4 Teachable Stoppers and How to Avoid Them

John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” While this is true, I have observed many leaders who have allowed themselves to stop being teachable. Being teachable is all about a person’s mindset and not about leadership ability or talent. The great leaders have avoided the things that will cause them to stop being teachable and always look for teachable moments.

Teachable Stoppers:

Pride-Prideful leaders believe they are better than they actually are, which causes them to stop being teachable. This prevents them from seeing the need to become better. So they don’t focus on growing and learning. Prideful leaders who are not teachable will soon come crashing down.

Insecure-I believe insecure leaders generally have low self-esteem. They spend most of their time and energy doing things that raise their self-esteem while overlooking the need to be teachable. They focus on what others think rather than being teachable and learning ways to allow them to lead better.

Title minded- A leader who is focused primarily on a title is so busy maintaining that title and approval that they overlook the importance of being teachable. You don’t need a title to be a leader but you do need to be teachable.

Resistance to change- Is another reason why leaders are not teachable. The person who is resistant to change knows being teachable may get them out of their comfort zone and require them to change or bring change to the organization. Being teachable is the foundation to change and those who resist change also resist being teachable.  It is wise to remember, “Everything is in a process of change, nothing endures; we do not seek permanence.” ~Masatoshi Naito

How to Avoid Teachable Stoppers:

  • Recognize and acknowledge these areas so you are aware of the potential negative impact.
  • Have an inner circle of people who hold you accountable and gives you advice.
  • Daily make the choice to stay humble by being a servant leader.
  • Spend a short amount of time on a success or failure, then move forward.
  • Have a plan to grow and learn.
  • Focus more on influencing than on your title or position.
  • Associate with teachable people.
  • Take time to evaluate your current heart condition and motives.

Question: How do you avoid teachable stoppers and remain teachable?

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28 thoughts on “4 Teachable Stoppers and How to Avoid Them

  1. Thanks Dan for sharing this – such good points.

    For me it all comes down to keeping in my mind – I do not know it all and being a servant leader. As I keep this in front it helps me to focus on being teachable.

  2. It’s so insightful that you point out insecurity as something that stops a teachable attitude. You would think that insecurity makes people teachable because they want to get better. But instead, they’re all concerned about their appearance instead of their reality. They’re more concerned with projecting an image of having it all together. That’s not the same as humility which acknowledges that it’s OK to admit that you don’t have it all together.

    • Loren,

      it might be different for some people but yes I have noticed many insecure people only focus on how they look while others are around. Humility plays a huge role in admitting we don’t know it all. Thank you for adding value to the post.

  3. I can say shamefully that the first three were so prevalent in my life that it is a wonder I am still doing what I am doing. Must have something to do with the grace of God. :) I think God has to get our attention when we are so self-absorbed. He did me. Good advice Dan.

    • Bill,

      I think without the grace of God we all would be in trouble because of these areas. Thank you for reading and sharing. I hope you had a great vacation.

  4. All good points. I especially like that you mentioned being a servant leader. Christ calls us to be servants and to be humble. We must all remember that he is the ultimate leader!

    The book of Proverbs has some excellent advice for leaders and gives good examples of fools.

    • TC Avey,

      Being humble is all about being willing to serve others. Yes, Proverbs is full of wisdom and advice. Thank you for reading and adding value to the post.

  5. Thanks for such a good post. It reminds me to stay a teachable student because there’s so much to learn in this life. And I have a lifetime to learn it…

  6. Hey Dan:

    Nice post! Your right being teachable is all about mindset, not theory or practice of leadership. If someone is stuck in a fixed mindset they will not be teachable, however a growth mindset will be very teachable. “You don’t need a title to be a leader” nice quote and fully agree. From your stance, do you think the unteachable leader is rampant today?

    • James,

      This post really relates well with the guest post you did on my site http://danblackonleadership.info/2012/01/why-is-it-important-to-identify-if-you-have-a-fixed-or-growth-mindset/ A leader should focus on having a growth mindset.

      I have seen some leaders understood the current economy/state of how things are working now and have started to see the need to be teachable so they can move forward. While I have seen other leaders and company’s fail because of staying unteachable and not seeing the need to change. Those who aren’t teachable and change are falling fast. So I think people who at one time have not wanted to change or where not being teachable starting to know those are key elements to maintaining their leadership role and moving forward.

  7. Great points Dan. I would say pride is the worst and probably’s leads to the others. I praise the Lord that when I use to be this way, a good friend called me out and made me see the truth of how I was acting. This is a post all leaders should have memorized!

    • Kimanzi,

      I totally agree with you about pride leading to a lot of other problems and issues. It’s great to hear you had some one set you strait when you needed to be, every one should have some one like that. Thank you for reading and your support.

  8. The points here can go past the leaders to every other aspect of life. I have often contended that you do not get old until you stop learning. My grandmother died at the age of 94, but she never got old, because she loved to learn.
    The best way to avoid the teachable stoppers you mentioned is simple: keep focused on God. Humility before the ultimate Leader lessens pride, and keeps the heart going in the right direction; this also boosts self-esteem, because when you know God loves you and that He is always with you, your leadership skills become His. (Kind of confusing – but it sounded good in my head before I typed it out)

    • Susan,

      I totally agree about not getting old until you stop learning. I have read study’s that staying teachable can add years to a persons life. So being teachable can allow you to live longer, I’ll take that any day:)

      Staying focus and connected to God is the best way to avoid these teachable stoppers. Great points and thank you for sharing them.

  9. Dan, when I read this blog post I said, “You are da man Dan”. You are so right with your points on the types of Leaders. Learning growing and staying humble are important in Leadership. If we all follow these examples, you will see some powerful leaders coming up.

  10. Sadly, as an insecure person, I DO spend too much time focusing on what the team thinks. While I value their input and suggestions, sometimes I am led too far into a decision that will make the team happy–but not necessarily better.

    I’m working on it, but it’s hard for everyone to adjust to process implementation that isn’t popular. In the end, it’s the best thing for the department, which is what I was hired to see to.

    • Scott,

      First off thank you for your honest comment. I think at times we all deal with one or all of these 4 areas in one way or the other. Some times it’s hard to make the unpopular decision but that’s what great leaders do and need to do. I have found staying closely connected with God and other people of faith has helped me with these 4 areas.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and share.

  11. This is a tremendous post, Dan. Unfortunately, it’s true that it is more difficult to be teachable the older we get. Perhaps it is confidence in our abilities due to successes. We must remember that success does not mean there is no area for improvement.

    Professional athletes have trainers. Successful business people have coaches. Whenever I look at people at the “top of their game” I find that they always seem to have someone there with them giving instruction.

    May we have that same heart!

    • Matt,

      If we want to keep moving forward the key is to have trusted people who will allow us to learn and grow. Success should encourage us to improve and become better so we can see more success.

      Thank you for your insightful comment and stopping by.