According to Steven Covey, the primary thing that separates great leaders from good leaders is simply “being an individual who can be trusted.” After making this claim, Covey lists and explains 13 behaviors that characterize a leader who can be trusted. When I talked through these high trust behaviors with a group of colleagues this week, there was one that stood out to several of us: Get Better.
Covey implores leaders to “Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner… Don’t assume your knowledge and skills will be sufficient for tomorrow’s challenges.” This “getting better” matters to me a lot. I want to be the type of person who is always looking for ways to improve. I’ve always loved being a student. Students have a clearly defined “excuse” to be learning, reading, researching, reflecting, having thoughtful discussions and healthy debates, etc. Should I really feel like I need an excuse to pursue learning?
In the education field, we often talk about being lifelong learners but I think it’s easy to slip into the mindset that learning is something that happens at the beginning of a new endeavor (a new class we’re teaching, a new set of standards we’re aiming for, a new tool we’re incorporating into our instruction) and then fades as we approach an expert level. I appreciated the discussion with these fellow educators last week, as it was clear that each of us desired to push ourselves to continue learning and growing and “getting better” regardless of how new or experienced we were. A local Superintendent, Ron Severson, recently explained something he called the “Poorly Principle.” It’s this concept that we’ve got to be willing to do something poorly as we are learning to do it well. If we don’t push ourselves into unfamiliar experiences, using new tools, in ways that are slightly uncomfortable, we won’t grow. And here’s the kicker: if we don’t grow, we’ll seem be inauthentic to those whom we lead, as we are asking them to grow.
This “get better” behavior of Covey’s relates to all of the other trust building behaviors that he mentions since each of the behaviors are things that can be learned and developed in us as we grow as leaders.
I’ll often ask my students what they are getting better at today. I need to make sure that I’m always ready with an answer of my own.