60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

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

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

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

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

  36. Are afraid to fail
  37. Seldom fail
  38. Stop failing
  39. Success becomes more important than growth (my personal favorite)
  40. Are afraid to develop new skills
  41. Are afraid to take risks
  42. Stop believing in their ability to grow
  43. STRESS

  44. Are stressed
  45. Are marginalized
  46. Are exhausted
  47. Are comfortable

  49. Stop being inquisitive
  50. Stop asking “dumb” questions
  51. No longer encourage feedback and ideas

  53. Fail to connect the dots between where they are and where they want to be
  54. Stop challenging themselves and their team
  55. Can’t measure progress
  56. CHANGE

  57. Stop being creative in their leadership approach
  58. Become resistant to change
  59. Assume they’ve learned everything there is to learn
  60. Aren’t open to possibility

  62. Are disempowered
  63. Tasks become more important than people
  64. Believe success comes from control

  66. Stop believing in teamwork
  67. Stop developing their team
  68. BONUS

  69. Are dead
  70. Stop breathing
  71. Your turn. Leaders stop learning when__________.

Never stop learning.

Real leadership

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.

Thanks to my organization, google plus, twitter, facebook and followers for your insights.
Filed Under:   Career & Learning
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

Cindy   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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.

letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

Cindy, Thank you so much. Anything we can do to check ourselves as leaders is so important.

Steve Borek   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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.

letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

Steve, Thanks so much. Hope you are going somewhere fun.

Dave Bratcher   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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.

letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

Dave, Thanks so much. Always feel free to link to your related articles, that’s not self-promotion, it’s expanding the conversation (goes for everyone). All, here it is.

David Tumbarello   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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!

letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

David, GREAT. Important addition. Now we have 61, who else?

Michelle Spear   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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!!

letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

Michelle, fantastic! That’s what this is all about. Getting past stuck feels wonderful.

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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.

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

I meant vritually dead and not dear.

letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

Ali, Thanks for adding the point of adaptation. Indeed.

Jarie Bolander   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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.

letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

Jarie, wonderful add. Endurance. Thank you.

sue bock   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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

Sue Bock

letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

Sue, thanks so much…. terrific add, connection.

Lolly Daskal   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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.


letsgrowleaders   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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

LaRae Quy   |   19 August 2013   |   Reply

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

Jayne Jenkins   |   20 August 2013   |   Reply

Love it – thank you

Jayne Jenkins   |   20 August 2013   |   Reply

…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

Frank Hazzard   |   20 August 2013   |   Reply

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.

letsgrowleaders   |   21 August 2013   |   Reply

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.

Vishnu Digamber Prasad   |   08 September 2013   |   Reply

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.

letsgrowleaders   |   08 September 2013   |   Reply

Thanks so much for expanding the conversation. You raise such good points about the need for a deliberate approach to aquiring expert knowledge from around the world, including allowing the time for people to learn.

Vishnu Digamber Prasad   |   09 September 2013   |  

A person who aspire to become leader must keep his attitude pleasant,should acquire good values so that the followers should have regard for such person.

letsgrowleaders   |   10 September 2013   |  

Vishnu Thansk so much, excellent point.

Ka   |   27 March 2014   |   Reply

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.

Ravi Manwani   |   08 May 2015   |   Reply


It is really helpful list and some of the areas which we unknowingly behaving in the same way. I can definitely take care of these points in future.