I was asked to contribute to a super little booklet by our associates at Reed Learning: “The Little Book of Inspiration” contains inspiration from “pioneering thinkers from the Learning & Development world”. I was really chuffed that they considered me a pioneering thinker, and also to be published alongside people who I have looked up to for their thinking on the field.

Here is the piece I wrote on the link between leaders and learning…

Good leaders inspire learning, but not because they talk about learning. They inspire and engage, and people respond by following. In order to follow, people take action. In order to take action, people will learn what they need to learn.

Think of a time you really wanted to do something new. What did you do?

You took action and did anything you needed to do to achieve your goal. And almost certainly you needed to do new things, or do things differently. And that means you had to figure out how to do them. You had to learn something new because you were inspired to achieve a goal.

Learning in adults tends to be a goal-oriented process, particularly in the workplace. We do things for a reason, including learning. If there is no goal, no desire to participate, no engagement, then learning dies. If training is delivered that does not relate to a present goal, the learning is not received. You can’t teach someone something they feel they don’t need.

In this way there is an obvious impact of leadership on learning via the mechanisms of inspiration and engagement. What about the other way round? Does learning have an impact on leadership?

When people learn new things in order to pursue a goal, and it makes the pursuit of that goal easier, the goal seems closer and more attainable. A goal that you can reach out and almost touch is more motivating than one that seems impossible because you just can’t imagine ever being able to do it.

So, it is important to make learning available to people as and when they need it in order to follow a leader. Doing so makes the leader’s job so much easier, and their goals so much more attainable.

If you would like to find out more about the link between Leadership and Learning, please download our Best Practice Guide by Paul Matthews here.