As members of our Leading Learning community, it probably goes without saying that we’re all interested in, and recognize the important relationship between, leadership and learning. And this week’s guest on the podcast has spent almost two and half decades working with organizations in both of these areas to help them reach their full potential.
Kevin Eikenberry, Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a leadership and learning consulting company, is a well-known and highly regarded leadership expert. He is the bestselling author of Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a Time, and Vantagepoints on Learning and Life. He also maintains a blog, appropriately titled, Leadership and Learning and was recently recognized by Inc.com as one of the top 100 Leadership & Management thinkers in the world.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Jeff talks with Kevin about why remarkable leadership seems to be so elusive, the relationship between leadership and learning, and the various resources available for leaders and aspiring leaders.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:20] – Thank you to Castle, the sponsor of the Leading Learning podcast for the second quarter of 2017. Castle is an accomplished full-service certification and licensure testing company that also offers its clients a variety of learning solutions capabilities. With an expert team of testing and instructional design professionals and a thirty year history of excellence in it’s field, Castle understands what it takes to develop and deliver quality learning and certification programs.
[01:13] – The recordings from our recent Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD) virtual conference (held March 1–3, 2017), are now available. We created LTD specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development and you can get access to all of the great content delivered at the live online event. Find out more at ltd.leadinglearning.com.
[02:01] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Jeff interviews leadership expert and bestselling author, Kevin Eikenberry
[02:40] – Introduction to Kevin and some background information about who he is and what he does.
[04:16] – How did you come to focus in on leadership as your area of work? Kevin shares that part of it is that leaders are people who make positive change in the world so if you want to create greater results in organizations, you have to start with leaders. And since there are a lot of leaders in the world, there’s also opportunity. Personally, Kevin says the reason he’s focused on leadership is because he enjoys working on and talking about skills that affect us both personally and professionally. So by helping people become better leaders, he’s able to help them become better people.
[06:29] – I’m always amazed by how many books there on leadership, how hungry people seem to be for leadership advice and insights. Why is that and what is it that is so elusive about good leadership? Kevin says that leadership is complex because you’re dealing with people so it’s hard to do well. There’s not a single set of right answers so it’s about improving odds by applying principles effectively. Also, many people become leaders and know the people they’ve been led by weren’t that great but they don’t know what to do. Lastly, many people get promoted into leadership and the skills that got them promoted aren’t related to leadership.
[10:07] – We’ve obviously seen some fundamental changes in how communication and collaboration happen over the past couple of decades, and I think of those as essential tools in the leaders toolbox. Has anything fundamentally changed about leadership during that time period? Kevin explains that it goes back to principles – people haven’t really changed so in many ways the principles that work well to lead others are the same ones that have been around for 2,000 years. He points out, however, that things such as context, the metrics we use, and the need for speed have changed, and that perceived need for change can often get in our way. The mistake that people sometimes make is they think leadership is totally changed/different so they need to find the “new” leadership book, and that’s just not the case. Part of his business is doing work (such as that at the Remote Leadership Institute) with folks who are leading teams who are not all in the same place – in this case, leadership still hasn’t’ changed but the fact that it’s done remotely has changed some things. He suggests framing the conversation about how leadership has changed by asking, “How does it change?” and “What shouldn’t change?”
[13:09] – A further discussion about how understanding context is very important. Even though the principles haven’t changed for leaders, if you’re going to lead, you have to understand your context and how to apply those principles within that context.
[14:38] – You blog under the heading “Leadership and Learning” (the name of your blog). What’s your view of the relationship between leadership and learning? How are the two intertwined? Kevin shares he doesn’t think it’s possible to lead successfully unless you’re a learner, so they are completely intertwined. In his book, Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a Time, he talks about 13 competencies of remarkable leaders and the first one is, remarkable leaders are continual learners. If you believe the idea that leadership is complex and there’s not one single way to do it right, then you have to acknowledge that you have to be learning to keep getting better. Even if you don’t buy into this, as a leader, you have to be an example for your team – so leadership and learning are inextricably linked.
[17:11] – How does all of this translate to an even larger level? Many of our listeners come from trade and professional associations and they are trying to lead a whole field or industry. How would you approach that as a leader? Kevin says leaders need to be focused on a vision and a future, so if you’re trying to lead a trade or profession, part of your learning has to be about the bigger picture. You need to be very conscious about the things you’re choosing to learn about and set your sights higher to get a different perspective.
[19:55] – What are the two or three books you most often recommend to aspiring leaders? Kevin says his answer needs to be individualized and he would ask aspiring leaders, “Where are you most worried/having the most challenges?” However, he also recommends not only working on weaknesses but also working on things you’re really good at because people determine the best leaders based on their great strengths not because of their absence of weakness. Below are various books he recommends for different areas of concern:
- From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership by Kevin Eikenberry
- The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins
- Coaching: The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
- Communication: Books by Diana Booher
- Building Relationships: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Marketing: Books by Seth Godin
[22:56] – What are your perspectives on reading different genres (i.e. history, biography, fiction etc.) – should a well developed leader be engaging in those types of reading regularly? And from your own reading of history and biography, are there historical leaders that you particularly look up to? Kevin says you absolutely should read broadly and he points out that by reading history and biographies, we can have mentors that we never meet and learn from what they did/decisions they made. He also says that when reading, it’s helpful to do so through the lens of, “What can I learn about leadership/communication/coaching, etc.?” to put a framework on it. Kevin recommends the below books (most of which are not mainstream):
- The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar: Modern Lessons from the Man Who Built an Empire by Phillip Barlag
- Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership by Jon Knokey
[26:23] – In addition to reading, what are the lifelong learning practices and habits that you engage in to ensure you continue to grow and develop? Kevin shares that you should always have a current learning focus, whether that’s for a month or a quarter. He also suggests being reflective to intentionally ask yourself what you’ve learned, what’s worked, and what didn’t.
[28:42] – How to connect with Kevin and find out more about his work:
Books: To see all of Kevin’s books, check out: http://www.kevineikenberry.com/store/books/
[29:34] – Wrap Up
Thanks again to Castle, a full service certification and licensure testing company that also offers its clients a variety of learning solutions capabilities, for sponsoring this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
A reminder that recordings from Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD), our virtual conference we held specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development, are now available. You can get all the details and register for access to those recordings at ltd.leadinglearning.com.
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[31:27] – Sign off