Thoughts on Leadership [26]

How to Lead as a Learner


Leaders; the best ones have the character, position and vision to energize their followers and make the world, or at least work, a better place. Right?  Well, not quite.  Or at least, not only.  From Iran, to Rwanda, to Great Britain, nations upon nations are holding elections in 2017 prompting us to reflect on what it takes to be a remarkable leader.

The Internet’s love of a list means there’s inspiration aplenty to get our reflection going.  Caesar, Confucius, Washington, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Churchill, Napoleon, Martin Luther King Jr., Mandela, and Gandhi; the list goes on.

And on.

And we weren’t stuck adding to it:


  • Steve Jobs
  • Alan Mulally
  • Captain Mike Abrashoff
  • Elon Musk
  • Michael Jordan
  • Magic Johnson
  • Bill Gates
  • Peyton Manning
  • Steve Prefontaine
  • Sam Walton

Looking through the countless lists, there’s really a leader and leadership style for every persuasion.  However, for OPEX, when it comes to leadership, we ultimately relate the most with the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, who said,

Think about it.  Think of the best boss you’ve had.  The teacher who left the greatest impression. The most inspiring coach. Chances are they had one trait in common; they led as a learner, not a knower.

Big difference.

One leads by sharing power, the other by holding power.  So, how do we, flawed humans as we are, take a leaf out of Lao Tzu’s leadership book?

Start by asking questions. Many questions. Begin by asking yourself, “What can I learn from my colleagues or clients that will allow me to lead them more effectively?”  Become interested in their lives.  Ask them what they value, what challenges they are currently facing, and what ideas they have to make it better.

Instead of marking your team wrong for perceived failures, mimic the corporate powerhouse of innovation, Google, and use failures as models for future growth. That’s right. Put your iron rod away and ask questions about what went wrong. Give up punishment and you’ll gain connection. A leader to connect with? Now, that sounds like a truly great leader.

Original blog published via OPEX Fitness. 

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