Why Great Leaders Should Always Be Learning

Why Great Leaders Should Always Be Learning

Whether they’re the heads of large international organizations with thousands of employees or the owners of small businesses with just a handful of workers, the modern age absolutely demands that leaders always be learning. This is because the world simply moves too fast not to — not only in terms of technology, innovation, and digitization, but also in terms of ethical norms and sustainability.

Fortunately, good leaders know how important adaptability fueled by consistent analysis is and use it to successfully guide their crew through the safe waters. Without reliable and up-to-date knowledge, on the other hand, leaders risk losing everything, stranded in high seas of change.

The Tide of Digital Disruption

Digital disruption is what happens when new technologies and innovations fundamentally change the way that we do business, or even how the world works. Movie rental businesses experienced the fallout of digital disruption when online streaming became mainstream, for example. For even broader scale, the experts at TechTarget explain how streaming has changed advertising:

The rapid increase in the use of mobile devices for personal use and work, a shift sometimes referred to as the consumerization of IT, has increased the potential for digital disruption across many industries. A powerful example is the way Amazon, Netflix and Hulu Plus have disrupted the media and entertainment industries by changing how content is accessed by customers and monetized by advertisers. For example, the CBS, NBC and ABC networks in the United States still receive income from broadcasting television shows, but they can't charge as much for advertising as they could when there were only three networks and all viewers used television sets to consume content.

The takeaway here is that leaders always need to keep an eye on the pulse of disruption in their industry and make sure to adapt to them. This might mean allowing more employees to work remotely, utilizing unified communications solutions to conduct business, or it might mean making sure your business has a multi-channel presence on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.

Adaptive New Leadership Styles

In the same way that leaders will need to adapt to the digital world around them, they’ll also need to adapt the ways that they lead in that world. A repertoire of leadership styles allow managers and executives to handle any situation, becoming something of a managerial Swiss Army knife.

The Wall Street Journal lists six different leadership styles that have been identified by author Daniel Goleman in his book “Primal Leadership”. These styles are:

  1. Visionary: “Visionary leaders articulate where a group is going, but not how it will get there – setting people free to innovate, experiment, take calculated risks,” write Mr. Goleman and his coauthors.
  2. Coaching: Coaching works best, Mr. Goleman writes, “with employees who show initiative and want more professional development.”
  3. Affiliative: Mr. Goleman argues this approach is particularly valuable “when trying to heighten team harmony, increase morale, improve communication or repair broken trust in an organization.”
  4. Democratic: This style draws on people’s knowledge and skills, and creates a group commitment to the resulting goals.
  5. Pacesetting: In this style, the leader sets high standards for performance. He or she is “obsessive about doing things better and faster, and asks the same of everyone.” But Mr. Goleman warns this style should be used sparingly.
  6. Commanding: This is classic model of “military” style leadership – probably the most often used, but the least often effective … Mr. Goleman argues it is only effective in a crisis, when an urgent turnaround is needed.

These adaptive leadership styles not only get the job done, but they serve to keep employees happy and motivated. According to Ohio University, the biggest determination for employee engagement is each employee’s relationship toward supervisors — and only 29 percent of employees in the workplace generally consider themselves “fully engaged” with their work.

Good leaders must always be practicing new, adaptive leadership styles to stay relevant and fresh to a multi-generational workforce.

Furthering Your Education

One strategy that leaders can employ is by pursuing further education, specifically graduate degrees like the MBA. According to Context, the MBA is the most popular degree in the country, accounting for more than 25 percent of all graduate degrees awarded — and not only that, but can be obtained via an executive MBA (EMBA) program, which is designed for business professionals who are already mid-career and can be earned while working full-time.

Of course, not everybody is convinced the MBA is worth it for them. The experts at Arizona State University Online write that those who are on the fence should consider these questions to help them figure out if the degree is right for them:

  • Do you aspire to be a leader? Graduate education can make job candidates more attractive for certain leadership roles, including C-suite positions.
  • Do you want to grow your skills? 31 percent of 2017 prospective MBA students pursued the degree due to perceived lack of skills to be competitive, while many polled wanted an MBA to improve their management, leadership and technical skills.
  • Do you want hands-on experience? MBA programs often facilitate team-based learning, guest speakers, group projects and interactive technology for a comprehensive learning experience.
  • Do you want to build your professional network? Alumni network connections can help facilitate introductions to hiring managers at various companies.

Traditional graduate education, of course, isn’t the only way to stay up on knowledge. Consistently reading blog posts from authoritative industry publications and following thought leaders is another great way to stay educated.

Regardless of whether or not leaders in our brave, new, digital world decide to continue their learning via pursuit of a master’s degree, or whether they’re staying informed through non-traditional means, one thing is for certain: there’s no way that leaders can afford not to adopt continued and consistent learning as the norm. Active leaders will naturally be lead to the wellsprings of knowledge, but those who kick back will be left behind by a world that’s moving quickly. Don’t get left behind — keep your leadership smarts up.

 

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