The words “leader” and “learner” are not just similar in spelling, they are also intimately related by concept. Leadership stems from learning, both in what we learn from books and what we perceive from the world around us.

Knowledge: Infinite and Eternal

There is something innately satisfying about reading a truism in a book that prompts you to say to yourself, “Yes, that explains so much!” Mankind’s thoughts and ideas, accumulated over millennia contain countless such treasures of knowledge and self-realization, are crucial to good leadership.

There is almost no circumstance that we can face today that does not have a parallel in our vast world history. Wise and observant individuals have penned their thoughts and their solutions on many of those scenarios. Reading their words may not give you an instant answer to your particular problem but it does establish a solid foundation on which to formulate your own. Good leaders do not simply memorize by rote; they analyze through context.

Learning the Real World

When Bill Gates expressed his passion for working with people who are lifelong learners, he focused on a particular aspect – their initiative to learn. “The only thing…in common in these people is a fascination (with) the progress that is taking place and the progress that hasn’t taken place,” he explained.

Reading may be an absolutely essential habit but learning is a much broader term. While much of what we term invaluable knowledge has already been written down, there is no substitute for learning through personal experience. Beyond reading lists and suggestions, true leaders have a yearning to understand the world and the people around them. In times of crises, when theories and projections fail, it is the natural instinct borne of this knowledge that differentiates the survivors from the hapless.

Good leaders do not just surround themselves with good books but also spend their time with good people from whom they can learn. It is at least partially because of this that so many of the most powerful people in the world seek the counsel of spiritual leaders. Perhaps positivity and leadership go hand in hand just as learning and leadership do.

The love of learning is just one character trait of a successful business leader.  To read more about the five personality traits which are common to virtually every successful business leader, read my recent blog post The Five Traits of a Successful Business Leader.