When I used to be involved in the hiring process for multiple businesses, I frequently had the opportunity to interview people for leadership positions within the organizations. One of the things I always looked for was the capacity of the individual for continuous learning and development. I was not interested in hiring someone who would learn new skills and information only when directed to do so, but rather I wanted to hire someone who always wanted to grow, develop, become more self-aware, and to constantly be improving and learning.
In order to lead others, you must be a lifelong learner. Continuous learning is a critical part of becoming an emboldened leader because it means you are willing to challenge your own assumptions and gather more ideas, knowledge, and perspectives that will help you make better decisions, relate better to other people, and think more innovatively and creatively.
There are many ways a leader can continuously learn and grow. Most leaders I know are voracious readers. If you don’t make time for reading, you are missing out on opening your mind to information and knowledge that will help you grow and become a better leader regardless of your current level or capacity. I know that reading takes time, so it is important to create opportunities to engage in this.
One of my clients wanted to start reading more but didn’t know how they would fit it into their day. She was also very committed to fitness and worked out every morning before starting work. I asked her what she listened to while working out and of course she had a few favorite playlists of motivating music. I suggested replacing the music with audible books or podcasts. At first she didn’t like the idea, but after she got “addicted” to an audible book, and then checked out several podcasts specifically for small business owners, she was convinced this was a great way to read. She also started reading physical books while on the treadmill at the gym, which was her cool down activity after her more vigorous workout. Three months later she was amazed at how many books she had been able to read (or listen to) in just a dozen weeks. She was covering an average of 2 books (plus podcast episodes) every week and had just as much time in her day for work.
Another great way to be a continuous learner is to engage in collaborative conversations and activities with others. Meeting with like-minded small business leaders or entrepreneurs on a regular basis will stimulate your own reflection and self-awareness as you naturally benchmark against your peers. Plus, sharing ideas, brainstorming, doing and watching presentations, and attending mastermind sessions, or participating in peer group coaching are great ways to learn from others and to give back to your peers when they could use your experience as a learning experience themselves.
Another great way to continuously learn and grow is to always be trying something new. This requires the courage to act, and is one of the hallmarks of being emboldened. You could volunteer for a project that is outside your normal comfort zone, yet not too far outside your wheel house. As a small business leader you may not have anyone overseeing you and assigning you any stretch goals, but there is no reason you can’t look for and assign new programs or projects to yourself. Plus, if you don’t have a large staff to delegate things to, it is likely you are the only one available to take care of a new project if you really want to get it done. So, jump into the learning and consider it a growth opportunity (as long as you don’t neglect your core business).
There are so many opportunities for continuous growth, learning, reflection, and self-awareness. Think about how you can cultivate curiosity into each day, ask questions, listen to or go seek out the answers, read or listen to books and podcasts, interact with other entrepreneurs or small business leaders so you can learn from and teach them, and always look for something new you can boldly try.