What if someone was as much a student as a leader? The result would be a well-balanced, growth-oriented individual. Although this would generally be true, the answer does not stop here.
Many view being a student as something young people do. A student leaving a campus never looks back, right? Some leaders have done this sooner rather than later. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Mark Zuckerberg come to mind. Entrepreneurs are leaders, not students.
Some are just comfortable with who they are and believe they are a leader now and forever more. Raise your hand if you believe this.
Another important piece of information may be important to mention before you raise your hand too high. What Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Mark Zuckerberg also have in common is that they are CEOs who grew with their company. Granted, Steve Jobs was pushed out but later returned and led the company stronger than before.
The reason why this important is most entrepreneurial CEOs get pushed out completely. Here is a statistic to consider from a Harvard Business Review article entitled “The Founders Dilemma.”
“By the time the ventures were three years old, 50% of founders were no longer the CEO; in year four, only 40% were still in the corner office; and fewer than 25% led their companies’ initial public offerings.”
How does this relate to being a student as much as a leader?
The answer is simply this. Leaders with staying power always remain students. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Mark Zuckerberg remained students as much as leaders. They continued to learn, adapt, change, and much more. They were open-minded to others as well as new thinking and learning.
I am an imperfect leader yet I always try to learn and become better in what I do. I continue to be a student as much as a leader. As leaders, we need to continue to take this approach. The reasons why to be a student as much as a leader:
- Be relevant in your company, department, and/or team
- Be smart about trends, shifts, and changing assumptions
- Be engaging to explore, discover, understand, and apply different viewpoints
- Be purpose-centered rather than self-centered, focusing on how to develop the higher cause versus doing things only your way
Taking the time to be a student as much as a leader will elevate what you do and how you do it. (tweet to share)
Guiding Thoughts to Being a Student as Much as a Leader
The guiding thoughts to being a student as much as a leader are uncomplicated yet demanding.
Learn more than you tell. Absorb once in a while. Listen to other viewpoints. Tell less. Read more. You do not have all the answers. If you think you do, you are not a leader. If you think you have all the answers, challenge yourself.
Learn to act better. Simply change. Make changes that matter most for your organization and culture. Leaders who do not make positive changes become irrelevant. Worse, they become bad leaders. Leaders are people who become better than they were a month or year ago. Learn to grow… progressively.
Learn to help others learn. The best classes are usually ones that use real life case studies. The best classes are the ones that begin with open-ended questions, sparking thoughts and conversations. Be the leader that engages others to think and grow. Be the leader who supports others to become better leaders. Show the way in how you apply what you learn and encourage others to always be a student of leadership, life, markets, and more.
The thought process of being a student as much as a leader is about growth. The first part of the growth is self. The other part of growth are others. A leader’s responsibility is self-growth along with empowering others to grow. Equally important is to embrace others and the diversity they bring. Within others, much can be learned.
Stand up, Sit down: Leading and Learning
There are times to stand up as a leader with clarity of purpose and direction. There are times to sit down as a student, learning at conferences, classes, books, and through others. Sitting down as a student will enable us to stand up stronger as a leader. More than this, our leadership relevance will be present in a sustainable and positive way. This is leadership refreshed.
How do you meet the challenge of being a student as much as a leader?
Join the Conversation
A Challenge: Be a Student as Much as a Leader
Great post Jon! This quote really resonates: “Leaders with staying power always remain students. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Mark Zuckerberg remained students as much as leaders. They continued to learn, adapt, change, and much more. They were open-minded to others as well as new thinking and learning.”
I am always inspired by people in their 80’s and 90’s that have continued to learn, adapt, change, remain open-minded to others and new thinking. ~Famous or not – they are people that have discovered the fountain of youth and wisdom!
I agree, Chery. No matter the age or position, continuing to learn and grow is such an admirable trait and action taken. Thanks! Jon
Appreciate learn to help others learn. Early in my career, I would lead work efforts by laying out the vision and then telling everyone what we needed to do – and we were off and running. Later in my career, I learned to rely on powerful questions to uncover next steps. Sometimes it was what I was thinking but oftentimes it was another approach that deserved to be fleshed out and put into action.
I’ve also discovered that formal learning doesn’t have to stop when you reach the leadership ranks. I got more certifications after I was a VP than I did early in my career when I was struggling to figure things out. It was only as a more senior leader that I realized that my knowledge and experiences needed to change and grow or I’d be left behind.
Another great article from you, Jon!
Great examples, Alli, and a great way to lead by example as well. We need to be students as much as leaders to strengthen every aspect of what we do and how we do it. Thanks! Jon
Great post Jon-I understand that every experience gives me the opportunity to learn and improve, however I don’t always recognize the lesson. I am an imperfect leader, and I am grateful! I have the ability to grow and learn, and encourage my team to challenge both me and the system we work in. Thank you for the reminder that leadership is a journey for everyone!
Thank you, Kathy, for your comment and insights. Appreciate it. And, yes, in every opportunity and challenge, there is a lesson. We just need to take the time to think and adjust. Thank you! Jon