The Core of Great Leadership in Business & Life: Learning How to Learn

Recently, the CEO of an international women’s peace organization asked if I would condense a book that I had drafted on developing leadership skills into a few pages.

Two thoughts immediately arose:

“No,” and then, “Maybe…”

The “no” made me realize I hadn’t quite recovered from writing the draft while simultaneously working on another major writing project all in my “free time” on weekends. Healthy habits, all except the sports training, seem to go out the window when I am writing long pieces. They are fueled by the burning effervescence and caffeine kick of Diet Coke, and at least a few Great Harvest thick, chocolatey brownies. I cut off contact with the rest of the world (as much as possible) and then, when I get to a stopping point, wonder why I’ve been missing everyone!

So now, as I renew the writing part of me, my mind has been wondering “What is the core of cultivating a leader?” In this moment (read: I reserve the right to change my mind) I believe it is this: learning how to learn. 

That core rests on three components:

  • Engaging in self-reflection where you uncover and test assumptions that lead to new mindsets and behaviors.
  • Changing your perspective. Choosing a context and seeing the whole picture, the good and the “bad”, with the elements in relationship to each other. This too helps you uncover and test assumptions—yours as well as those that are inherent in the context.
  • Having someone who bears witness as you learn.

If you can learn how to learn, you can work with all that has brought you to where you are today, make the most of the strengths and work with the weaknesses, while growing into more of who you want to be.

 It’s not easy. That’s the one assumption I still tend to labor under… that things “should” be easy or get easier if I work hard enough, am smart enough, am lucky enough. But I’m learning to work with that assumption, which is part of my “whole picture.”

It’s not fast. It’s more like learning a new language where one day you realize you’ve gone from just getting a few words to understanding an entire communication.

It isn’t surgical. Learning and growing is an evolutionary process.

And finally, it may involve stretches of Diet Coke and brownies…


U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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