Are you a Teachable Leader?

Your personal growth and learning are key elements to your success as a leader and moving toward your potential. So let me ask. Are you a teachable leader? Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you have a teachable mindset:

  • When was the last time you did something for the first time?
  • When was the last time you experience a teachable moment?
  • When was the last time you asked an inner circle member or mentor for advice or counsel and accepted the advice you received?
  • What have you learned and applied in the last month?
  • When was the last time you moved outside of your comfort zone?

If you have a difficult time answering these questions or can’t remember the last time you developed yourself or learned something new, now is the time to shift your mindset toward becoming a teachable leader. Even if you are a teachable leader you still have the opportunity to increase your growth and learning. being or becoming a teachable leader requires that you avoid these teachable stoppers:

  • Pride- Pride makes you believe you are better than you actually are, preventing your growth and learning.
  • Talent reliant- Relying only on your skills or talent can prevent you from being teachable.
  • Title minded- Focusing on your authority or leadership title causes you to concentrate on your power or position and not your growth.
  • Highly educated- Too much reliance on your education can cause you to only lean on your past knowledge and education which prevents continued growth and learning.
  • Resistant to change- Growth and learning cause change and those who resist change are often not teachable.
  • Low understanding- Those who don’t know the value and importance of personal growth or learning don’t engage in the activities that will cause them to become better.

If you’re going to remain teachable and be moving toward your leadership potential remember these two points:

1. Know your limits- Leaders have to know their personal limits. They have to remember they are not the best or knowledgeable in every area. To stay within your limits find and concentrate on your strength zones and areas of expertise. This also means you know the importance of having a strong team of people around you. Having a well rounded and skilled team creates unlimited potential. Speaker and author Mattie Stepanek said, “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

2. Be deliberate- Being teachable is about being open and willing to be taught or learn something new. Teachable leaders are deliberate about learning from those around them and have systems in place which allow them to engage in growth and learning on a daily basis. They understand growth and learning does not happen by accident. To remain teachable requires making a daily decision to grow and learn.

Questions: What are some other teachable stoppers? How else can a leader remain teachable?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Wow, Dan, this is so important. I’ve been thinking along the same lines a lot for the past 24 hours. In fact just 4 hours ago I posted this on twitter,

    “The best teachers I’ve ever known had teachable spirits and were never so arrogant to think that they could stop learning.”

    What got me started was yesterday we had a problem with one of our students. We invited some guest teachers to come to our institute to teach a course on missions. Yesterday after I got to work our one of the teachers asked to talk to me. He said that they were having a very difficult time with one of the students. As he gave me the list of problems with this student the one that stuck out to me was that he was “unteachable”. The student was constantly disagreeing and arguing his point, distracting other students and making disrespectful comments. Unfortunately we had to ask this student to leave.

    As I discussed the situation with the teachers we all agreed on how important it is to have a “learning spirit”. That means being humble and as you mentioned pride can be a major hindrance to learning. The other thing I noticed with this student was simply the affect attitude has on learning. Unfortunately he had slipped into a negative attitude towards his teachers, as long as this attitude remained it acted like a wall that prohibited him from learning.

    After yesterday’s event I started asking myself whether or not I’m teachable. I hope God will also keep me humble and ready to learn in every situation.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Caleb, I just wanted to say that in my 15 years in education at a community college, I saw what you described here many times. I saw it in kids just out of high school, in older students and in individuals being trained at a company. Some were more vocal while others just sat idling in the classroom basically wasting time. Fortunately, there were many students and learners who were not this way, and that was the joy I found in teaching. Working in education is a humbling experience for many reasons, but especially because it forces you to look at yourself more deeply to make sure you are setting the right example, which is what you and the others in your organization did. Great job on how you handled this.

    • Great minds think alike:)

      Perfect example Caleb. That type of attitude can prevent growth and learning. As well as bring problems in other areas of our life. It sounds like the teacher did the right thing in this situation. We don’t want others effective because of one person.

      I see that you are teachable Caleb, your always reading and commenting on other blogs which shows you have a desire to grow and learn. Keep it up! Thank you for adding to the conversation.

  • One stopper that comes to mind is thinking you don’t have time to be teachable & grow. You’ve turned off hearing anything new because you think you don’t have time to process and deal with it. Unfortunately, this mindset means you’re already starting to decrease as a leader. A leader can remain teachable by making time to be teachable. Build it into daily habits. Make it a mindset.

    • Great addition Kari, that can defiantly prevent us from growing and learning. Great point about building into our daily agenda. That’s so essential. Thank you for reading and adding to the topic.

  • Great post, Dan. I think we have a tendency to become less teachable if we think we already know it all. I agree with Kari below about time, too. I’m constantly learning from a variety of sources.

    • I agree, Dan. People who “know it all” will soon find they are behind the learning curve. That’s great, learning from a variety of source is so essential. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  • Excellent post, Dan. I think many of us in our early years were less than model learners, having learned all there was to learn at the time! Since that time experience in leading has taught me that life is a constant learning cycle since absolutely everything changes. While human nature doesn’t, all else does. Leading isn’t about knowing it all, it’s about managing what we know and what we learn while pushing into the next change… and maybe being the catalyst for that change.

    • Thank you Floyd:) Great statement, ” Life is a constant learning cycle since absolutely everything changes.” That’s why we have to remain teachable! Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion. I appreciate you.

  • tamrenzi

    Dan, you really bring up great points. I had never thought of being Highly Educated as a hindrance to being a teachable leader, but it is important to consider. I just earned my M.Ed,, rather late in life compared to most, but I am aware that every day new discoveries are being made in the field of education and also that some of the tried-and-true methods do work. I think ongoing research is extremely important and not just in medicine. I’m so glad we’ve come so far – anesthesia is a lovely thing. Honest reflection in whatever your endeavors will allow you to stay open to possibilities and a solid knowledge base will prevent you from jumping on every bandwagon.

    • Hello Tamrenzi,

      It has the potential to be a hindrance, I defiantly promote Higher Education though. I have a BS in Human Development. All I’m saying is that if we allow it to we can stop learning once we have the degree, since we have spent several years studying in a specific area. Great point about “honest reflection” that’s important! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      Do you have a site or blog? Looking forward to connecting with you more.

      • tamrenzi

        Hi Dan, I’m the Jolly of The Great Jollyhoombah. CJ is the Great part at hoombah.com .

        I was in public education for ten years and continue to teach, and I don’t think there’s anything more important than sparking curiosity and a lifelong love of learning. I can’t imagine not waking up and seeking to learn something new! It’s so much fun!

        • Got it. I just did not connect your name/face with your blog. Now I know who you are:)

          I like your statement “spark curiosity and a lifelong love of learning.” Thank you for bring that enthusiasm to the classroom. We need more teachers like you.

  • DS

    Pride, talent, educated are all tremendous points Dan. This is a great post to cause self-reflection.

    I’m often fearful that my past experience, and performance will lull me to sleep and I will overlook the need to improve/learn/grow. Another point for me is that I have to be careful in some of my strength areas because I can be overly critical of others doing similar tasks.

    Humility definitely plays a huge role in overcoming each of the areas listed in your post. There is always going to be someone better and someone worse in any area of life.

    • Great point about strength areas. Keeping a teachable mindset in those areas are so important. I agree, humility is so essential. Thank you for reading and adding to the conversion.

  • One thing that can mess up the leader is for him to think he is the only one who can lead. Great points on the teachable leadership elements. Indeed, humility is the key.

    • I agree, that can defiantly mess a leader up. Thank you for stopping by to read and share.

  • Fearful

  • charly

    I´m fearful of not being consistent, it´s always been a problem with me. So when I´m consistent I pretty much have all the attributes you mention, but if I go off the rail for a few days or weeks sometimes. Consistency is a word I´m going to write in my calendar for each day of the week. Thank´s for the re-enforcement in this post.

    • Consistency is so important if we want to accoplish and achieve what we desire. Great idea about putting it in your calendar. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • You can remain teachable by surrounding yourself with a team or group of people that can challenge you. No everyone in your circle should agree with everything that you say. We need people around us that are not afraid to tell us No..

    • That’s a great way to remain teachable. Thank you for adding your thoughts.

  • Mansal

    Ah this is great. Have you ever heard of an “epistemocrat”? It’s a term made famous in The Black Swan and it is especially applicable when discussing “teachability” in a sense.

    • Hello Mansal,

      I never have, I’m going to do some research on it. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  • The best teachers and leaders, Dan, are also the best learners. Trying to set aside pride and ego to learn from people and circumstances in our life is important.. We sometimes think we don’t need to learn because we know it all. haha Or that learning from the moment means we weren’t as smart as we thought. Or we are lesser in some way for having to learn from others.

    I’m always looking for teachable moments through jobs, events, circumstances and people so I can become a better person. And so I can avoid repeating mistakes in my life.

    • Great thoughts Vishnu, remaining teachable is so important. Stay teachable my friend.

  • Dan,

    I recently interviewed for a leadership position within a signal company (IT Company) here in Korea. The platoon provided radio communications to the higher headquarters, Now this was definitely outside my comfort zone. My IT background as as well my leadership experience had been more traditional. LANs, WANs, servers etc… In order to succeed as the Platoon Sergeant junior Soldiers would have needed to tech me the basics and I had to be willing to learn. So, don’t be afraid to learn from those you lead. Leaders are often more removed from day to day realities than they think and those on the front line are your subject matter experts.

    • Hello TJ Trent,

      That’s great your seeking a position outside your comfort zone and that your willing to have your followers. Keep leading and being teachable bro, it’s going to take you far! Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • The Lone Ranger – he/she does not take time to invest in others and develop relationships. We learn so much through the simple act of connecting with other leaders, but many try to go-it alone. This is a signal that they are not teachable.

    • Great addition Chris!!! Thank you for sharing that important point. We must be willing to invest time and effort into building relationships with others. I consider you one of my friends:)

      • Thanks Dan. You’re a good friend too and have been extremely supportive of me. I look forward to the day we can meet in-person!

        • That’s going to be a good day:)