“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy
Highly motivated business executives and managers tend to work hard as they climb the corporate ladder, accepting more and more responsibility as the progress. They learn everything they can about their current job, and the next job, assimilating new information, adapting their management skills to fit new situations, changing how they lead and manage in anticipation for the next big job. They attend advanced management classes at the best universities, they devour books on leadership, time management, team building, culture, train to become lean sigma black belts, visit other companies for innovative ideas. It’s constant learning in order to perform and be in line for the next promotion.
That is, until they reach the top, then something strange happens. Many tend to stop the quest to learn, to develop themselves, to be better tomorrow than they are today. For a few, the job of CEO is so all-consuming that they just don’t have time for learning new things. Their day is packed with meetings, internally and externally, and they have to manage the press, the Board of Directors, the regulators, shareholders, analyst meetings. And of course there are regular board meetings to prepare for and the Annual General Meeting and Year-End Results to work on.
I empathise with such a hectic schedule, but what bothers me is that for them, the learning stops and the treadmill begins. And for others who reach the top, a few even adopt the attitude of: “I made it to the top, what more do I have to prove or learn?”
A little study will show that while they may be staying the same, the business world around them is rapidly changing. Technology shifts, regulatory shifts, economic disruption and competitive advances. Everything around the is in a state of transformation. Maybe that’s why the average tenure in years of a CEO is falling. They aren’t changing enough to keep up and after several years, they have lost touch with the “new” realities of business.
Thomas D Willhite
My first mentor was also my first real boss in business and from him I learned a great deal about people, and about myself. His name was Thomas D. Willhite and he was a charismatic, motivational genius who built several large training companies in the 1970s. One of which is still going today, PSI World, Inc.
Tom had a saying and I will share it with you, because it serves as a constant reminder for me to keep learning and growing.
I guarantee you that the next time you see me you won’t say, “Here comes the same old Tom”. I will be constantly changing, constantly learning new things, trying out new ideas, doing things differently. Not for the sake of being different, but for the opportunity to grow, learn and be a better leader tomorrow than I am today.
A good mantra to live by.
See the review of LEVERAGE in The Economist (January 9, 2014.
John also writes thriller novels: novels.johnrchildress.com