Do you have a learning mindset?

The best leaders have a learning mindset.

I don’t mean “learning on the job”, I mean a continual striving for growth using classes, courses, books, certifications, podcasts, etc.

Why don’t I consider “learning on the job” as “learning” in a leader mindset? While it is useful, and should be your jumping off point, what you learn in your day to day work will be skewed by the company culture, current strategies, and resources available. You’ll miss a lot if you only rely on what is being done or talked about in your organization.

To be sure I have the best tools and knowledge available to me, I think about my learning goals with three areas of focus.

To fill in the gaps.
Seek resources outside of your organization to fill gaps in an area your organization is pursuing or already has as part of their culture and strategy. I recently finished the CPMAI certification, which helped to fill gaps between my AI and Project Management knowledge. Now as AI based projects come past our team’s desk, I feel more informed and able to be part of those conversation.

To expand into new areas.
Look beyond what’s currently being done in your organization or industry. This doesn’t have to be something that your organization is using or currently pursuing. Take an area of interest, and see what else is out there. A personal example, I recently purchased a NVIDIA Jetson Nano compute device and am taking courses on embedded/edge computing in AI, as well as working through NVIDIA coursework on HPC and GPU level programming. We might never see these types of devices come through our organization, but if we do I’ll be prepared. And there’s “residual” knowledge that I’m picking up along the way that might help me in other areas of my work. In addition, it’s something I enjoy. Bonus!

To solidify for yourself, and others, that you know your stuff.
This is an important one for someone like me, who has serious imposter’s syndrome. You might have a breadth of knowledge that expands beyond your current duties, but when you work in a focused area day to day, it’s easy to be pigeonholed, or to pigeonhole yourself. In taking courses and getting certifications, you can prove to yourself and others that your body of knowledge is deep and wide. I surprised myself recently as I’ve worked through the ISC2 Certified in Cybersecurity training, how much of the infosec space I’ve learned as the system and data custodian of an EHR, as well as a leader in the Enterprise Architecture space.

As a leader, you should always have one foot in the present, working to build better operations. You should also have one foot moving to the future, thinking about what the business and technology landscape is going to look like in 2, 5, 10 years.

So go out there and continue to learn and strive to do better. Your organization will be better for it, and you’ll feel more able and fulfilled as a leader.