Once upon a time the leader had to know everything.
As our society has shifted in the last couple of decades, one of the crucial areas in leading today is being teachable. In this era of accessible knowledge and collaborative problem solving, leadership has become open – open to the ideas of others and open to embracing change, rather than maintaining the status quo. The current thinking that knowledge is shared, our skills complement one another and one person doesn’t need to know everything, challenges the notion of the stereotypical boss, the solo operator, secreted away in the corner office.
Post-war President of the USA, Harry S Truman, famously had the sign on his desk “The Buck Stops Here”.
The President made the decisions and accepted the ultimate responsibility for those decisions. While a principal, CEO and even President still carries the weight of responsibility for decisions and subsequent actions, effective people-centred leadership in the 21st century is less autocratic and unilateral. Change, decision-making and development can be stalled, as one person becomes a bottleneck through which all activity must pass.
Putting aside our own agendas and being open to learn from others is challenging at first, but is ultimately freeing. Being teachable is essential to being an open leader. Without this as a key value leaders can default to “The Buck Stops Here” mentality and all the baggage it may carry.
For those of us in the business of education the shoe is often on the other foot, we are the teachers. Shifting that mindset to being a learner, deliberately becoming teachable. This ultimately breaks habits that can hinder growth potential.
What does it mean to be teachable?
1. I need to recognise that I am constantly growing
Not: “I’ve got it all sorted”
What new skills have you learnt in the past 12 months?
Have you put yourself into a challenging situation?
Do you allow yourself to fail?
2. I am willing to change
Not: “I’m comfortable here”
How often are your colleagues revisiting the same things with you?
Do you keep defaulting to past behaviours?
Do you find yourself longing for the good old days?
Are you defensive when someone makes a suggestion?
3. I must listen, no, really listen
Not: “I’ll tell you what I think”
Do you listen to people, no, really listen?
Are you able to give yourself completely to another’s perspective or idea?
Can you listen without considering a response?
4. I accept that others can teach me
Not: “I have all the resources I need”
How self-aware are you? Do you know your gaps?
Are you able to identify areas of growth?
Are you open to put aside your tried and true methodology?
5. I am comfortable with uncertainty
Not: “Everything is in its place”
Can you cope with the messiness of change?
Are you able to push out into uncharted waters?
How does disruption affect you?
All of us need to work hard at remaining teachable. . As leaders we set the culture and this is a culture that I would like to see flourish in my world.