Business executive, author and chemical engineer, Jack Welch, once said, “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” As a leader, your ability to learn is the driving force behind your business. It’s not that leaders are learners; it’s that learners are leaders. Leadership and learning go hand-in-hand, therefore to stop learning is to ultimately stop leading your business. And when you stop leading your business, it ultimately stops growing.
When business leaders and entrepreneurs make a commitment to consistently read, listen and learn, they challenge their own assumptions, embrace new ideas and accelerate innovative solutions. Learning doesn’t mean just hoping to encounter new concepts; it means putting in a genuine effort to interact with fellow business enthusiasts and “pick their brains.” Learn about what other leaders do, think and say, and whether or not their methods are finding success. If they are, learning can also lead to adopting others’ techniques, and growing your business more intentionally. How do business leaders and entrepreneurs learn? Two main ways include leading and listening.
Leaders should be readers. Kelsey Meyer from Forbes says, “… the most common way they [employees] search for new knowledge is by reading articles and books by successful business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs.” Turns out, your fifth-grade teacher was right—reading does make you smarter. The best leaders are those who read personal development, business and opinion books from others they may or may not agree with. Then, they can use this knowledge to further influence their team.
And of course, leaders should be listeners. Year after year, the popularity of podcasts has continued to surge. According to a study conducted by Edison Research, 57 million Americans listen to at least one podcast per month. In fact, podcast listenership is up over 75% since 2013 alone. People are listening to podcasts, which means you should be too. Brian Hart from Inc Magazine describes podcasts, “As an efficient way to absorb media and information while multitasking and on the go, they’ve become an essential news, entertainment and learning source for busy entrepreneurs.” Like books, podcasts serve as a potential wealth of knowledge for business leaders to learn and grow from.
So if you recognize the drive to read, the urge to listen and the need to learn, how do you begin? With 2018 just starting out, now is the ideal time to put “Be a learner” on your resolution list. To start you off, we at Method Mark have compiled our own list of the perfect books and podcasts to kick off your year. Check them out to see how you can be the best leader—and learner—you can be.
- Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry. Author Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a consultancy which helps creative teams and professionals generate ideas quickly and be more productive. He currently works as a writer, international speaker and helps people and teams generate brilliant ideas. His book Die Empty, was originally published in 2013 as a guide for reclaiming your passion, finding your voice and unleashing your brilliance every day. Henry writes, “Embrace the importance of now, and refuse to allow the lull of comfort, fear, familiarity and ego to prevent you from taking action on your ambitions… the cost of inaction is vast. Don’t go to your grave with your best work inside of you. Choose to die empty.” Named by the editors at Amazon.com as one of the best business books of 2013, this book is a fantastic place to start your learning journey off this year. As Henry states, “The seeds of tomorrow’s brilliance are planted in today’s activity,” so start today by learning more at Henry’s website here.
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. We must start off every effort with a clear understanding of the “why.” Not just the “what” or the “how,” but the “why.” Oftentimes, we begin the year with a lot of whats and hows. For example, “I’m going to do this, by doing that.” But we often don’t spend enough necessary time on our why. What is the purpose of our actions? In this 2009 book, author Simon Sinek—a British-American author, motivational speaker, and marketing consultant—explores how people can become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their fellow colleagues and customers. Why are your customers your customers? Why do you choose your product or service? Why does your company exist at all? Questions like these inspire and define your “why” as a business leader. As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” As we dive further and further into 2018, discover your why and learn the art of inspiration. Start with why.
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown. Building new things always requires risk, and sometimes even failure. In her book, author and thought leader Brené Brown does an exceptional job at helping us understand these subjects. Brown currently works as a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Endowed Chair. For the past 16 years, she has studied courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame. With one million copies sold, her 2012 book Daring Greatly became the #1 New York Times bestseller. Brown says, “Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage.” As a leader, when you understand vulnerability and courage, you can continue to grow your business.
- Seth Godin’s Startup School. Best-selling author Seth Godin also works as a successful thought leader in the marketing and business world. He is the author of 18 books, which have been best sellers around the world and translated into more than 35 languages. His favorite topics include the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and how to change everything. In 2013, Godin was one of three inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. His podcast Seth Godin’s Startup School enlists 16 episodes of startup school as a masterclass in building a business. As you start off the year, this is a must-listen series, and probably throughout the rest of the year, as well. From marketing and advertising to raising money and cash flow, Godin covers it all.
- Ted Radio Hour. If you’re a fan of the famous TED Talks, then TED Radio Hour is perfect for you. TED Radio Hour serves as, “A journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions and new ways to think and create. Based on riveting TED Talks from the world’s most remarkable minds.” For leaders and entrepreneurs, this podcast is a wonderful way to learn and engage with a host of new and inspiring content. It challenges how you think, both in your business and personal life. With the new concepts and thoughts discussed through TED Radio Hour, it will help you engage ideas and attack problems with a new perspective.
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. To stop learning is to stop properly leading your business or startup. The two greatest key components of learning as a business leader or entrepreneur are reading and listening, through books and podcasts. These books and podcasts are some of our favorites to kick off the new year on the right foot. Try them out yourself to see what you can learn as we move forward into 2018.