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What is Learning as Leadership?

Untitled-3By Shayne Hughes

People often ask why we named our company “Learning as Leadership”. The key word is “learning”, which we all use but can find challenging to embody.

Learning is not something confined to the classroom, or that I turn on or off in certain situations. It’s a state of mind, an orientation at every instant in life. And there are so many unconscious ways we’re not in ‘learning mode’.

When I explain to you how much I know, running over your point of view – because I want to be right or, more often, just because I’m sure I am right – I’m not in learning mode.

When a colleague offers feedback or a different perspective, and I react defensively – visibly arguing or justifying, or invisibly shutting down and mentally rehashing why he or she is wrong – I’m not in learning mode.

When I am driven to succeed, consumed by the allure of acknowledgment; or feel the fear of failure, stressed by the consequences of under-performance – no matter how hard I’m working – I’m not in learning mode.

When I’m on autopilot in my comfort zone – admiring my prowess, or rushing to get something done – I’m not in learning mode.

When I replay in my mind what I wish I’d said or plan out what I’m going to tell you once you stop talking – I’m not in learning mode.

When I am caught up in guilt or shame or injustice about what I should have done or who I am or what’s happened to me – I’m not in learning mode.

When I procrastinate on a difficult task or high stakes presentation; when I delay starting that initiative I’ve long dreamed of – and then, in a bout of stress and explosive energy, knock it out – I’m not in learning mode.

When I don’t give feedback to a direct report on why they’re coming up short, or how they’re unproductively impacting their environment; when I’m not taking the risk to say what needs to be said, even if I’m not quite sure I have all the pieces – I’m not in learning mode.

When I side-step the challenge life is pushing me to embrace, often with that familiar explanation – I’m not a people person, not good with numbers or details, not strategic, good at starting things, but not at follow-through, ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ – in each of these moments, I’m not in learning mode.

Much of the leadership we see in organizations and teams – private and public sector, non-profit, academia and families – is hampered by how such ego-driven thinking blunts our ability to learn.

And so, at Learning as Leadership, we’ve learned that when we help leaders become aware of and explore these unconscious lines in the sand they’ve drawn, where it feels too vulnerable to venture…when we help people experience what is on the other side of this discomfort, there is not only a sense of safety, but passion, excitement and authentic collaboration – then they show up as a new brand of leader.

Chief Learning Officer isn’t someone’s job title; it’s who you are moment by moment.

Learning as Leadership.

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