When leaders diminish or lose their intellectual vigor, their leadership potential is quickly and unquestionably compromised. In such a weakened state, their effectiveness and their career longevity are significantly reduced. Empowered leaders are life-long learners. Their intellectual curiosity is active. When it comes to their ongoing development, they are never lazy. They know that the intellectually idle seldom lead anything or anybody, and if they do, they never seem to do so very well or for very long.
Degrees, certifications, and endorsements are substantial and meaningful elements of a leader’s knowledge base and developmental skillset. They are undeniably part of the process. Nonetheless, they cannot be the sum of what powers a leader’s scope of awareness and mental wherewithal. If they are, that leader’s knowledge base will diminish over time until the cumulative effect of that decline is thoroughly if not totally debilitating. Formalized, program-based learning opportunities are essential, but they are only part of the life-long developmental progression that empowers great leaders. True intellectual curiosity must embody so much more.
Leaders with depth and breadth know the organization they are leading. They are abreast of contemporary trends and issues affecting theirs and similar organizations. They are in tune with the world in which their organization exists. This includes efforts to stay current with the literature, research, and contemporary trends and issues. They encourage, and support intellectual growth at all levels of the organization. They are role models of continual, purposeful, and attentive learning.
Leaders who make a difference over time are not threatened by what they do not know. They are not intimidated by that which is new, nor are they stymied by that which challenges what they currently know or believe. Instead, they are empowered and invigorated. The potential to learn refreshes and stimulates a real leader. Having sufficient cognitive and mental acuity to get by day to day is never enough for them. Whether learning from others or engaging in autodidactic pursuits, committed leaders are also committed learners. They know that when a leader stops learning it’s only a matter of time until they stop leading.
If leaders are the engines that drive organizations, they must develop and maintain their social, emotional, and intellectual horsepower!