In Change, Leaders

“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer

I’m sure some of you reading this have either read or at least heard of the late Stephen Covey‘s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s full of insights, not the least of which are the seven habits referenced in the title. Of all of those habits though, the one in my mind today is #7 – Sharpen the Saw.

I’m not going to get into everything Covey meant, but the idea is that regardless of where we are in our lives, we need to continually look to better ourselves, to learn, to be healthy, so that we continue growing. I think that’s especially relevant today. We live in a world where things are changing so quickly that old models and old thinking can lead to poor performance virtually overnight.

Unfortunately, too many of us get to a certain point in our careers where we just stop learning. We use the reason that we don’t have enough time, although sometimes I think it’s because our egos get in the way (“I’m the leader so I’m supposed to know everything already”). Whatever the excuse, we can never allow ourselves to become complacent with who we are.

So what can we do about it? Here’s a few ideas:

Read. Between books, blogs, random articles, or anything else you can find, there is no shortage of knowledge out there. The best part – most of it is right at your fingertips (thank you, internet). The only problem is sometimes it’s overwhelming. So don’t try and read everything that’s on the internet. Find a few places that have engaging material and go there regularly. Whether that’s a bookstore or a blog site or something else doesn’t matter. Find something that challenges you.

Listen. Who coaches or mentors you? No one has all the answers, but chances are there are people in your universe who can help. When you’re stuck, who helps you get unstuck? Do you meet with them regularly? I strongly suggest that if you don’t have a coach or something similar, think about who might fill that role for you.

Discuss. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of business leaders tell me they feel like they’re isolated, like no one understands what they’re dealing with or is dealing with the same things they are. The reality is that businesses all face similar issues, and the changes that make your world complicated are probably making their world complicated too. So why not talk to them? How could it not be helpful to be part of a peer group that discussions trends, current issues, success, failures, etc.? There are groups like that around (we facilitate one) – find one or start one and be part of it.

What are you doing to sharpen your saw? Don’t wake up one day and find you’re ready to handle a world that no longer exists. Keep moving & growing. Don’t settle for being a good leader today – get ready to be a great leader tomorrow.

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