Qualities of Leadership: Learning

This wasn’t in my original list of leadership qualities, but I’m not quite sure why.  I’ve been teaching my Awana Journey classes that they need to do at one training session per year to keep their leadership skills growing.  The ‘R’ in ‘SERVE’ from The Secret by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller stands for “Reinvent Continuously“.  The seventh habit in Stephen Covey‘s classic book is “Sharpening the Saw”.  Every good leadership paradigm includes some aspect of continuous learning … and yet I missed it … oops.

Learning doesn’t have to mean taking formal classes at a college or university, or training seminars from any number of schools or consulting groups; all those are good ways to learn, and serve an important role in establishing credentials and obtaining certifications, but those aren’t the only way we can increase our knowledge.  Reading a book is an excellent way to learn something new or reinforce something you already know.  Magazines and journals are also good for keeping up in your field of expertise.  With the current prolific nature of the internet, the amount of online information available to the average person is practically infinite.  Some of it is good, and some … well … isn’t — part of the challenge is figuring out what is good and worth spending your time on.  Some of the leadership blogs and podcasts that I follow include:

There are many more blogs and podcasts out there — but I’d suggest you select new ones based on references from people that you know and trust.  That way you can try to maintain a high quality level of the information you’re receiving.

While this is a blog post on leadership, and the material above is specifically on the topic of leadership, there is nothing that says you can only learn in one area.  Broadening your horizons is definitely worthwhile — it can give you new perspectives on what you’re doing, and maybe even help you decide on a career shift!  As an example, during my doctoral work in Artificial Intelligence, I touched briefly on the subjects of Machine Learning and Data Mining; I never had the opportunity to do more than just scratch the surface on either one, but they have continued to intrigue me.  Lately, they have been resurfacing together under the new field of Data Science — so I have started to dig a bit deeper in this field, with the intent to possibly restart some of my research in that direction.  I want to get up to speed in these disciplines, but don’t have the time or the flexibility to be able to take traditional classes from the local colleges or universities.  Fortunately, the internet comes to the rescue again!

There are several online education platforms that have interesting offerings — some even offer certificates of completion that may be useful for certification or continuing education purposes.  Each platform has its good and bad points … but all are useful in keeping the learning attitude.  Platforms that I have personally used are:

  • http://www.edx.org – Courses offered by partner universities in widely varying subject areas (free – certificates available)
  • http://www.coursera.org – An education platform that is more tailored for the online environment (mostly free – certificates available)
  • http://ocw.mit.edu – MIT course material made available online (free, donation requested)

The bottom line here is simple:  In order to be effective as a leader — to be able to adapt to new situations, and to excel in what you do — you can never stop learning.


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