Monday, October 13, 2008

The #1 Key to eXpanding Your Leadership

In a survey of 359 corporate officers and 6,900 managers from 77 firms, the McKinsey organization reported that only 7% of respondents agreed that their companies had enough talented managers. (1) Even more alarming was the mere 3% who agreed with this statement: "We develop people effectively." The question then becomes, how might you take personal responsibility to become a talented managers or leaders? The answer, learning agility.

Learning agility is the ability to learn how to deal effectively with first-time situations or changing conditions. Researchers Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger followed 313 managers who had been promoted for two years. (2) They found that managers with high learning-agility scores performed significantly better in their new jobs than those with lower learning-agility scores. Interestingly, neither IQ nor personality variables (with the minor exception of ‘open to experience’) correlated with performance. The number one key to succeeding when you are promoted is your agility as a learner. Here are several suggestions to help you expand this critical skill:

1. Develop a sincere desire to learn more about yourself, others, and ideas. Ask more questions during one-on-one and staff meetings.

2. Actively solicit feedback about your performance from others.

3. Try something new every day. Drive to work a different way, brush your teeth with the opposite hand, change the drawers in your dresser, go to the theater or symphony...

4. Conduct small experiments at work. Ask your team members to try something small and get back to you with their results.

5. Embrace change by becoming an advocate for change.

6. Read and watch movies outside your normal area of interest.

7. Volunteer for a project that is unfamiliar to you.

8. Ask a coach to think through difficult business problems with you. Be willing to look at numerous angles.

9. Help those who are weak where you are strong.

10. Ask for help from those who are strong where you are weak.

We don't learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on our experience. It's always Groundhog Day for those who don't learn from what happens to them. The number one key to leadership growth is learning agility. Adapt these ideas to help you grow through it and not just go through it.

Keep on eXpanding,


1. Cited in Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger, ‘The Leadership Machine,’ 2002, page 165.

2. Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo: Learning Agility as a Prime Indicator of Potential.’ Human Resource Planning’: 12/01/04, 12 -- 15.

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