March 2018

Leaders Are Always Learning!

By Ron Hewett

My brother, Mark, is an executive in the manufacturing industry. Recently, he and I had a conversation about leadership training. Mark confided that he had not had a training opportunity since he graduated from MBA school almost 30 years ago. This surprised me since he is regarded by his company as a turn-around specialist who, when not at corporate headquarters developing products, is sent to failing manufacturing plants to get them back on track and profitable. He has won corporate-wide awards for overall leadership, as well as specific successes. I found his experiences beneficial to my development and would like to share some of his specific remarks:

"The worst boss I ever had once made clear to me his leadership philosophy, 'People will do only two things...what you tell them to do or what you let them get away with.' What he failed to understand is that there is a third option…people will do what they believe in doing. History has shown that our greatest achievements have happened when committed people work toward a shared belief. A successful leader creates strong beliefs within the hearts and minds of those who follow. This is the energy source that drives initiative, enthusiasm, and innovation.

I believe that leadership skills are honed through experience, but experience is nothing if one is not prepared for those experiences. And, I believe the best way to learn leadership is to spend time with leaders and learn from those who have been tested in the real world."

He finished by affirming that he sees a lot of benefit in sharing experiences and learning from others in leadership training programs and seminars.

Mark's story is not unusual. Surveys show that only 5% of executives are given an opportunity to develop their leadership skills through a training program1. This begs the question: why don't successful executives seek more training opportunities? I have a sneaky suspicion that Christy Matthewson may have an answer.

Matthewson, a Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, was one of the most dominant pitchers in Major League history. He was a purist and constantly worked to gain an advantage. He is quoted as saying, "You can learn little from victory. You can learn everything from defeat." Perhaps this sheds some light on why some leaders may believe they have little to learn after enjoying success over the years. Rephrasing Matthewson's advice, even successful leaders have a lot to learn when they put themselves into a position to share ideas and gain insights through training opportunities.

Please keep that in mind as you develop your personal training goals and your organization's training plan for 2018.

1. Transitioning to a Higher Contributing Role, Emerge Leadership Group (2010).