The best leaders never stop learning

August 18, 2017

Professor Sue Ashford, writing in Harvard Business Review, explains why executives who are in learning mode outperform others. When it comes to leadership, experience is important but it isn’t everything.

What sets good leaders apart from their peers is a learning mindset, writes Ashford, Michael & Susan Jandernoa Professor of Management and Organizations and chair of management & organizations at Michigan Ross, and co-authors Lauren Keating and Peter Heslin in Harvard Business Review. Building on research by Ashford and Scott DeRue, Edward J. Frey Dean of Business and Stephen M. Ross Professor of Business, these authors highlight the mindset that individuals carry into an experience.

Avoiding the natural tendency to focus on proving oneself and performing better than others and explicitly adopting a learning mindset can be both empowering and have payoffs for the performer, particularly if there are setbacks or difficulties in the experience, they write. Ashford, Keating, and Heslin also show how leaders can get into a learning mode, and how organizations can help their leaders become and stay mindful learners.

“The bottom line is that by supporting leaders being in learning mode, organizations can develop the capabilities that leaders need to anticipate, respond to, and continually learn from the stream of emerging challenges to organizational prosperity,” they write.

Keating is a doctoral student at UNSW Sydney Business School, where Heslin is a professor of management.

This article was originally published in the Ross Thought in Action