Leading Knowers and Learners
Have you really ever considered what kind of leader that you are or aspire to be? How does your style impact your world and that of others that you interact with? To be the best leader that you can be you need to reach inside yourself. Are you a Knower or Learner Leader? I know that to my core I am a Learner and I want to bring others to a Learner Leadership mentality as well. I encourage you to pick up Guy Parsons and Allan Milham's book Out of the Question - How Curious Leaders win today. Here is a peak at what you will find in the pages of this gem!
When we think about the difference between leading Knowers and Learners, we think about skiing. Anyone who skis knows that if you lean back, which may be your natural impulse, then your skis will shoot out in front of you and you will have much less control. They key is to lean forward and stay balanced over the top of your skis, even if it feels unnatural at first. Knowers can be so eager to stay in control that they tend to lean back, to pull back to what they know, even though they understand that is not the best way to proceed. As a leader, if you have Knowers on your team, your task is to pull them forward, to get them balanced on top of their skis.
Learners often have the opposite impulse. While Knowers tend to lean too far back, Learners can lean too far forward. And if you lean too far forward, past the tips of your skis, you risk going too fast and taking a tumble. Learners can sometimes get so excited about what’s out in front of them that their ideas and plans get too far beyond others in the group or the real constraints of the organization.
As a leader, whether you have Learners or Knowers on your team, it’s important to help your people stay centered and balanced. The gift that Learner leaders have is being able to walk into a room and know who’s who. They can see who is leaning forward and curious, and who is hanging back. And when they see those differences, they can figure out how best to help each individual move forward with balance.
As a Learner leader, you should recognize that any situation requiring your attention is an opportunity to engage. It’s helpful if you can frame that engagement in your head. The first thing to do is to pause. Then, read the mindset of the people involved to understand whether they are Knowers, Learners, or somewhere in between, so you can address individually their very distinct needs in order to make progress toward your goals.
How do you recognize the Learners and Knowers on your own team?
Guy Parsons is the Founder and Managing Principal of Value Stream Solutions (VSS). Allan Milham’s work as a professional leadership and performance coach over the past 16 years has centered on using powerful questions. For Guy, 20+ years of delights and frustrations consulting with firms attempting to make operational and cultural transformations sparked an evolution in his relationship with his professional coach, Allan, and was the inspiration for Out of the Question: How Curious Leaders Win. Their book has sparked a new mindset and a practical approach to thriving in the competitive and evolving landscape that today’s leaders face.