Leaders and Learning Organizations

Thursday, January 5 2012

The 19th Century naturalist, Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent; rather it is those most responsive to change”.

A century later, Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, described learning organizations as “A group of people who are continually enhancing their capabilities to create what they want to create.”

Organizations that are continually learning and adjusting to the myriad of changes happening daily will most likely grow or at least maintain status quo – the rest will not survive.

The actions of an organization’s leaders will determine its success. This success will be based upon the leader’s ability to:

  • Hold a clear vision anchored in the reality of the current markets.
  • Adapt to change, make tough decisions based on need, and be willing to take a risk.
  • Leverage the skills, talents and abilities of all members of the organization to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Invest in talent and provide the opportunity for individuals to learn new skills.
  • Use technology to support growth.
  • Understand fully the needs of those working in the company.
  • Increase collaborative capacity by getting people to work and think as a team versus silos or departmental practices.
  • Appreciate the younger generation who are the future leaders of the organization, and understand their needs, feelings, thinking and styles of communicating.
  • Invest in regular coaching, both day-to-day and structured. Good coaching will maintain your talent and provide a competitive edge.
  • Provide positive, timely feedback that both celebrates successes and highlights areas for development.
  • Follow a set of clear organizational values and ensure that everyone is walking the talk.
  • Appreciate diversity and embrace differences.
  • Communicate clearly, frequently and effectively.
  • Listen to understand other’s viewpoints and find the value in differing opinions.
  • Ask compelling questions and allow others the opportunity to think and embrace a    challenge.
  • Remember Einstein’s advice that doing the same things repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

Being a leader in a learning organization is very different from being a leader in an established organization. In the face of change, leaders must be more open and less dictatorial. They must focus on mutual agreement to achieve buy-in, trust the talent, and support out-of-the box thinking and decisions. Learning organizations generate better results by tapping into the skills, talents and abilities of all.