The leader-learner is more than a leader who knows how to learn from their surrounding team members. Although research has shown that leaders are only as good as the team in which they surround themselves, leader-learners also exhibit active listening and respect for the process embedded within another area of expertise. A manager has to be able to learn from those who may sit lower on the food chain. Knowledge sharing and management still requires efforts made by actual humans. A leader-learner does not volunteer to help another department execute a task while attempting to disregard the practices and standards of that department’s industry sector. A leader-learner is able to transition comfortably from active leadership to active learner.
Example of improper leader-learner behavior: There is an attorney who is working in your company’s the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (OEEO). The attorney and his manager thought it would be a great idea for him to volunteer as a employment test monitor for the Human Resources department. As a test monitor he is responsible for seating the candidates, passing out test materials, and following the general instruction of the test administrator. However, when the test administrator tried to tell the attorney to use hand signals instead of whispering in her ear to communicate, the attorney was not able to transition from a leader in the OEEO department to a learner in the employment testing environment. Hand signals in the testing room helps serves as a orderly and presentable tool to for test monitor’s to communicate the need to stop, slow down the exam process, or other general reasons that delay the exam administration. The hand signals simply help get the attention of other test monitor’s to communicate further verbally if necessary. Unfortunately, the OEEO attorney insisted that walking up to his fellow test monitor, cupping his hand over her ear and whisper something while she was reading instructions to the test candidates was suitable as a form of communication during exam administration.
Example of proper leader-learner behavior: The recruiter has been assigned to help the Procurement Department in hiring a procurement clerk. The recruiter has recruited to fill various procurement positions in the past. The hiring manager is now insisting that the procurement clerk candidates must have an advanced college degree instead of the current high school diploma. The recruiter was hesitant of increasing the educational requirement by more than 4 years. The hiring manager met with the recruiter to show her current industry data outlining the job functions and required competencies of procurement clerks within their industry. The recruiter became a learner so that she could make an informed decision in setting the educational requirements for the procurement clerk position.
The leader-learner is able to use their expertise as a foundation of working with others across varying fields, however, they prefer to use the expertise of others as a springboard towards understanding how to achieve the ultimate goal at hand. The leader-learner practices aren’t excluded to large or complex-scaled tasks. For example, determining a new filing system can change leaders into a learner. The key is to allow yourself to be secure within yourself to adapt accordingly.