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Do you have a leader on your team who thinks they’ve already got this leadership thing handled? There is nothing left to learn? When leaders stop learning, their teams stop growing too.
I’ve been asking leaders across many contexts why leaders stop learning. Here are the top sixty I heard. What would you add? And, why is it so dangerous for leaders to stop learning?

“But, 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.  Leadership development is a balancing act of inspiring confidence, uncovering opportunities, and giving leaders practical tools and approaches to help them grow.

60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

Leaders stop learning when they…
LISTENING

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

PURPOSE

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

EGO

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

PASSION

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

FAILURE

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

STRESS

39. Are stressed

40.Are marginalized

41. Are exhausted

42. Are comfortable

QUESTIONS

43. Stop being inquisitive

44. Stop asking “dumb” questions

45. No longer encourage feedback and ideas

CHALLENGE

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

CHANGE

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

EMPOWERMENT

53. Are disempowered

54.Tasks become more important than people

55. Believe success comes from control

TEAMWORK

56. Stop believing in teamwork

57. Stop developing their team

YOUR TURN

Your turn. Leaders stop learning when__________.

58.

59.

60.

 

What would you add? What are the biggest reasons leaders stop learning?

How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

30 Comments

  1. Cindy

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  2. Steve Borek

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  3. Dave Bratcher

    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.

    Reply
  4. David Tumbarello

    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!

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  5. Michelle Spear

    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!!

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  6. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  7. Jarie Bolander

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  8. Lolly Daskal

    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.

    Lolly

    Reply
  9. letsgrowleaders

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

    Reply
  10. LaRae Quy

    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

    Reply
  11. Jayne Jenkins

    …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

    Reply
  12. Frank Hazzard

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      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.

      Reply
  13. Vishnu Digamber Prasad

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Vishnu,
      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.

      Reply
      • Vishnu Digamber Prasad

        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.

        Reply
  14. Ka

    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.

    Reply
  15. Ravi Manwani

    Hi

    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.

    Reply

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