Self-learning is an important trait for a leader, because managing self is very crucial before you manage a team.

Our latest podcast featuring Sunandha Govindan, L&D Professional at Strides explored the importance of continuous learning for leadership development and what skills an ideal leader should imbibe in order to successfully lead a team. In this blog, we take a deeper look into the major aspects of leadership development and the role continuous learning plays in the process.

Some of the most desirable aspects of a leader’s life like success, growth, ardent following, are all deeply rooted in ‘learning’ more than anything else. It is when an individual truly accepts that success and growth come from continuous learning and upskilling and reskilling oneself, is when she truly understands what it takes to be a leader.

It is a must for leaders to foster a habit of continuous learning, not only to maintain relevancy today and in the future, but also to polish their leadership skills. That’s why it is often said that one of the key characteristics for a leader is having the passion for learning, and an efficient cycle of learning and applying that learning to further her leadership goal.

Organizational leaders, especially, play a major role in fostering a culture of learning for themselves as well as the workforce, because leaders need to be agile and prepared to respond to the ever-evolving markets and business environments, and learning plays a huge role in fostering this agility.

A leader’s commitment to improve both personally and professionally trickles down the organizational hierarchy, leading to a learning culture that can either be organic or even formalized to achieve the immediate and future business objectives; and the very first step towards personal and professional development is understanding oneself and managing self.

As Sunanda rightly says, “Self-learning is an important trait for a leader, because managing self is very crucial before you manage a team. Leading is reading is a perfect adage, be it bite-sized reading or micro-reading, it definitely helps deal with any given situation.”

Organizational leaders who understand the value and impact of learning on talent development and retention, are sure to drive more positive results. Moreover, continuous learning enables leadership aspirants to transform from passive thinkers to active decision makers by being aware of their actions and understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and actively addressing the challenges that come their way.

Sharing her experience on leadership training and the best ways training can be imparted to the workforce, Sunandha says, “Understanding the different learning styles is important for L&D professionals, as not everyone learns the same way and it is really critical to deliver training that suits the different learning styles of the individuals. Training in a way is all about creativity. When it comes to delivery, it’s not only about imparting knowledge but also thinking about how to creatively share that knowledge that grasps the attention of all kinds of learners.”

Furthermore, learning must be viewed as a priority rather than an option, and an active investment of time and money, so that organizations have a constant pool of talent to dip into, especially in times of sudden disruptions and unprecedented changes.

Dr. Brad Staats, Associate Professor-Operations at University of North Carolina says, "Today's fast-paced, ever-changing, global economy requires us to never stop learning or we risk becoming irrelevant. Savvy leaders recognize this means investing in their own learning journey, so they can develop the processes and behaviors required for ongoing success."

So, what are the most important skills needed to become an ideal leader? According to Sunanda, “Behavioral skills will go a long way in making a great leader, because a large part of being a leader is dealing with people effectively. I feel Active Listening skill is especially important for any leader along with empathy.”

Active listening is undoubtedly a critical skill for any leader, because as executive coach Marshall Goldsmith says – ‘80% of our success in learning from other people is based on how well we listen.’

However, it is important to separate ‘listening’ from ‘hearing’. We hear people all the time, but do we really listen to what they are saying. Active listening is more about understanding the speaker’s emotions and responding effectively to address those emotions, along with the subject of the conversation. And, as everything else, active listening requires practice to become a better and successful leader.

Behavioral skills, along with active listening, like creativity, emotional intelligence, innovation and critical thinking, all go a long way in developing effective leaders. Soft skills development certainly is one important aspect of effective leadership development and can help one scale the steep ladder towards becoming an ideal leader.

For more podcasts featuring well-known leaders from across several industries, visit Leadership Spotlight.