Chapter 7: Developing A Lifestyle Of Learning

Great leaders are great readers.
But not every great reader
is a great leader.

– Margaret Thatcher

When the student is ready,
the teacher will come.

– Anonymous

Learning is a lifelong commitment for you.

As a leader, your journey to grow never ends. There’s never a point where you can safely say that you have arrived.

You will never be perfect in this lifetime, but you must always continually strive for growth and improvement.

The saw, after being used for a period of time, becomes dull. It then takes extra effort than before to cut down a tree. To solve that problem, the saw will be sent for sharpening so that it can once again be effective in cutting down trees again.

This principle applies to our life too. By constantly growing in our level of ability, skill and character, we are equipped to handle life’s challenges better.

As a leader, you become more effective in solving issues in the team and the organization when you commit yourself to constant growth.

I always believed the size of any organization grows with its leader.

If the leader is growing, then the organization will grow with it. If growth is stunted in the organization, it usually means that the leader has not been growing personally in his life.

This is because as the leader grows, he learns to solve bigger problems, find better solutions and in that process, build an organization that adds more value to the community and hence grows.

If you want to be a leader who will make a lasting impact in your community, then continual growth is a must for you.

Before we talk about all the ways you can grow as a leader, first we must come to the root; what is your attitude towards learning?

7.1 Your Attitude towards Learning

What is your attitude towards learning?

In a survey by Harvard Business Review, it was shown that only 10% of the population has what’s called the “the learning mindset”. These are the people who seek out and enjoy learning.

Wow.

Only 10% of people in this world are actually committed to learning something beyond what their job scope requires.

Are you in this 10% category? If you’ve come to my website , you’re most probably in the 10% category.

What happens to the other 90%? The other 90% of the population will not look to improve their skills unless they have to as part of their job requirement.

Because of their lack of initiative in growing and a lukewarm attitude towards learning, these 90% of people will never become people of significance in their lives.

They had a choice to become somebody in this lifetime; someone who will make a lasting impact in their community; someone with a deep, meaningful and fulfilling life; but with their attitude towards learning, they sentence themselves to a life of mediocrity and routine.

But with this 10% category of people, you can expect to see great things coming out of them; they will rise upon their peers because of their commitment to become better than yesterday.

They will become the CEOs, the entrepreneurs, the pastors, the leaders of tomorrow.

Having a great attitude towards learning means that you stay open to opportunities that help you to grow.

As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Your teacher can appear in various forms; he doesn’t have to be a person. An event, a book, a movie can teach you a lesson.

Sometimes an event could happen that causes you re-evaluate your life goals.

Sometimes a book will remind you that you need to spend more time with your family.

Sometimes a movie will remind you that there are greater things in life to achieve than just material wealth.

In fact, the lessons are out there everyday. When you live your life, you need to have an attitude of openness to pick out these lessons from your environment. These lessons skilfully evade those whose hearts are closed toward learning because they never impose themselves on anyone.

They are not like a real life mentor who will speak to you in your face about what you’re doing wrongly and what part of your life you should evaluate.

These lessons are simply too subtle for the average person uncommitted to growth to pick up.

Ralph Waldo Emerson says; “Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”

Bad times are in fact the best teachers for your life; your successes will not cause you to stop what you’re doing and evaluate your life; your failures will.

Stay open.

So then the question to you today is that: Are you the type of person that picks out these lessons from everyday life?

Would you finish a day satisfied knowing that you were the same today morning and tonight?

Besides staying open to learning opportunities in your everyday life, you must also be intentional in your growth. Here are some ways you can grow:

7.2 Things You Can Practically Do to Grow

7.2.1 Read Books

Books are the most common source to acquire knowledge. Reading is a great habit to acquire.

Through reading, you will gain so much understanding and wisdom through the eyes of someone more experienced than you.

Besides reading the contemporary books on leadership, management, self-improvement and all that; I do suggest that you pick up a biography of a great leader and read it once in a while.

Sometimes the stories of these leaders leave great clues about what really leads to greatness, beyond all the hype that we hear today from the ‘gurus’.

Yes, some books on management and leadership are good, but there are fundamental principles in this world that will lead you to success if you adhere to it; and biographies often provide the clues for you.

7.2.2 Watch Seminars/DVDs/Tapes

Similar to books, seminars, DVDs and tapes are a great option for you to learn from as well. If you find that you learn better visually, I would suggest that you sign up for seminars or purchase DVDs that coach you in the area of your expertise, be it leadership, management, goal-setting, self-improvement and so on.

Most of us learn better visually too and we can pick up more information when we watch instead of read or listen. While a seminar might often be costly, remember that no investment in your education ever goes to waste.

If you’re an auditory learner, then maybe buying tapes would be better for you.

With iTunes offering so many podcasts on self-improvement on their site, it’s a waste for you not to download them FOR FREE!

7.2.3 Watch Movies

Movies are an unconventional way that I learn about life, leadership and more. Many good movies have great lessons in them; and the superb thing about movies is that: they’re telling a story! And we love stories, don’t we?

Once in a while, I head down to the neighbourhood DVD rental store to rent some movies. Besides giving me a time to relax, movies teach me important lessons about life through their storylines.

Stories are wonderful because they speak directly to your heart and touch you deeply. They are unlike theories which speak only to your head.

For example, instead of telling you that your family is extremely important in your life, movies manage to weave these themes beautifully and seamlessly into the storyline and pass you the same message by heart.

If you’re an avid movie lover, you know what I mean.

Of course, you’ll have to be good at filtering out most of the lousy, pointless movies they show on TV nowadays. The thing is, most movies are crap. They appeal to sex and teach people wrong values to live by.

You have to discerning and pick out great movies that teach you life lessons as you enjoy them!

7.2.4 Find a Mentor

Mentors are the greatest blessing to any individual.

If you are someone with a mentor in your life, you’re the few amongst the many.

Mentors are powerful because they can speak to your life in specific situations. Besides just teaching about a certain area, mentors often go beyond it to encompass the all aspects of your life as well.

For example, in a movie I recently watched called Coach Carter, the basketball coach Ken mentored his team not just in the area of basketball, but taught them how to live life beyond basketball and managed to get half his basketball team into university (they would have otherwise gone to the streets as gangsters).

Lesson I learnt: Leadership is never confined in a single arena.

You cannot be a truly great leader in your organization if you’re messing everything else in your life up: your family, finances, spiritual life and so on.

It all comes together as one.

Your life is one.

Mentors are the best in aiding you to piece it all together. They’ve been through it and now they can help you achieve the same as well.

If you’re an individual with a mentor, you’re blessed. Treasure him/her well and press into your mentor’s life. Don’t drift away, but keep finding time to be with this mentor.

If you don’t have a mentor, don’t fret. I myself have lived most of my leadership journey without a formal mentor and a lot of the things I have learnt have been self-taught.

However, keep looking out for one and don’t be afraid to ask someone to be your mentor. Most leaders are willing to invest their time in someone who is willing to learn.

Move on to Chapter 8: Leading by Example

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