Chief Learner

A friend of several years has just stepped into a leadership position in his organization, and we chatted recently about his new role and its challenges.

We discussed his observations, goals, and near-term objectives.  He had good insights and ideas, and already has some awareness of potential obstacles to success and their resolution.

I listened mostly, asked a few questions, and interspersed a few comments. 

What I heard impressed me.

His intended, primary methods of influencing his organization and the individuals within it are twofold: (1) energizing learning and (2) leading by example.

Energizing learning requires, if not an awakening, at least a heightened recognition by each individual within an organization that learning is a desired, primary, required, daily, and ongoing activity necessary for the growth of individuals and the organization as a whole. 

Learning is not in addition to doing the job, it is part of doing the job.  Any job.  Every job.

Often, such perspectives do not exist within organizations, much less pervade it as part of the dominant culture.  While establishing the vision, setting the tone, and shaping the culture for a learning organization ideally start at the top, such initiatives can actually originate anywhere, including an individual workgroup member. 

Whether or not an organization has a Chief Learning Officer, each workgroup member must be or become a Chief Learner: self-actuated and self-motivated.  Ideally, the organization supports, recognizes, and rewards learning behaviors, but no-one dare wait for suggestions, directions, conditions, or rewards to take up the mantel of continuous, self-directed learning.

As the conversation with my friend, the new leader, drew near its conclusion, I had but one suggestion: become for your group the Chief Learner.  In other words, Learn-Do-Teach-Lead, which encompasses his two stated goals: (1) energizing learning and (2) leading by example.

How have you become an independent learner in the workplace or fostered a learning environment in your organization?

–Erik

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