Great leaders craft teams and systems that learn.
If great teachers are to lead and great leaders are to teach, then they need to either support or build a learning organization.
Learning organizations push for and support a transformational leadership paradigm, rather than a transactional one, according to Prof. Bernard Bass. The idea here is that the leader, as a teacher and supporter of the learning organization, inspires and stimulates intellectual curiosity (among other reactions and norms) among their employees.
As Peter Senge puts it in The Fifth Discipline, learning organizations “encourage adaptive and generative learning, encouraging employees to think outside the box and work in conjunction with other employees to find the best answer to any problem…”
Part of this characteristic is the ability to create a cultural norm across learning opportunities that reinforces a shared vision and teaches workers and learners how to align their individual work with that vision. This means using the opportunity for the leader to teach their folks about the interrelationships between lessons and applications as it relates to the system, using both data and tact to communicate big takeaways while simultaneously helping others to draw their own conclusions.
Oh, and to discuss the learning openly, if appropriate, across and between teams.
As a leader, reflection will help you understand if and how you’re building a learning organization or team. It’s a tall order, but consider this:
As a leader, you exemplify cultural norms.
You show how to best collaborate and communicate within and across teams.
You demonstrate how to pause and think critically, sometimes aloud.
You express your own new learnings and curiosities.
You use authentic gratitude, growth, and problem solving as instruments to teach.
As a leader, as a teacher, your example can control the expectations and set the terms for a culture of learning in your space, as well as the practices and relationships that sustain it.
Some of the fruits of your successful efforts as a teaching leader, those that support the development and sustainability of a learning culture, is when you can see knowledge being freely shared among the learners.
You’ll see the changes in yourself when you start to show how you make decisions that are transformational for projects and team dynamics alike, and that you’re not afraid to revise that decision the next time based on applied learning.
This is as much about the concept of learning as a relational concept as it is a social construct.
The change resonates.
The dynamics evolve.
The paradigm shifts.
That learning, that transformation, that change in your systems and in your people and in your impact, all of that starts with you reflecting on how you as a leader will make that learning investment in your people.