What it means to lead at the learning edge

Leave your comfort zone

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I’ve been a board advisor for this particular Singapore-based company for a few years now. We meet quarterly typically via Zoom (at least for me), but this week my travels brought me to Singapore, and I was able to attend the advisory board meeting in person which was great.

After the meeting, the CEO invited us for a last-minute lunch. Unfortunately, my fellow advisors all had to rush off, but since I had no other major plans that afternoon, Will and I headed around the corner for a bite to eat.

We had spent the bulk of the advisory board meeting discussing a few different company-wide strategies for the next few months, so during lunch I asked Will how the team was feeling at the moment, since I could tell he had been working them pretty hard.

“I get the sense that they’re all just cruising at the moment”, he said. “I really want to get them out of their comfort zones”.

I certainly hadn’t planned it this way, but by the end of our lunch, we had agreed that I would put a program together for his leaders to help him achieve this. The theme of the workshop would be Leading at the Learning Edge and would encourage his leadership team to step out of the familiarity and comfort of their roles today and encourage them to operate in more challenging and unfamiliar territory.

For any leader, operating at the learning edge can involve engaging in tasks, experiences, or situations that push your boundaries, require new skills, or demand increased effort. It involves taking risks, trying new things, and embracing uncertainty.

Will made it clear that during the workshop he wanted me to really push their boundaries. He wanted his leadership team to become exposed to new challenges, to acquire new perspectives, to develop resilience and adaptability and a quest for professional growth.

I was up for the challenge.

Being a leader is both exciting and challenging. Whether you are a first-time leader or an experienced leader, you have the opportunity to influence others, shape the path of a business, and drive positive change. However, one (often hidden) key to your success lies in your ability to lead at the learning edge.

Operating at this boundary of growth and discomfort will not only enhance your own development, but it will also inspire and empower those around you.

Without wanting to sound overly dramatic, leading at the learning edge can propel you and your team to achieve greater results along with stronger levels of motivation and engagement.

In previous articles, we’ve described how as you step up from being an employee to a leader, one of the most important shifts is from potentially having a fixed mindset to embracing a growth mindset. Sure, as a team member you may have been able to get away with being afraid of change or difficult work situations, avoiding challenges or dreading feedback – all traits of a fixed mindset. However, as a leader, you will ideally be more interested in developing yourself and this is the foundation for operating at the learning edge.

At the heart of leading at the learning edge is the commitment towards continuous growth.

As a leader, you are entrusted with guiding your team members (as well as the organisation) towards success. By embracing the learning edge, you open yourself up to new perspectives, skills, and knowledge that can enhance your leadership effectiveness. This mindset allows you to stay adaptable and responsive to the ever-evolving demands of your role.

You can operate at the learning edge by embracing different perspectives and opinions. For example, this might involve engaging in cross-departmental collaborations, or seeking advice and input from individuals with different backgrounds and experiences. In doing so, this might help you challenge your own assumptions and make more informed decisions.

Leading at the learning edge provides an opportunity to build resilience and agility.

By navigating unfamiliar territory, you develop the capacity to handle uncertainty and adapt to changing circumstances – ideal for the VUCA world we are in today. This resilience, combined with the ability to respond swiftly to challenges, enables you to lead your team through turbulent times.

Operating at the learning edge also expands your sphere of influence.

When you engage in continuous learning and development, you gain insights that can positively impact your team and organisation. By staying informed about the latest research and best practices, you can drive meaningful change. Your expanded knowledge and expertise position you as a trusted advisor, both within your organisation and your industry.

But is it possible to actually reach your learning edge? And if so, how or when you do know that you’re there?

According to the leading research in the field of organisational psychology, it is possible to reach your learning edge as a leader, and it can be a transformative experience. But it’s also important to note that the learning edge is a constantly shifting boundary.

As you continue to grow as a leader and push your own limits, your learning edge expands, creating new opportunities for personal and professional development.

It’s worth noting that while leading at the learning edge can be challenging, it’s essential to strike a balance between pushing your limits and avoiding overwhelming stress. It’s important to set realistic goals, practice self-care, and seek support when needed to ensure a healthy and sustainable learning experience.

The approach you take as a leader sets the tone for your team. By leading at the learning ledge and modelling a growth mindset, you are demonstrating that learning is a lifelong journey. Your team members will also become more inspired to take risks and continually develop their own abilities.

Embrace the challenge, step out of your comfort zone, and watch as your leadership transforms, driving lasting impact and success for yourself and those you lead.

Of course, hellomonday can provide support to every leader, reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching, and ideally helping leaders understand that a learning culture promotes collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement at all levels, fostering a high-performing and resilient organisation.

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