60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

August 19, 2013 — 33 Comments

b42 300x200 60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” -Henry Ford

Competent, lazy leaders are dangerous.

  • “Why fix something that’s working?”
  • “I was promoted to this position for a reason.”
  • “I’ve seen this movie before.”

Beware of highly skilled, non-learning leaders.

I Already Know How To Swim

This summer my son, Sebastian, refused to take swimming lessons.  Why?  Because he “already knows how to swim.”  Well, technically, I suppose that’s true.  And if he were to fall off a dock, I’d want him to believe it.

REAL leaders inspire confidence while exposing growth opportunities

60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

This week, to kick off our last leg of the REAL model, Learning, I’ve been asking leaders across many contexts why leaders stop learning.  Here’s the top 60.  Don’t fall into these traps.  Be deliberate in your learning.  If you’re already a great leader, read more closely.  Leadership is never handled.

Leaders stop learning when they…


1. Stop listening (#1 by a landslide)
2. Stop doing something with what they hear
3. Have closed minds
4. Allow talking to become more important than listening


5. No longer connect with the purpose (#2 answer)
6. Forget WHY they are doing
7. Become complacent
8. Think they’ve accomplished their goal


9. Get distracted by their own desires or success
10. Have their own agenda
11. Let ego get in the way
12. Think they have all the answers
13. Have only “past tense” conversations with themselves
14. Have seen it all before
15. Are not vulnerable
16. Create an appearance of being omniscient
17. Are insecure
18. Assume they’ve learned everything there is to learn
19. Stop focusing outward
20. Believe they’re the accomplishment


21. Lose their passion
22. Lose their flow
23. Become complacent
24. No longer love what they do
25. Lost sight of their dreams and goals
26. Don’t feel energized and inspired
27. Lose their passion to motivate and influence others
28. Feel irrelevant
29. Stop caring
30. Lose interest
31. Become disengaged


32. Are afraid to fail
33. Seldom fail
34. Stop failing
35. Success becomes more important than growth (my personal favorite)
36. Are afraid to develop new skills
37. Are afraid to take risks
38. Stop believing in their ability to grow


39. Are stressed
40. Are marginalized
41. Are exhausted
42. Are comfortable


43. Stop being inquisitive
44. Stop asking “dumb” questions
45. No longer encourage feedback and ideas


46. Fail to connect the dots between where they are and where they want to be
47. Stop challenging themselves and their team
48. Can’t measure progress


49. Stop being creative in their leadership approach
50. Become resistant to change
51. Assume they’ve learned everything there is to learn
52. Aren’t open to possibility


53. Are disempowered
54. Tasks become more important than people
55. Believe success comes from control


56. Stop believing in teamwork
57. Stop developing their team


58. Are dead
59. Stop breathing
60. Your turn.  Leaders stop learning when__________.

Never stop learning.

Thanks to my organization, google plus, twitter, facebook and followers for your insights.

The Real Model composite 150x110 60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

This post is the first in a series on the 4th branch of the REAL model.  Join the conversation, enter your email address to join our interactive, growing leadership community.

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33 responses to 60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

  1. Wow fantastic list. I think all leaders should have a laminated copy of this list. That way we can periodically check to make sure we haven’t fallen victim to any of these. Good wake up call for some.

  2. Couldn’t agree more.

    Leaders are learners.

    I always feel there’s something I don’t know.

    p.s. I’ll be out of town for about 10 days. Not sure how much I’ll be posting.

  3. Great list. This should have hit just about everyone in some form or fashion. I just wrote about this same topic today. Many people get to a point in which they have “arrived”. If you want your business to grow…grow yourself first.

  4. I see something about being distracted in your list, but there is also the environmental definition of being distracted – when the noise of someone’s surroundings prevents the leader from being able to process or engage in a feedback loop. This goes back to some of my teaching background – if the environment isn’t right for the teacher and the student, the process of learning will suffer. Why do teachers take so much time arranging and re-arranging a room? To minimize distraction and to create spaces for different tasks. If you are trying to lead next to a jackhammer doing its hammering, move!

  5. Great list. Unfortunately, I found myself in a leadership position when I suffered from one of those reasons (hanging my head in shame). Fortunately, I recognized it and changed it. It took a bit as I had become lazy, but I finally succeeded!

    The list is NOT a death knell…you can overcome each one of the reasons…except the bonus items!!

  6. Karin- how on earth you could compile so many reasons. This is a challenging task to add more, especially that you clustered the reasons.
    If a person stops learning he/she is virtually dear. If a plant stops learning and adapting it dies. We are not different.

  7. I meant vritually dead and not dear.

  8. Fantastic list!

    Leaders stop learning when they stop enduring the struggles and hardships of leadership.

    With endurance and it’s cousin resilience, a leader is just a manager trying to get through the day.

  9. Karin, as always smack dab on target! Leaders stop learning when, “they stop connecting with themselves.”

    Sue Bock

  10. Brilliant List.

    If you stop learning you stop living.

    Life is about staying open, leadership is about staying curious.

    Thanks for sharing your brilliant thoughts with us.


  11. Lolly, Yes! Staying open and curious, vital to the leadership adventure. You model both of those.

  12. Love this list, Karin. I love how staying curious and inquisitive is the secret sauce for staying young mentally….great quote: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” -Henry Ford

  13. …more specifically how vast the list is. As an avid life long , everyday learner I have to put effort behind why some leaders don’t want to grow. I don’t quite get it, because I believe learning is such a powerful approach to life. I see it every day with our executive coaching clients. However a “no desire to learn” exists a lot and this list stretches my empathy. thanks

  14. I love the Henry Ford quote, too. I’m in an industry (web development) where technology evolves so quickly that much of my time must be dedicated to learning in order to keep my company competitive. At the same time, the web industry tends to be flat in structure and features a lot of independent practitioners who are not compelled by external forces to follow any leaders. This reality tends to foster leaders with technical prowess over those with interpersonal or communications skills. Of course, the most effective leaders have both! In any case, I must read constantly if I hope to lead anything/one.

    • Frank, so fantastic to see you here. Great addition. Some leaders overly rely on one skill (particularly when it’s exceptional) and think they don’t need to develop the rest. Mix and balance.

  15. To develop leadership position in Society/Orgn. u must be very knowledgble. One should also continue to learn new things from expert all round the world. The orgn. should have good modern libraries with modern books,literature,journals. the orgn. should give some incentive to spend atleast half to one hour in Library which should be kept open 24 hours a day.There should also be group discussions,quiz contest and winner to be rewarded. The most important thing is team learning and team spirits .Top management should periodically interview,pat and reward some.

  16. Generally I do not learn article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take
    a look at and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me.

    Thank you, quite great post.

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