Best leaders are insatiable learners

Leadership as a subject tends to overshadow everything else when raised. Small fortunes are spent by organisations trying to coax leadership from their executives – presumably with the ultimate aim of improving the organisation’s performance, but can it be learnt or is it a trait only found within certain individuals?

In an interesting twist on the topic, Bill Taylor, who co-founded US magazine Fast Company, discussed constant learning as a key attribute of leaders in a recent blog.

Quoting legendary US thinker, the late John W. Gardner, Taylor said: “Be interested. Everyone wants to be interesting, but the vitalising thing is to be interested. As the proverb says, ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’”

Taylor then stated: “In these head-spinning times, even more so than when John Gardner offered his timeless advice, the challenge for leaders is not to out-hustle, out-muscle, or out-maneouvre the competition. It is to out-think the competition in ways big and small, to develop a unique point of view about the future and get there before anyone else does.

“The best leaders I have gotten to know are not just the boldest thinkers; they are the most insatiable learners.”

The blog raises some possibly awkward questions we need to ask ourselves – such as whether we spend most of our time with people exactly like us.

Taylor contends the best leaders do not, instead they are constantly undertaking new things.

Taylor urges us, as leaders or aspirant leaders “to seek out new sources of inspiration, to visit a lab whose work you do not really understand, to attend a conference you should not be at.

“When you’re a kid, every day is full of firsts, full of new experiences. As you get older, your firsts become fewer and fewer. If you want to stay young, you have to work to keep trying new things.”

To read the full blog entry, please click here.