Leadership for Vigorous Learning

A vigorous learning enterprise is not apt to be in any stable state very long, but always in some kind of transition. The changes are not likely to be confined to products, services, and processes, but include basic “business models,” in today’s terminology. That is, what it does and how it gets revenue doing it may greatly change, and a shift in business model has been the nemesis of many companies.

For instance, how do you make a go of a business model that induces customers to buy and use less, not more? Convert to a business model that aids them in using less, eliminating waste from their processes, including those of daily living. This approach is the opposite of “supersize me.”

And in business operations, much more must be considered in a short time. Right now many businesses fight with regulators to put off what they should have done themselves from the beginning. They will complain about getting permits and doing studies (which can be picayune, no doubt), but the future organization has to consider such matters as obtaining a disposing of water as a matter of course, not force.

Such organizations need a lot more discretion at the working level while working collectively within a disciplined learning system. Leadership to develop people to do this is very different from leadership through budgets and financial control. Not that budget guidelines will go away, not in a transactional society, but a vigorous learning organization cannot be run as a dictatorship to milk the most for ownership from a routine operation.

Leadership characteristics:

  • Develop the people; fear not when their expertise exceeds yours.
  • Servant leadership: Mission first, others second, me third. This resembles the kind of leadership fostered by military organizations or by the best health care organizations.
  • Become a role model in learning; a mentor to others, able both to mentor and to be mentored.

That’s only a start. But vigorous learning enterprises start with leaders stepping up to change both themselves and their organizations to cope with this demanding new world.

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