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Learning – the key for leadership success

Albert Einstein once said that failure is success in progress. In his understanding, strengths didn’t just happen to people, they needed to be developed. As a child Einstein showed slow progress in speaking and writing, and his family believed that he might be mentally disabled. Next, he was expelled from school and when he eventually finished university, he was the only one who didn’t land a teaching position. However, Einstein believed that his skills could be developed, and he didn’t let failures hold him back – as we know, he went on to revolutionise physics, and won a Nobel Prize a few years later.

The curious mind

Our brains are designed for development and learning. While some skills come easier than others, we are wired to engage and grow in endless areas from learning to ride a bike through to mastering a new language. As humans we have an incredible ability to learn, but very often with age our motivation to learn decreases. During childhood we are like sponges, eager to learn and absorb as much as we can around us, but with increased demands of adulthood, we tend to focus on preserving what we already know.

Developing new skills might be overwhelming to start with, but in order to learn something new, we inevitably have to focus on what we don’t know, rather than what we know. Not only formal training, but day to day interventions shape our professional lives – adaptive learning from our mentors, colleagues and peers are all critical elements in our learning journey.

Particularly in the digital age, what we can learn is more relevant than what we know. Employees who are fast learners and have the ability to adapt quickly to changing work demands are a great asset to any organisation and businesses are increasingly focusing on hiring people who have the ability to develop the right expertise in the future, rather than only being interested in their past experience.

Creativity that leads to results

In a highly demanding corporate environment, leadership focus is often on high performance, efficiency and results instead of promoting a culture of learning, which can be a significant barrier to curiosity and innovation. To inspire the best ideas from their teams and themselves, leaders should focus on creating an environment that inspires imagination, curiosity and different ideas. This approach requires leaders to let go of the traditional way of being in control and encourage others to take part.

Research confirms that learning environments play a critical role in developing new skills and knowledge and putting them into practice. Successful businesses like Google or Unilever are great examples that creating cultures of informal learning through diversity, psychological safety and creativity, empowers people and drives innovation.

Whilst many organisations see learning as an extra activity on top of regular work, in order to create a culture that encourages employee growth, learning should be an expectation, not an add on. At Acumen we offer development that gives leaders at all levels practical tools to help solve real life challenges. In most cases we design the interventions specifically for each customer, but we also offer a wide range of off the shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information, please contact

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