John C Maxwell, a bestselling author and speaker on ‘Leadership’ recently tweeted, “Maturity doesn’t come with age; it comes with acceptance of responsibility.” This, in some ways, shatters all the preconceived notions that connect knowledge with experience and leadership with age. Not that the young-entrepreneurs entirely lack those qualities, yet when it comes to ‘Leadership’, the talents usually mature like wine. Which brings us to the question, how open are leaders to learning? Considering the fact that, they often have years of experience and knowledge in their kitty, do leaders even open up to the necessity of training? And if not, how does the whole learning and growth dynamic work?
Technavio’s industry research report, Global Corporate Leadership Training Market 2017-2021, identified that awareness on the long-term benefits of leadership training program will be one of the major factors that will have a positive impact on the growth of the market. The growth itself is predicted to be at a CAGR of more than 14% by 2021.There are, in fact, two different aspects of training leaders; one is what we popularly call ‘Leadership Training’ where potential leaders (Managers, Team Leads, etc.) are trained to become good leaders. This is the aspect that the report points at. On the other hand, is a more self-driven approach towards learning that leaders partake in themselves, for staying up-to speed with the technological advances, business acumen, and staying on top of their game always.
A Forbes article – 11 Powerful Traits of Successful Leaders, puts ‘Learning Agility’ as one of the key strengths of a good leader. According to the Korn/Ferry Institute, “Learning agility is the ability and willingness to learn from experience and then apply that learning to perform successfully in new situations.’’ However, for this to transpire, learning needs to happen in one way or another. Research proposes that leaders learn more from their challenging leadership experiences when they are in a learning mode, defined as intentionally framing and pursuing each element of the experiential learning process with more of a growth than a fixed mindset. Organizations play a crucial role in creating an environment that supports ‘Leaders’ to stay in the ‘learning mode’, for which effective communication channel, a well-established Learning Management System (LMS) are amongst the primary requisites. So, how do the leaders get into the learning mode, what are the key aspects that trigger the transition from leadership duties to self-developmental, training/learning activities? Below are 3 tried, tested, and proven ways in which the dots between ‘Leaders’ and ‘Learning’ can be connected using a Learning Management System.
1. Cultivate the Art of Enquiry
According to the Forbes Coaches Council, one method with which leaders can expand their thinking when it comes to strategy is by asking the right questions, which can then pave the way towards finding the right answers through self-exploration, and additional learning through learning channels. An LMS that provides access to learning content that fits the context (links to Blogs, Wikis, Document Repositories etc.), or has a Discussion Board, where the questions can be posted for a broader audience to input ideas and find the right solutions is one way in which the organization can build a learning ecosystem seeped in a continuous learning culture.
2. Open up Channels for Communication
According to an article titled, Good Leaders Are Good Learners, “Creating and capitalizing on learning opportunities can be bolstered by having a coach or peer provide feedback and act as a sounding board.” LMSs offer various features to support communication and collaboration within subjects and communities like Announcements, Journals, Blogs and Wikis, Communities, Discussion Boards, Emails, Broadcasts, etc. LMSs, thus, pave the path to open communication within the organization, which in turn allows the leaders to communicate clearly, exchange ideas, improve them based on feedbacks, align goals and vision and be a part of the organization’s learning strategy by motivating and inspiring the learners. Learning technology plays a key role in identifying and filling the skill gaps, both at employee and leadership level.
According to Towards Maturity’s Report – L&D: where are we now?, “47% of communication skills are e-enabled with learning technologies, 43% of team-working skills, 36% of problem solving skills and 32% of innovation and creativity skills. There is an increase in use of e-learning technologies for leadership and management skills (28%), problem solving (26%), communication and collaboration (22%) and team working (21%) too.”
3. Encourage Learning from Exposure
According to Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends study, “89 percent of executives rated the need to strengthen, re-engineer, and improve organizational leadership as an important priority.” But, not all learning can be pre-conceived and planned. As Brendon Burchard puts it, “Leadership’s not a noun it is a verb, it’s action, and it’s moving.” And so is learning for leaders. As a report by Bersin, ‘The Role of Exposure in Leadership Development: How Leaders Really Learn’, points out, learning from exposure engages leaders differently. Here are the 5 ways in which leaders can learn from exposure, as listed by Bill Mugavin:
- Create internal leader networks to give leaders regular interaction with peers and leaders in your organization.
- Encourage leaders to join external networks to interact with clients and thought leaders in your field.
- Allow semi or informal learning opportunities so that leaders can learn and develop where they have interest.
- Avoid the single event mindset to encourage leaders to focus on building lasting relationships and continuing development.
- Don’t just organize, enable your leaders to own finding development experiences for their benefit.
LMSs can be used to establish peer to peer connections, create individualized coaching programs or Mentoring Programs for confidence building. Semi-learning opportunities can be created by blending eLearning (self-study), Instructor Led Training (ILT), social learning & collaboration, executive mentoring, and assessments. Most importantly, seamless Mobile, responsive user experience of LMSs (or app-based Learning Platforms with support for “offline” or No-Internet Learning, called Mobile LMS) can allow leaders to develop their skills at their convenience.
Successful leaders, as many thought leaders say, have to be visionaries with the courage to risk experimentation and encourage creativity and know how to motivate others and build lasting relationships. The learning dynamic for today’s leaders however is not restricted to one system or single channel, it is more about accessing learning, navigating and finding opportunities within and outside the organization. As mentioned in the Deloitte Report, “Learning is an “environment” and an “experience,” leveraging experts, content, and materials sourced and recommended by external communities as well as by other employees and internal experts (not just L&D). The learning organization plays a supporting role in what a person learns, expanding the 10 to include “inside” and “outside” learning; shifting the 20 to include internal and external networks; and redefining the 70 to include corporate, community, and social experiences.”
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