HomeOpinionShake off your sophophobia!

Shake off your sophophobia!

Success is good; it is so good that we are all trying to make it to the top.

Sam Hlabati

When one gets to the top, they have every right to congratulate themselves. Like I said at some point in this column, my Nigerian “broders” always say that “a lizard that jumped down from high up an Iroko tree has the right to congratulate himself if there is no one to congratulate him”.

Please do not tell me that you are one of those people who have arrived and believe that there is nothing to learn anymore; I mean that kind of person who thinks their role is just to lead other people and have nothing to learn.

You may have reached the pinnacle of where you dreamt of in life, but don’t ever think for a moment that there is nothing to learn.

The leader’s role is that of giving guidance to others, instilling the vision and teaching others when the need arises.

Let us begin our discussion today with the words of Richard Henry Dana Jr, an American author who once wrote “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”

What I am saying is that if a leader is to succeed they should continue to make efforts to learn.

Most of the best business schools around the globe make it part of their MBA curriculum that the leaders they graduate all draw up a personal development plan as part of requirements in partial fulfilment of the curriculum.

There is a considerable number of individuals who believe that once they ascend to the throne, all they have to do is give orders, ride in SUV’s, never miss a game of golf and attend all conferences held at exotic venues; I mean resort areas.

There is never a moment when one should feel they have arrived, because the destination called success can only be fully arrived at by someone who continues to grow.

Tonnes of papers are used every day writing about the need for organisations to keep growing in what they actually know.

The reason for this need for organisations to be “learning organisations” is to ensure that they do not get left behind in the ever changing business environment. In this column, we previously discussed examples of organisations that forgot the need to learn the business dynamics quick enough in order to stay relevant.

We chronicled the demise of Kodak due to the company’s failure to capitalise on digital photography despite once being the household name in photography.

It is prudent for the leader to consider all avenues that are available to grow the business they lead. One of the initiatives leaders undertake involves developing the people in the organisation. This is done on the full understanding that human capital is the most important asset in the organisation.

Leaders are often judged by the efforts they put in developing others. However, I am focusing on the need for the leader to keep developing themselves.

It is always important, as I always say in this column, to note that the leader’s role has more latitude for self-determination as compared to the roles in the lower ranks of the organisation.

The self-determination, whilst it gives the leader the ability to decide what they should or should not do, is at times the reason for their fall.

The leader’s decisions and ways of doing things could go unquestioned, simply because the people who experience the bad decisions and actions are usually those subordinate to the leader, hence they lack the courage to question the boss.

As a remedy to this malady, I have at some point discussed the need for a consigliere (close advisor) who has the latitude to call a spade a spade when reviewing the impact of the boss on the people and the organisation.

The self-determination also covers the personal development and continuous learning. The learning that a leader undertakes for themselves is therefore largely self driven. One day I walked down memory lane to the identities of the teachers who were part of my development in my schooling days.

I was taken a bit aback when I realised that the teachers who taught me particular subjects at particular schooling levels are still at it; teaching the same levels. I tried to comprehend the reason for their apparent lack of movement into other higher areas.

What disturbed me is the fact that when I was in school, they all seemed quite learned in their areas of speciality. I am not sure if score years down the life line they are any better than what they were then.

What I did not quite get is the reason why they have apparently not moved an inch in their careers; so it seemed to me given that they are still doing what they used to do way back then. Apologies to all my former teachers, and all teachers at large; I just felt that continuing with the same vocation; and at the same level for a life time could be stagnation.

When students develop themselves, they are elevated to the next level of learning, and eventually end up in university. In university, the students sometimes become professors much earlier than their first year lecturers.

At one point, a colleague once pointed out that the reason leaders feel no need to continue learning is that they feel that they have enough knowledge that they need to share with the people under them. Leaders often have the illusion that given the fact that their ideas do not get challenged by those under them is confirmation that their ideas are great.

Here is the shock dear leader; the reason could as well be that it is damn so difficult to influence you that your ideas are not at all great, you do not take criticism well.

John C Maxwell, who is no stranger to the followers of this column, as I do look up to him from time to time, wrote in his book Winning with People, he was discussing the “Learning Principle” he said “Every Person We Meet Has Potential to Teach Us Something”.

Maxwell touches on the core issue why leaders fail to learn, thus the thinking that they have nothing to learn from the people they perceive to be under them.

Leaders forget that personal achievement does not always positively correlate with one’s knowledge. Some leaders got “thrust” into the position of leadership by the fact that they were in the right place at the right time.

This usually happens for the second in charge in the event of the sudden departure of the substantive leader.

The phenomenon of the second in charge stepping into the big shoes happens across all forms of organisations. The predicament for the one who comes into power by fate, replacing the departed role holder, is for one to get into the dangerous trap of feeling one has made it due to their own knowledge and merit.

Sam Hlabati is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®), a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP®) and a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP®). E-mail samhlabati@gmail.com; twitter handle; @samhlabati

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