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October 2012 - Leaders must be Teachable

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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Dr. John KlineShortly 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 teachability.

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.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

October 2012 - Leaders must be Teachable
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