How does experience influence the fact of being a good leader? And what role can education play in forming a good leader?
These seem pretty obvious questions, because of course both experience and education go hand in hand to create a good leader. The true question is, however: is it all about it? Is it enough to pair good education to a significant experience to automatically have a good leader? The answer is not as straight as it ought to be.
On the one hand, it is true that leadership is best learned from experience. Still, simply being an experienced leader does not elevate a person’s skills. Like most of us, leaders often go through their experiences somewhat mindlessly, accomplishing tasks but learning little about themselves and their impact.
However, leaders who possess a vision for growth set challenging learning goals in the form of “I need to learn how to…” For some leaders, the goal might be to become more persuasive or to be more approachable. With a goal in mind, leaders can identify opportunities to make progress toward it, even turning the table in a fundamentally different way.
They are also at ease in changing context, experimenting new frameworks to increase some of their skills.
How can organisations help leaders enter and remain in learning mode? Organisational leaders can help rising leaders focus more on being progressively better than they were in the past, rather than on constantly benchmarking themselves against others. The educational approach is fundamental in this phase. They can model construing mistakes as potential learning opportunities rather than as indicators of leadership inadequacy. In hiring and promotion, organisational leaders might give priority to those most likely to grow and develop in a role.
School and university play a key role in developing such a mind-set in the future leader. Students should be trained to design thinking, to be always prone to new learning, to seize opportunities at once and to be flexible and humble.
Humbleness does not run against competitiveness, rather it implements it, maximising the advantage for most people rather that a single individual.
The leaders of tomorrow should be ready for change, and organisations should not miss the opportunity to achieve extensive, inclusive growth through effective enhancement of the leaders’ skills.