4 Requirements for Successful Learning
In today’s corporate world, technologies, capital, people and ideas are in a state of constant evolution. The businesses that thrive in this rapidly changing environment are those that can adapt.
The same is true for leaders: maintaining forward momentum for your team, your organisation and your career requires adaptation and growth, which in turn starts with learning.
What you learn will depend on your role and industry, but below we highlight four requirements that can help make your learning more successful no matter the topic.
Keys to more effective learning
The best leaders equip themselves with a toolkit of skills that help them connect with and inspire their team. Likewise, the best learners approach learning with mindsets and characteristics that improve their ability to absorb and internalize new ideas.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Erika Andersen, an expert in leadership training, identifies four key attributes that are common among leaders who are effective learners:
For your learning to be successful, you must want to learn. In her article, Ms. Andersen points out that leaders sometimes struggle to learn because they are resistant to change – a common trait among most people, not just leaders.
Aspiration means committing yourself to the pursuit of new knowledge and skills. You don’t have to pretend that it won’t be challenging or uncomfortable at times as you dive into a new topic as a beginner, but you do have to convince yourself that the benefits will be worth the struggle.
Learning requires you to acknowledge gaps in your abilities and what you know about a given topic, but this isn’t always easy. As humans, we often have in-built biases that skew our perception of ourselves, including our strengths and weaknesses.
Ms. Andersen highlights the importance of looking critically and objectively in the mirror to better understand your own shortcomings. Leaders with greater self-awareness are better at identifying where their knowledge and skills are lacking, which then allows them to focus on learning that will have the greatest impact.
At its core, learning is about questions – in other words, bombarding a topic with how, what, when, where and why as you gradually figure out how it all fits together. The greater your curiosity, the more likely you are to succeed in peeling back the layers and developing a deep understanding.
Ms. Andersen explains it this way: “Curiosity is what makes us try something until we can do it, or think about something until we understand it.” This kind of learning mindset is something that you can proactively foster by constantly asking why and how. It takes time and energy to dig for answers like this, but the payoff is more insights and greater comprehension.
Any time you’re learning something new, there are bound to be instances when you make mistakes and feel out of your depths. Yet it’s also understandable that the idea of facing these struggles as a novice can be hard to swallow after you’ve worked long and hard to reach a leadership position.
According to Ms. Andersen, this is why vulnerability is an important requirement for leaders striving to be effective learners. You won’t get far in your quest for knowledge unless you’re willing to acknowledge that you don’t know everything. Instead, you must be willing to ask lots of questions and keep trying new things, even when that means failing along the way.
As a leader, learning is your pathway to professional growth as your organisation, your industry and the broader corporate world evolve. And when you embrace learning with aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity and vulnerability, the greater your prospects for successful outcomes.