Six Ways Leaders Excel Beyond Their Natural Abilities

You have, no doubt, often heard of the term “life-long learner.” Yes, it is true that effective leaders never stop growing and learning. Most, but not all, have degrees, but their education does not end when diplomas are dispensed. And, yes, their experience is a vital part of their perpetual growth. However, effective leaders never stop stretching themselves intellectually. The good news is that no cramming for formal exams are required, no book reports are due, and you do not have to eat in the lunch room. That is indeed good news. How do they continue to learn?

  1. They are inquisitive. They ask lots of questions from lots of people. They engage the experts as well as seek the perspective of the man on the street or the person in the pew. They do not ask questions to maintain a conversation but rather to gain understanding and greater expertise in their own leadership. However, the conversation also has the benefit of enhancing relationships and applying good people skills.
  2. They never stop reading. Mark Twain once said that the “man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” If you do not read you might as well be illiterate. What a privilege to read. What book are you reading now? A leader can always answer that question. Forty-two percent of college graduates never read a book after graduation. Need I point out that not every college graduate becomes an effective leader. Leaders are readers.
  3. They attend conferences as well as lead them. I once heard it said that a preacher who is too big to preach in a small church is too small to preach in a big church. The same applies to the approach of a leader to a conference. If you are too prideful to sit in a small conference with a younger, less experienced leader, then you are really not suited to lead a conference yourself. At the point, you refuse to grow personally, you forfeit your right to lead others. Leaders lead others to grow and model the means of growth. One of the ways you grow beyond formal education is to frequently attend conferences on a variety of subjects to stretch your own intellect. Admittedly, you may glean little but what little you glean can make a big difference in your leadership. Therefore, that is what effective leaders do.
  4. They tap into alternative media sources. There was a day when newspapers, magazines, television, and radio would serve as these sources. They have evolved and now include websites, blogs, podcasts, and social media. All of these can be sources of entertainment but the leader understands how to leverage each for personal growth and development. The classroom is always open and the information is more accessible than ever before.
  5. They intentionally connect with other effective leaders. I always warned my children that they would “become who they hang out with.” It was true for them and it is true for me….and you. You become to a great degree like those you attach yourself to. Therefore, identify leaders who are more effective than you are and initiate opportunities to spend time with them formally and informally.
  6. They go after a higher degree. Hold on a minute here! I thought these were ways that leaders learn beyond their days of academic involvement. True…however, you will not be surprised to find an effective leader pursuing another degree into their forties, fifties, and beyond. They can’t help themselves. They have a thirst for knowledge not simply for the sake of another degree, but because they sincerely desire to maximize their leadership. It’s never too late to grow and learn!