I strongly believe being a leader is something each one of us has the ability to do.
I also believe leadership is imperative to a successful and fulfilling life. There are many qualities that make up effective leaders including: focus, confidence, passion, innovation, patience and integrity. But there is one quality I feel is the most important in order to be an exceptional leader: the ability to learn.
I am the leader of an organization that teaches children to be Leaders. What organization is this? A public charter school. Not just any public charter school, but a Leader In Me public charter school called Foothill Leadership Academy. A Leader In Me school uses the 7 Habit of Highly Effective People (Dr. Stephen R. Covey) as part of a daily journey to instill in the minds of these amazing young people that they are all leaders. After all, while children only make up 20% of our population, they make up 100% of our future, so what they learn and what they create, matters! As the founder and Executive Director of the organization, I have learned throughout the past 5 years that embracing the act of learning, constantly seeking out information through books, podcasts and people, is really what creates the foundation for exceptional leadership.
If you want to be an effective leader, you must possess the ability to learn. And if you do not currently possess this drive and desire, you must cultivate it, and soon.
How do you cultivate this desire to learn?
1. Find someone who knows more than you (hint: there are A LOT of people who should fall into this category!)
For me, this means reading a lot of books! I love anything by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Right now I’m enjoying John C. Maxwell. In the past I’ve learned from books by Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss. I also love listening to podcasts by leaders like Michael Hyatt and Tony Robbins. All people who know much more than I do that I can learn from.
2. Take advantage of any free resources
The library, not just a place to take kids for story time! (Yes, I have 3 children. No, we do not do story time because they are not the sit-still-and-be-quiet type of children). There are also MANY websites that offer free courses (such as coursera.com and openculture.com) that are definitely worth taking a look into.
3. Research subjects that are not related to your current passion
“Creative insights often occur by making unusual connections: seeing analogies between ideas that have not previously been related. All of our existing ideas have creative possibilities.”
—Sir Ken Robinson
I find inspiration in unlikely places. Listening to a lecture on one topic, but being able to relate it back to another and through a different lens is a great way to increase my capacity to learn.
At a certain point, it will be your ability to learn, and to learn quickly, that will set you apart from others. This will be a defining quality for you as a leader. Being a learner creates opportunities that were never there before. And in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “opportunities are rarely offered, they are seized.”
What are you learning now? Who are you learning from? I would love to hear, so I can learn from YOU!