Yesterday was Memorial Day here in America. That makes it a fitting week to focus on freedom. Today let’s consider our freedom to learn.
As entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, and leaders we should be on the frontline of learning. Daily in our organizations, we’re challenging people to improve so it only makes sense that we step up as leaders and show folks the way.
You hear me speak often about LUG – learning, understanding, and growth. Like most quips, it’s an oversimplification perhaps, but I hope it helps you remember. Simply put, leaders – the very best ones – are learners.
And I’m not talking about formal education. I don’t care about that. The best schools on the planet don’t produce leaders. Leaders emerge from every dark corner and every bright mountain top around the planet.
Jack Welch observed 5 traits of leadership, 3 of which, he asserts, a person either has to doesn’t. So Jack believes 2 of the 5 traits can be learned. The others are innate, according to him.
- Positive Energy
- The Ability To Energize Others
- The Talent To Execute
Welch argues that positive energy and the ability to energize others is largely hardwired. It’s personality driven. Likewise, passion. People seem to have an intensity and curiosity or they don’t. These traits are part of a person, or they’re not.
Welch believes that leaders don’t exhibit a lack of energy or negative energy. They have positive energy built in and it influences others.
Positive energy is infectious. Contagious. It attracts team members and helps energize people to accomplish the tasks.
Edge is how Welch describes a leader capable of making tough decisions. Leaders don’t waffle, but rather give distinct, decisive answers. Leaders are intent on learning what they can in order to make the right decision more often than not.
Leaders get things done. They learn how to implement. It’s not enough to decide. It demands follow through. Otherwise, it’s all just talk.
Leaders care about themselves, their people, their goals, their organizations and their markets. Great leaders care about their customer base. This passion drives them to excel.
I don’t take issue with Jack. Mostly, I remain a big fan of his work. But don’t let this list get in your way of pursuing learning. You’re free to learn. Embrace that. Believe it.
Can we change who we are?
Sure. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t believe growth and improvement are possible. The degree to which we can change is largely very individual and personal. Some may be able to change dramatically. Others not so much. But I might argue that it likely has little to do with ability as it does willingness.
The catalyst for our change plays a part.
Yesterday, I binge watched Vietnam in HD on the History Channel. I’ve seen it before, but since I was a child of the 1970s I’ve been fascinated with that war. I grew up watching Walter Cronkite on the news report the body count and show various war correspondents submit reports.
As I watched these stories of life-changing experiences I once again realized how people’s lives are forever altered. Young men who escaped physically whole from that war – not unlike young men from any war I suppose – altered their lives. Some dramatically.
Sunday night CBS News 60 Minutes did a Memorial Day report on a story first reported a few years ago featuring a ridiculously talented Green Beret commander, Derrick Anderson. Anderson was accused of being a poor, ineffective commander who caused the death of his own men from friendly fire. It seems the accusation is an easy out for the military, but it has certainly changed Derrick’s life. After serving, he entered law school where he aspires to serve people navigating accusations like the ones he has endured.
I don’t know what Derrick will do now that he’s graduated law school, but I suspect his experience in being falsely accused is driving major changes in his ambitions. So it goes.
We’re likely capable of so much more than we’ll ever realize. Hopefully, our lives won’t require some drastic, life-altering event to force it on us. We’re free to learn by simply making up our minds that we want to learn.
The question is, “What?” What are we going to learn?
That’s for you to decide and figure out, but let me end with a few suggestions.
Learn all you can about yourself.
Learn all you can about others. Figuring out what makes people tick and why is highly valuable. Not so you can judge them, but so you can take the next step (one we’ll talk about tomorrow)…understand them.
Learn how to make better decisions. Learn to get better evidence. Commit yourself to evidence-based leadership where you don’t forego your gut or emotions, but where you gather facts to prove whether your gut may be right, or not.
Learn all you can about your customers. What do they most want? What makes them happy?
Be curious enough to learn all you can about you and your ability to successfully interact with others. You’re free to learn whatever you’d like. Embrace that freedom and dive into it today. Don’t wait until something external drives your direction. Make up your mind that forward is the direction you want to go. Learn how to move faster in that direction so you can go as far as possible, and help take others with you.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!