We never stop learning. That’s so true—even of today’s business leaders who too often think that they know it all, or at least know best, about their organization’s direction.
To make sure that lifelong learning leadership never stops, a business executive must develop his or her own strategy for success that includes a combination of training, development and education. I make this recommendation based on a professional lifetime of study and work coaching executives to maximize their effectiveness.
The essential skills of leadership training required for optimal performance can be subsumed under the category of emotional strength. These skills include listening, empathizing, giving full attention to direct reports and other key employees, responding to others with respect and speaking to others with specificity.
Leadership development, by my definition, includes making a sincere effort to learn, grow and develop specific collaborative skills. This is called being a “coachable” leader, which I discussed in my May 5 posting.
Under the category of leadership education, today’s executives must know before they arrive in the C-suite that there is expansive scientific research and literature that leads to an understanding of the principles and practices of management and leadership.
Almost every MBA program has a few courses in leadership training, education or development (think Wharton’s Leadership 101 course). However, according to the last count, there are only a handful of schools that offer a master’s degree program in leadership that includes skills training, study of the research in management and leadership, and developmental coaching in strategy leadership.
It’s not that MBA programs de-value leadership training. Rather, it’s that leadership training has emerged as a separate academic discipline only in the past few decades, and competition is fierce among business school faculty to add new courses. And adding a new course—let alone a specialized program—usually requires eliminating a different course.
The good news is that because an attempt to design and develop an academic program must include a reading list showing the research, a leadership reading list can be assembled.
I am sure you have favorites such as Good to Great, by Jim Collins, and Leadership, by James MacGregor Burns. I would also include Everyone a Leader by Horst Bergmann, Kathleen Hurson and Darlene Russ-Eft on the leadership reading list. As an author of eight books, including my 2006 book, Leadership For Everyone (McGraw-Hill), I (immodestly) would put all eight on the list.
Ask your peers where they find inspiration. Remember, as a leader, it’s important to keep learning. Always.