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Great Leaders Never Stop Learning: The importance of Open-Mindedness in Authority

Despite living in the age of information, it seems some people are still under the outdated opinion that leadership is something people can be born with. While it’s true that some show signs of assertiveness early on in life, the uninhibited need to try and make things go your way is more a sign of immaturity than authority. Anyone can make demands of other people, after all, barking orders like that is easy. However, getting people to carry out those orders can prove challenging. If you want people to follow your instructions, or follow your plans, or simply follow you, then you need the skills to lead them. Leadership positions can be inherited, yes, but the skills to lead cannot. They must be learned, and while there are a great deal of resources available on the subject, I’m afraid there is no greater teacher than experience. Indeed, the best leaders are those who have not simply faced difficult obstacles, but use what they’ve learned to help others overcome similar situations. However, the obstacles life throws at us are always changing. Bad leaders will stick to their old fashioned methods, refusing to change yet still being surprised when the knowledge they’d gained before no longer applies. On the other hand, great leaders can recognize that there are always new lessons they can learn, new methods they can employ, and new solutions they can develop.

A well-crafted sword may cut well when first used, but its edge will dull if not sharpened from time to time. It was a knight’s burden to keep their sword sharp and their skills sharper, otherwise the people they were charged to protect would be in danger. Much the same way, management roles are not simply a rank, they are a responsibility, and a heavy one at that. Too many people view managerial positions as a finish line, when in truth they are not the end of a race but rather the beginning of an obstacle course. Those serious about becoming leaders should viewed their role as an ongoing process, one that requires constant adaptation and improvement. They need to establish a presence of authority, yes, but they must remain humble all the while. Thinking yourself above your employees only means you will tumble and fall when they stop supporting you. And believe me, they will stop supporting you if they don’t feel you support them. There’s a saying that “workers don’t leave their jobs, they leave their bosses,” and the data suggest there’s some truth behind that. I understand how difficult and intimidating being in charge of others can be, especially when they have skills and knowledge that you do not. Whether you get promoted up the ranks or are hired directly into the role, you will inevitably find yourself faced with subordinates who are more experienced than you in some way. This difference can cause some to feel threatened and get defensive, but in truth, it’s to your benefit. You don’t need to be an expert in every field in order to lead, that mentality will just set you up for failure. If a subordinate is more knowledgeable than you, then use their knowledge as a resource for your decision making. Use their insight as a learning opportunity, ask for their input and take their suggestions under close consideration. The brain does not digest the body’s food, it provides guidance so that the stomach can take care of that task, and helps addresses any concerns that the stomach brings to brain’s attention. Remember, your job as a leader is to bring out the best of those you lead, so it’s okay if they’re “better” than you in certain fields. Mind you, I’m not saying a leader can be completely ignorant of their employee’s fields, far from it. A good leader should be aware of what their employees are capable of and have an understanding of what goes into their work, otherwise the leader wouldn’t be able to set proper goals or realistic expectations. Much like how the leader of the country is a civil servant who is responsible for improving the lives of the citizens, your job as a manager isn’t to order employees around like lackeys, but rather it is to ensure they can perform their jobs with as few obstacles or issues as possible. Making those kinds of improvements sometimes means making changes to systems or procedures you’re used to, sometimes it means admitting that plans and policies you’ve put in place are outdated or inefficient, and sometimes it even requires admitting you were wrong. A great leader must be willing to hold themselves accountable for their team’s performance, sharing the glory of success as well as owning the blame for failure. But as I said before, learning from that failure, and using what you’ve learned to prevent yourself and others from failing like that again, is what makes a great leader. As Henry Ford once put it, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” He never let failure hold him back, he chalked every mistake up to experience and put his newfound knowledge to use, building one of the most successful automobile empires on the market. Source:

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