I believe a really important principle in leadership is being teachable. Effective leaders are humble, self-aware and willing to learn from others—no matter their age or position.
Being teachable is admitting you don’t know something—and allowing others to show or teach you. Humility demonstrates stronger character than ego and pride. Admitting you are learning doesn’t detract from who you are or your leadership authority, it demonstrates to others it’s safe to admit you don’t know something. Too many leaders remain full of ego and justification and feel the need to look like they know it all.
Being teachable is a combination of the Heartstyles Authentic and Transforming behaviour styles. We often have a false belief built into us through our upbringing and the education system that says, “I must be right all the time; I must have the answer; not knowing the answer is not good enough; I must be perfect!” So often we bring that belief into our adult life and function Below The Line, masking and pretending we know the answer. As a leader, this creates defensive energy where no one is willing to make suggestions—yet we ask our people to be innovative and push back.
When we change that false belief to a positive, humble belief like “I’m always learning; I don’t have all the answers (especially in our modern world!); I can openly say I don’t know; I love other people’s ideas,” our character shifts to personal growth and our spirit is no longer defensive. And the result? Our teams will be encouraged to suggest ideas and become more innovative.
Being teachable is also about being willing to let go of being right. Have you noticed how quickly we can debate the smallest detail because of a need to be right? Someone might say, “Remember what happened last Thursday…?” and someone else says, “No, it was Wednesday!”. Another says, “Wasn’t it Monday?” Suddenly, everyone is arguing over the day rather than the topic. This is the ‘great need to be right’. Authentic and Transforming people can recognise it doesn’t matter and let it go.
Choose humility. Be teachable.