Great Leaders are Great Learners

January 25, 2016 — Leave a comment


My all-time favorite leadership quality has got to be teach-ability. If someone has a teachable attitude, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.

On several occasions throughout my career, I have been asked to lead people in an organization that I had no experience in. When I was asked to serve as Lead Pastor of ChangePoint, a very large church in Alaska, I had never worked on a church staff before. Even though I had twenty years of leadership experience in other kinds of organizations, I knew I had a lot to learn about how to lead a church. I was selected for this role over people who had several years of experience in church leadership. So I knew there would be some natural skepticism about whether I was right for the job.

So, before I even started the new job, I met with the whole staff. After introducing myself and my background, I told them frankly that I was under no illusion that I had all of the knowledge and experience necessary to be great in this role right away. I was going to need their help and guidance as much as they were going to need mine. For the first few weeks, I spent lots of time with staff members, learning about their departments, responsibilities and routines. As a result, I earned their trust and collaboration relatively quickly.

When I look for people to work with or for me, the first thing I look for is whether they are willing to learn new things. Are they open to new ideas? Are they willing to try things in new ways? Or do they insist on doing things the way they already know? Do they already think they have all the answers? It’s really true that no one likes a know-it-all.

Teach-ability says a lot about the character of a leader. It tells me they are humble, as well as loyal to the organization. It tells me they value others more than their own agenda.

If a leader is willing to let go of the nagging need to impress those they lead, they can demonstrate a willingness to learn from them, and they can build trust and respect much faster than they would by trying to demonstrate how capable they are.

So consider how you can learn from others around you. Ask great questions and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ll gain respect and model great teamwork for those you lead.

For discussion:

  1. What are a couple of areas where you’d like to personally grow in your character or competency as a leader?
  1. Who do you know in your organization who could teach you a skill or procedure that would make you better in your job?
  1. Who do you trust to give you honest feedback about your performance? Have you asked them for their honest opinions?

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