Leading by example

Nicola Richards explores management’s role in reinforcing learning in the workplace

The business world has always moved at a fast pace, but more so now than ever before. The changes and challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have only highlighted the need for those in leadership and management positions to be creative, entrepreneurial, and most importantly, able to adapt to the world around them.

As we’ve seen time and time again, companies that stand still and don’t embrace change – or are unable to keep up – run the risk of being left behind or being taken over by a competitor who’s more willing to adapt to the obstacles before them. Take Blockbuster, for example; the company was slow to react to technological advances and the fast-evolving shift in consumer behaviour. Blackberry is another prime example of a brand that was overshadowed by hyper-innovative competitors such as Apple, who were on the pulse with consumer wants and needs. 

A businesses’ ability to react to changes is crucial. And it’s up to its leaders to drive that change. 

An effective leader recognises the importance of embracing new ideas. So, if those in management positions aren’t fully engaged with their industry, aren’t curious and inquisitive, aren’t proactively solving challenges, and aren’t hungry to keep learning, how can they inspire others to do the same?

In these uncertain times, there’s no room to become complacent or lazy in a management role. Learning is innovating

Leaders, in particular, must tend to their own developmental needs. They should be constantly testing, constantly exploring, and constantly learning as they go. Self-improvement is key for leaders, so they can evolve in their own position and continue to develop various skills and behaviours that will ultimately help to better their team and organisation. 

In these uncertain times, there’s no room to become complacent or lazy in a management role. Learning is innovating; it’s taking positive steps forward, demonstrating productivity, and delivering results. 

But that’s not all. A manager who invests and commits to their own learning and development, inspires the same in their employees.

Those in leadership and management roles have a huge impact on their employees. Good managers attract candidates; they drive performance, engagement and retention, and they play a crucial role in maximising their employees’ contribution to their business. By contract, poor managers do the opposite. DDI’s Frontline Leader Project found that 57% of employees have left a job because of their manager, 14% have left multiple jobs, and 32% have seriously considered leaving because of their manager .  As the saying goes, “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.” This can result in high rates of staff turnover and the associated costs, not to mention a dent in your organisation’s reputation. 

Team leaders and direct managers are also responsible for their employees’ development. LinkedIn’s 2019 workforce report found that 94% of employees would stay at an organisation longer if it invested in their learning and development, while 75% would take a course their manager assigned, and 46% of learners find out about learning opportunities from their managers or those in leadership .

A huge amount of learning and development takes place on the job, through ongoing tasks and challenges that help employees take positive strides in their careers.  Thus, leaders must lead by example. 

Often, one of the top criteria for job candidates is to work with someone or multiple people who they can learn from. They want someone who will take interest in their development, and the development of others around them. They want someone who will help them to increase their knowledge and deepen their skillset. No one wants to work for a boss who doesn’t take learning and development seriously. 

By committing to your own development, you fuel a culture of continuous learning; a culture that supports an open mindset and embraces innovation. You should be asking yourself, “How can I better myself, so I can get the best performance from my team?” and “What skills can I develop to better support my organisation?”

Successful leaders never stop learning. Whether they undertake apprenticeships, attend courses, read books, or learn from their colleagues, the most effective leaders – those who will add the most value to their organisation and their team – understand the importance of learning and development. 

Nicola Richards is learning and development manager at the Executive Development Network

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