Some of those in the c-suite of some organizations want to keep it a secret when they are involved in any kind of leadership development. This manifests itself when individuals in those hallowed positions either believe that they are beyond learning new things (they have shut themselves off to new learning opportunities), or they receive “special” learning opportunities, in a sequestered and secretive way so that the rest of the organization doesn’t know that they are receiving “training” or “development”. I fear for these senior leaders and their organizations.
Although there may be special learning needs for this group (just like there might be special learning needs for first line supervisors or middle managers) – when those at the top of the organization deny or hide their learning behind a wall of invincibility, it can create a dilemma – or damage – in the rest of the organization.
The fact of the matter is that we all need to continue to learn. We all have developmental needs, and this doesn’t mean we’re weak or bad leaders. It means we need to continually reinvent ourselves to keep up, and that is a good thing. It means that there is always something to get better at. It’s unfortunate that some executives want to cover up or deny their own learning.
Suggestions for C-suite executives
Be open about your own learning and development. Don’t think for a second that leaders throughout the organization don’t notice the absence of discussion about c-suite development and learning. They notice, and because you are hiding or denying your own development, they may be scoffing at any attempts at their own development too. You are creating an environment that values invincibility and downplays learning. The downside of that culture of invincibility may include such serious side effects as a reluctance to take risks and covering up errors. The upside of your openness about your learning may be an increased focus on creativity, risk taking and ongoing learning.
Encourage learning throughout the organization. Your support of learning and development at all levels in the organization is crucial. It will set your organization up for the talent pipeline that you need to be successful in the coming years. Become aware of the development programs that are offered in your organization and volunteer to assist with them. Support your staff in their learning and development by discussing it with them. Coach them through the obstacles of applying what they learn in the workplace.
You aren’t ever too smart or too invincible to stop learning and developing. Set the example for the rest of the organization by engaging in learning experiences and letting others know what you are learning and describing how you are using what you learn. Don’t hide it, flaunt it!