For your growth in leadership to happen, it is obvious to say that the leader must be teachable.  Being teachable means that you are open and willing to explore new ideas, techniques, perspectives and insights.  Some of the best development you can do is to adopt a habit of being intensely curious about a lot of topics.  Extraordinarily successful leaders are avid readers and listeners to podcasts or books on tape.  They use their airplane and car ride time to listen to new perspectives on leadership, productivity, self-development and related topics. They actively resist the temptation to use this time to catch up on the always negative news or sports talk radio, or see the latest movie on their latest electronic toy while traveling at 30,000 feet.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a plane and next to me was a man in his mid-40s.  He appeared to be taking the plane for a business purpose.  When he was able to do so, he took out what looked like an I-Pad or tablet, presumably to do some work.  A short-while later, I noticed that he was tapping his index finger onto the screen at a very rapid pace.  Aside from being an annoying distraction to me, a part of me really wanted to know why he was doing this.  I glanced over to see him playing some war-game on his computer, blowing up bad-guys (or maybe he was blowing up good guys for all I know).  The thought I had was, “What a waste of time.” Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not being judgmental at all.  I am merely making an observation about how someone uses their time.  Once used, we can never get the time back.

Would it surprise you to know that the top 1% of highly successful leaders have a discipline of self-development?  According to Christian Simpson, one of the world’s top leadership coaches, the most successful leaders have learned to develop themselves before they work on developing or improving their business.  This requires a teachable attitude and commitment to continuous learning.  There is simply no other way to achieve the growth potential you might be seeking. Jim Rohn has said, “If you develop your job skills, you can make a good living; if you develop yourself, you can make a fortune.”

I have worked with several executives who knew they had a pattern of negative behavior, especially under pressure, such as explosive anger at unexpected news.  In many cases, they are often unaware they are exhibiting such behavior until it is too late.  Unfortunately, the damage is already done.  What is interesting is that, as I held conversations with the staff and peers of these executives, they would routinely see the signs that the person was going to “explode” yet the person was not aware of this.  Working with these executives on what their “triggers” were aided greatly in helping them become more aware and thus exhibit more acceptable behavior in the executive suite.

A leader who is committed to growing is regularly learning by reading books (not the trashy paperbacks) that inspire, teach and provide new insights in those areas you have targeted as growth areas.  They are reading blog posts by insightful authors; they are reading top magazines that have a focus on leadership such as the Harvard Business Review; they are listening to podcasts when they are driving or working out; they listen to books on tape or other CDs as they drive long distances or fly in airplanes.  These “learning leaders” have an insatiable appetite for learning and take advantage of down-time to become more proficient in what they want to do.

What are your habits demonstrating you as a lifelong learner?  Feel free to leave a comment below.