The difference between successful leaders and progressive path-breakers is that they have an infinite yearning to learn. A number of progressive leaders, philosophers and authors have been often quoted on the importance of learning.
Dr. Seuss summed it up perfectly when he said: “The more you read, the more you will know and the more you will learn, the more places you’ll go.”
From Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, all the efficacious leaders share this impressive habit.
While these leaders have never eschewed the traditional methods of learning and have looked down upon college education, they have managed to teach themselves through alternative methods like going on a reading spree, perusing online journals and materials, watching videos or taking up skill-based courses.
If you are a leader or aim to become one, it is absolutely vital that you form this life-changing habit. If you are not learning already, here’s how you can follow the leaders.
1. Read great books.
Elon Musk credits his inclination to build rockets and traveling to Mars to reading books like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams; “Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson; and “Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down” by J.E. Gordon.
If you are a CEO, read books on management and leadership, read autobiographies of successful leaders. If you are a Web developer, read books on computers, right from its evolution to its future, know the topic inside out. If you are a homemaker, read books on homemaking, but read.
If you don’t know where to start, join a book club in your city or online and you’ll be surprised at the range of books that can enrich you for life. In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg started a book club called A Year of Books. Every two weeks, he would recommend a new book to inspire his followers to read at least one book a month.
2. Peruse online journals.
The Internet is the best thing that can happen to readers — I will say that over and over again. From medicine to psychology, from Zen to zoology, you will find some of the latest studies, journals and discussions on a topic that interests you.
Some of the best resources where you can access journals are JSTOR, SAGE, E-journals.org and Directory of Open Access Journals. These resources have some of the best reading material from scholarly societies and renowned authors and publishers.
Online journals are a trusted, relatively un-opinionated gateway to almost all the leading topics in the world. For instance, The Journal of Semantics has a collection of all major articles and studies related to semantics from the 80s to present date.
3. Watch videos.
Not everyone finds reading easy. I know quite a few people who would fall asleep reading two lines of a book. If you happen to one of these people, don’t worry. Thanks to YouTube and dozens of other online video platforms, you can learn anything you want by watching videos.
Being a marketer, I have watched the famed Whiteboard Friday videos of Rand Fishkin and picked up valuable lessons along the way. Learning comes in myriad ways and whether you are drawn to physics, marketing or trivia, you can learn without putting on your reading glasses.
4. Take online courses.
As a leader you have to constantly keep yourself updated with different skills, and as technology keeps evolving at an extremely rapid pace, the need to update has become more pressing.
One way to stay ahead is with a certification. Apart from the ease of online learning, you also have a validation on your skills. Due to the maintenance requirement of the credential, you are always ahead of the rest with the latest trends and developments in the industry.
However, the common thinking is that the rigorous schedules of working professionals stand as a blockage to learning, be it back in college or online. This has led online education providers like Khan Academy, Udemy and Simplilearn to introduce trainings that are available 24/7.
Case in point, Simplilearn is, by far, the most preferred because of their ‘Flexi-Pass’ — learners attain access to both live virtual classes and self-paced learning. Despite the time constraints, you can still give your career the boost it needs. Their trainings cover diverse industries including Project Management, Quality Management, Big Data, Digital Marketing, Agile, Scrum and many more. All you need to do is pick your course, chalk out your learning schedule, and start learning — the rest is taken care of.
Learning is a life-long experience and you can’t become a successful leader if you stop learning. If you are really serious about acquiring a skill, find out everything about it and look everywhere you’re your neighborhood library to free resources available online.
Education may be expensive but learning isn’t. The only effective cost is your time. No matter how old you are or where you live, learning has become truly accessible, so there’s really no excuse for you not to.