15 Surprising Ways to Expand Leadership
Leadership expands when you learn and contracts when you know.
“If you stop learning, you might as well lie down and let them throw the dirt on you.” Ken Blanchard.
Humility learns. Arrogance knows.
- Controlling people.
- Closing out people.
- Justifying decisions.
- Preventing mistakes.
- Explaining why you’re right.
In all your learning, learn to be a learner.
15 surprising ways to expand leadership: learning to learn
- Let others be right.
- Explore the grey. Black and white has its place, but learning happens in the grey where both/and embrace each other.
- Listen to people you don’t like. Chances are they’re different from you. Learning is exploring difference.
- Go “with” before going “against.” Learning includes challenging ideas, but understand before confrontation.
- Embrace confusion, don’t solve quickly. Thinking shifts to defending, once you think you know.
- Talk about what hurts. Pain teaches more than comfort.
- Believe the person you’re talking with knows something you don’t.
- Try something that feels awkward. Things that feel right align with the past and keep you doing more of the same. Warning: don’t violate your values when embracing awkward behaviors.
- Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t know. Commit to find out.
- Say your thoughts outloud. Sometimes smart thoughts sound dumb when spoken out loud.
- Listen to smart people even if they have frailties. Don’t rule someone out because they have weaknesses.
- Write down your ideas. Writing is thinking.
- Relax about learning. Stress narrows your thinking. Take a breath. Walk. Laugh.
- Ask yourself, “What am I learning?” Do you have an answer?
- Say, “That’s interesting,” when you hear something that seems “wrong.”
This post is inspired by a recent conversation with Ken Blanchard. Here are some highlights of that conversation:
Ken Blanchard on being a learner (2:21):
What are you learning (2:06):
“One plus one is better than two.” Ken Blanchard
How might leader learn to learn?
What are you learning?
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Quoting: “Embrace confusion, don’t solve quickly. Thinking shifts to defending, once you think you know.” And “Ask yourself, “What am I learning?” Do you have an answer?” My two key points from your list! All 15 are so consistent with my notions about my use of ‘Considerations.’
To help make a difference, everyone must be a lifelong learner as well as self-assess how that learning is going and what can I do to have it go even better.
Thanks John. Your challenge to self-assess feels important to me. I find it easy to ask, “What am I learning,” and then brush it off without a clear answer.
Very nice insight.. .I think the key is to make sure you take a minute (or many more) to be a good manager and listener. It’s surprising simple to say and hard to make happen in this fast based world.
Well put Dan, “Never stop learning”,money in the bank! The journey stops when we close our minds…..
Dan, having time to ponder, ” motivation ” comes to mind, we need to keep oneself motivated to continue the education journey, key component.
Dan, having time to ponder, ” motivation ” comes to mind, we need to keep oneself motivated to continue the education factor, key component.
I thought this was powerful: “Leadership expands when you learn and contracts when you know.” and even better than the Blanchard quote.
And I had that funny thought about what happens when you KNOW that you don’t know. Ah, the paradoxes…
Have fun out there.
I love it!
One of the strange things about learning is that the more you learn, the more you realize you didn’t already know. That’s humbling. Therefore, the act of learning should humble you, not make you arrogant about what you know.
With this thought “Leadership expands when you learn and contracts when you know” and science that tells us that heat causes expansion and reduction of heat (cold) causes contraction – is it a coincidence that with warmth (open mind, caring for others, etc) we learn and without warmth, the learning ceases? Just a thought! : )
I find it really helpful, when listening to someone, especially someone presenting a new idea or something about which I may be skeptical, to choose to “try the idea on” by asking “what if this is so? What does that mean for me, for our team, for my growth, for my learning?” This readiness to try on new ideas has contributed richly to my own ongoing learning and growth.
I love #10 and #11!
10.”Say your thoughts outloud. Sometimes smart thoughts sound dumb when spoken out loud.”
As a professional woman in the healthcare industry, in either my provider role or my administrative role, learning to find my voice has been a sometimes uncomfortable but mostly rewarding experience. I’ve also found that what I thought were “dumb” thoughts when spoken out loud often turned out to be REALLY SMART! Part of learning is learning to be confident too.
11.Listen to smart people even if they have frailties. Don’t rule someone out because they have weaknesses.
We all have our imperfections. But we all have our talents and good points too! We can learn something from just about anyone; for example, we can learn who’s behaviors we should emulate and who’s behaviors we should avoid.
“1.Let others be right. and 5.Embrace confusion, don’t solve quickly. Thinking shifts to defending, once you think you know”
Thes are especially important in a yes-man culture. I had to learn quite awhile back, in a different function, to reserve my opinion until the end so that I wouldn’t simply get agreement. Draw people out first to let them shade or shape your own thoughts.
I would also add #16, ‘ Commit to be a learner, start the day looking for learning opportunities.”
I think people who believe that we are to learn something from each and every day are able to grow and to develop, however it can be quite uncomfortable, as it requires a certain amount of time, energy, and willingness. I really liked the sixth point: Talk about what hurts. Pain teaches more than comfort.
For this you need to be really brave and you have to take the first step, since if you keep your frustration for yourself, it can literally devour you, or your relationship with someone. Nice topic!
How one plus one is better than two? Could you please elaborate on that.
I appreciate the focus of this post and feel there are several golden nuggets in there for anyone willing to learn (you see how I did that?). One of my favorite quotes is from the late Steve Jobs who said, “Don’t hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Seems to fall right in line with lots of the wisdom shared in the post and previous comments. I try hard to let the person I’m with come up with the solution, even if I think I know. I’ve been surprised on many occasions that while my idea(s) would have worked, theirs were better…and now I’m better for it, too.
Believing the purpose of learning is to replace an closed mind with an “open one,” I also believe learning begins with “essential questions.” A good question has the power to change thinking…and behaving afterward. We learn the most about others by the questions they ask…not the statements they make.
In the interplay between staff member and manager, “essential questions” can be the interpersonal bridge over which information, knowledge and relationships are passed, and the comprehension, understanding and realization taken.
Framed here are some general essential questions:
What kind of a person would you most like to be? How might you get to be this kind of person? At the present moment, what would you most rather be doing? Five years from now? Why? What might you do to realize these hopes? What might you have to give up in order to realize some of these things?
Do you believe in dreams? Is it important to dream about your future profession or aspirations? Do dreams become reality? Have you heard of others or anyone realizing their dreams, and others not? What do you believe makes the difference?
Where does knowledge come from? What do you think are some of man’s most important ideas? Where did they come from? Why? How? What’s a “good idea”? How do you know when a good idea becomes a bad idea? How do you decide?
What is “progress”? What is “change”? What are the most obvious causes of change? What are the least apparent? What conditions are necessary in order for change to occur? What kinds of changes are going on right now? Which are important? How are they similar to or different from other changes that have occurred? What are the relationships between new ideas and change? Et al.
The aim of learning and essential questions is inquiry, exploration and discovery.
Thanks Dan. As always, another good gem of information. I love #10. We always sound smarter in out own heads.
Numbers three and seven and eleven do the most for me. Especially eleven: no matter what their frailties are, we WILL learn something from people with all kinds of frailties, if we are willing to openly listen to them. Thank you for articulating the insights. Everyday.
Good lessons… Leadership, I discovered, is a never ending journey…. It starts inside
So true, and very valuable lessons. Excellent post!
Dan, I love this post!
One word comes to mind as the springboard for expanding leadership- ‘curiosity’. My key learning from the post is to remain open, interested, and curious.
Dan- I was thinking…
This post should be mandatory reading for the politicians and students-
I believe the partisan nature of Amrrican politics serves to constrict rather than expand- limits possibilities, undermines the full extent of collaborative problem solving and models arrogance and ‘knowing’ for the nation at large- who seem often to reflexively follow rank, within the confines of narrow party lines
How great it would be to rise above us-them, were right- they’re idiots, we have integrity they are selfish or self-interested or hypocrites as the case may be….to the realization that we need each other, we need to learn from one another’s diverse perspectives and insights- that one plus one is indeed much more than two, especially when you add diversity of thought, perspective, experience, etc etc
Thanks, once again for your important insights!
Hum. Leaders definitely need to listen and learn. However, this is not enough. You can be an excellent listener and learner and be a miserable leader. Most of the talk on leadership misses most of what true leaders have and others don’t have: courage, boldness and the capacity to stand-up and act when others are petrified. You need a rough sea to recognize a great captain.
Thanks Olivier. Some refer to your important point as bias toward action. We can listen our way into oblivion. Thanks for jumping in.
Great insights Dan.
I also believe that expanding leadership occurs when we gain the ability to move past issues out of the future and put then back in the past, where they belong. How does one do that?
One way is by taking on board the concerns of all relevant parties through authentic listening…..
The second way is to indulge in “Mind Shift”. I have recently blogged on this and I provide the link here for you and your readers, should you be interested.
Thank you for teaching me. We must all learn to learn.