Learners Make Great Leaders

Quality leaders are gold to any organization. No matter what role they play, a solid leader makes those around him or her better, keeps their area of influence focused on the organizations mission and vision, helps their team accomplish more, and makes the most of the resources they are given.

But how do you find great leaders, and how do you help the people you have lead better? There’s a lot that goes into finding and developing leaders, so there’s no silver bullet or one way to do it. I’ve noticed, however, that of all the great leaders I’ve known—those I’ve worked for, those I’ve worked with, and volunteers who serve on a ministry team once or twice a week—there’s a common trait that they all seem to share: they are learners.

Being a learner doesn’t necessarily mean being a scholar. In fact, there may be some people on your team that you’d never peg as a learner because they weren’t interested in pursing an education beyond high school or they shy away from the classroom settings at your church. A learner is simply someone who wants to do whatever they are doing better and does what they need to figure it out.

Learning involves more than just reading books (although it certainly helps). Learners also seek out people who can help them be better leaders, they like learning about how other effective organizations operate, and they’re always asking good questions. It’s not so much a desire for knowledge that makes a learner; it’s the humility to know they don’t know it all and the initiative to find the resources and information they need to do whatever it is better. So how can we make sure to have leaders on our teams who are also great learners?

Help your volunteer leaders learn.

Just because many of your volunteer leaders are busy with other obligations such as family, work, and school doesn’t mean that they aren’t willing to carve out some time to learn how to be better volunteers. Offer simple, time-efficient ways for them to learn such as a giving them a book (and taking them out to lunch or coffee a month later to talk about it), hosting a streamed conference at your church, or simply sending out a link to a good blog post that you got a lot out of. Not only will your leaders learn, but if you do this with all of your volunteers, some potential leaders may begin to surface who respond positively to the learning opportunities you provide.

Hire learners.

When you hire staff, make a habit of hiring learners. Learners have a higher potential leadership bandwidth, because they are more willing to improve themselves and their skills. You can teach a lot of skills, but one thing you can’t teach is a willingness to learn.

Be a learner.

When you learn (and share what you’re learning), you communicate to those you lead that being a learner is a value on your team. By being a learner yourself, you create a culture of learning and help the leaders around desire to learn as well. Not only will you be a better leader by learning, you’ll make everyone around you better, too.


How else can we help leaders be learners? I’d love to hear from you!


Photo Credit: markus spiske via Compfight cc

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