Life, especially in business, is very much like walking up a descending escalator: when we stand still, we fall backwards and slip behind (behind our competitors, our customers, the best version of ourselves). We need to continuously put one foot in front of the other and keep moving, just to stand still. To advance, we need to keep learning, because learning and leading are inextricably linked.
The need for learning has never been greater because the escalator is moving faster than ever before. The pace of change has picked up. Organisations have bigger ambitions, more complex structures and greater resource constraints. And all this in the wider context of an unstable economic environment.
The era of the all-seeing, all-knowing leader is in the past. It’s impossible for one person to be in control of every moving part. Leaders can no longer be the subject experts they once were, and nor can they act as hands-on managers. In this environment, it is only by focusing on learning and leading (rather than on doing and controlling) that progress can be made.
Impact on teams
On this fast-moving escalator there is a knock-on effect for teams too. They are not passengers, but rather dynamic participants who also need to step up and develop their own leadership skills. Their learning and leading cues are to be accountable, to take decisions, to be prepared to try and fail. There isn’t enough time for teams to be frequently asking permission. Once the direction (the ‘what’ and ‘why’) has been set by the leader, team members must be empowered to execute the ‘how’ (you can find out more about this here).
New leadership equation
This fundamental shift in emphasis points to a new leadership equation for our times:
LEARNING + LEADING = LEADERSHIP
One without the other really doesn’t work, not in the medium to long term, and certainly doesn’t deliver sustainable success. Leaders must be willing to admit they don’t have all the answers and open themselves (and their teams) up to learning. This requires humility and authenticity, and the creation of a psychologically safe environment where everyone feels able to admit mistakes and own their shortcomings.
Learning how to learn
As an organisation, our focus is on helping leaders learn how to lead and learn how to learn. Taking the first step outside the comfort zone of familiar hierarchies can be a major leap for many people, and it often requires a fundamental cultural shift.
Using tools such as After Action Review, as well as team and leadership development programmes and mentoring services, we take our clients by the hand and guide them through the process, instilling confidence and building learning and leading skills which can transform their performance and happiness at work.
Look at any league table of corporate high performers and you’ll see that the companies which remain at the top are constantly reinventing themselves, while those which don’t know how to learn and adapt fall by the wayside.
To find out more about how we can help you with developing your learning and leading skills, please get in touch.