rather I’m addressing those who have a true and sincere passion for learning…there is a difference. Intellectual elitists are by-in-large braggarts that acquire knowledge (or feign possession thereof) for public acclaim and their own self-promotion. By contrast, Learning CEOs spend much more time acquiring and then applying knowledge, than engaging in public displays of their “superior” intellect.
In concurrence with Michael Angelo’s quote above, I have never been a believer in the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In fact quite to the contrary, I believe anyone (yes I mean anyone) can change/learn/grow/develop given one prerequisite; the desire to do so. When it comes to topic of learning, it has been my experience that there are generally three types of people: those that constantly seek to acquire knowledge, those that think they already know it all, and those that just don’t care. What distinguishes members of one group from another rarely has anything to do with intellect, wealth, social pedigree, career standing, or other like pursuits…It has everything to do with desire.
Examine for a moment the following scenario that is regrettably all too common…How many times have you observed an older and more experienced person fail to solve a problem that a younger and less experienced person solved with seemingly little effort? While experience is a valuable commodity, in-and-of-itself, and to the exclusion of other traits and characteristics, the sole reliance on experience can be a barrier to professional growth and maturity. Don’t rely on experience as a substitute for continued development, but aggressively seek to augment your experience with new learning as an enhancement and accelerant to your experience.
Whether young or old, experienced or inexperienced, the best way to approach personal and professional development is to always stay in the learning zone. When you think you have all the answers is when you are headed straight for the proverbial brick wall. Always seek out people who know more than you do, and actively pursue learning from them. That being said, most things in life happen as a result of choices we make…It is clearly within your grasp to make the choice to gain an understanding of what it is that you don’t know, and determine how you want to deal with that situation. It’s your choice…choose wisely.
What have you learned recently that has added value to your career? Share it with others in the comments section below…
Mike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.