The moment you stop learning as a leader is the moment you stop leading. Growing organizations require growing leaders. When you stop growing, the organization stops growing with you. This is why a learning mindset is crucial in leadership.
Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Every leader should approach education as a lifestyle.
Whether you are looking to pursue traditional educational opportunities, such as a degree or certification, or just seeking other ways to develop as a leader, here are five tips to help you establish an attitude of lifelong learning.
- Don’t pivot from your calling – Every moment in life can be a learning opportunity. We learn from the past, live in the present and place our hope in the future. Along the way, you will face circumstances that will block your vision or calling in life. Stay focused on the future. Surround yourself with knowledge and people who will equip you for what is ahead. This will help you endure any unexpected challenges that may come your way.
- Take on humility – Pride and arrogance can prevent you from developing into the leader you were meant to be. Be humble about what you have yet to learn. Recognize that you are not always the smartest person in the room. There are so many things you still have to discover, even in your area of expertise. An eagerness to learn will prevent you from succumbing to a resistant attitude. Remember, our world is ever-changing. If you are going to lead effectively in the 21st century, you have to be willing to adapt.
- Integrate discipline into your life – Establishing new patterns doesn’t happen by accident. You have to incorporate them into every facet of your life. Some of the greatest leaders I know carve out time to learn through reading books, engaging in conversations with others and researching topics they want to know more about. Discipline requires sacrifice and follow through. It may mean you give up an hour of something you enjoy in order to continue to grow.
- Embrace the unknown – We all know the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” I think the opposite is true. Cultivate an attitude of expectancy. Always look outside of the box. Embracing the unknown reminds me of reading a book. It may take days or even weeks for me to finish the story, yet there’s so much beauty in the process – different skills I learn or concepts I discover. If I hadn’t picked up that book, I might have missed out on a new adventure of growth. Maybe there is a class you want to take or a degree you want to earn. Don’t be afraid to jump in and be open to the next adventure.
- Experience life like a child – As a parent, I loved watching my children discover new things. There was hardly a moment that they did not show a sense of wonder. Even actions that I thought were ordinary, like turning on a lamp, were met with awe. What if we approached life in that same way? Instead of seeing education or learning as a task, let’s embrace it as an opportunity for discovery. Let’s approach everything as incredible and new.
While you establish a lifelong learning mindset, seek opportunities for personal and professional growth. Whether that be finding a mentor, volunteering, earning a certification, or serving in your local community or church, there are many ways to pursue your calling. When I knew God had placed me in higher education, I went on to pursue my master’s and doctoral degrees.* I realized the significance of equipping myself with all the tools and resources I needed to prepare me for what God had planned.
*For essential advice on pursuing higher education for you or others around you, check out my book, “The Modern Guide to College.”