after posting last month’s column, “Leaders must be Available to Serve,”
one of my students at Troy University approached me and said, “Being
available is an important ‘able’ of leadership, but I think there are
other important ‘ables.’”
I asked him to tell me more and he said, “Leaders should be capable,
but this probably means the same thing as when you say leaders
should be competent.” See: August 2008.
He continued, “Leaders should be reliable and reasonable, but most
importantly, I believe leaders must be teachable?” I thanked him for
making me think about this very important “able” of leadership. Here are
five things leaders must to do if they are to remain teachable.
Listen to learn.
I have written two books on listening. We use
Listening Effectively in teaching 500 students who
enroll each year in the Introduction to Leadership Course at TROY.
Furthermore, five of my past columns focused on listening; the most
recent one was in February 2011.
Listening is a key ingredient of being teachable and learning.
Remain open to new ideas.
Failure to change because “we have always done it this way,” or “I am
too old to learn new ways,” or “it is too much work to do it that way,”
are often expressions of resistance to new ideas and may demonstrate we
need to be more teachable.
Ask for input from others.
Sometimes leaders discourage input from followers or those outside the
group; yet these same people can offer different knowledge and
perspectives that can are a valuable asset to learning and show our
Avoid being defensive.
If leaders become defensive when someone criticizes their way of
thinking or doing things, subordinates and others will stop giving
leaders information that enhances learning.
Learn from everyone.
I learn from my friends and colleagues of all ages, and from my
students. In fact, I learn more from college students than from any
other group. This column is the result of listening to one student and
thinking about the an important “able.” Leaders must be teachable.