Leadership Development That Works By Steve Moore The ongoing effectiveness of every leader is dependent on his or her commitment to keep growing; and the most important growth steps leaders take over a lifetime are the result of self-directed learning. By definition, self-directed learning is triggered by an internal source of motivation. It is the fruit of something within us stimulating a desire to learn and grow. In his book Primal Leadership, emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman says it like this: “The crux of leadership development that works is self-directed learning; intentionally developing or strengthening an aspect of who you are or who you want to be.” The Other Big Mo Most leaders associate Big Mo with momentum. The other Big Mo is motivation. And motivation comes before momentum, especially as it relates to self-directed learning. Both Big Mo’s are exaggerators. John Maxwell has said that with momentum, you look better than you are when you have it and worse than you are when you don’t. I would add that with motivation, life appears easier than it is when you have it and harder than it is when you don’t. Imagine this experiment: two people of equal capacity are given the same task, the same tools and the same amount of time to complete the job. The only difference between them is that one is internally motivated to accomplish the task and the other is not. Without motivation, the task will appear to be harder. That’s the power of motivation. String several completed tasks together and you generate momentum. Self-directed learning hinges on an inner, renewable source of motivation to keep growing. Sources of Motivation for Self-Directed Learning Children engage in self-directed learning out of curiosity. They have a natural bent to spontaneously explore their world. But curiosity is a rather unpredictable source of motivation and tends to wane quickly when the exploration ceases to be fun. Chasing a butterfly can give way to picking a flower or digging for worms in a matter of seconds. Curiosity, as a source of motivation for self-directed learning, does not go away as we age, but it does diminish in intensity as it is joined by capacity. Capacity-based learning tends to surface in teens and young adults as they discover their talents. The presence of ability in sports, drawing or debate, for example, generates an inner source of motivation arising from the convergence of interest and skill. We tend to like what we are good at (interest) and are good at what we like (skill). Most of us can remember the difference in results that came from music lessons that were imposed upon us by loving parents (external motivation) as opposed to capacity-based pursuits that bubbled up from springs of desire in our own heart (internal motivation). While curiosity-based learning is spontaneous, capacity-based learning is both spontaneous and structured, as we often pursue a self-directed learning agenda in the context of a team or other organized activities. As adults, curiosity and capacity-based learning should give way to a sense of destiny. Life long self-directed learners tap into a sense of purpose, a greater cause or a life-dream that serves as an inner source of motivation to keep growing. While capacity-based learning is spontaneous and structured, destiny-based learning is often systematic, incorporating a broader combination of structured activities into a comprehensive growth plan. The life-dreams that flow from one’s sense of destiny expose the difference between what is and what could or should be, while stimulating an inner sense of responsibility to do something about it. You show me a person with a big dream and I’ll show you someone motivated to grow. Practical Implications for Leaders 1. Accept personal responsibility for your continued development as a leader. If you are not growing, it is not your supervisor’s fault; it is not your team’s fault. This is an empowering truth that frees you from being dependent on others; no one else can hold back your developmental journey. 2. Nurture all three motivational triggers for self-directed learning. Cultivate curiosity by continuing to explore uncharted waters. Develop your capacity through structured activities. Embrace your destiny and pursue the life-dreams God has put in your heart. 3. Affirm self-directed learning in the leaders around you. When members of your team express interest or potential in a given area, actively encourage them to pursue it. Create space and provide assistance whenever possible. Motivational Triggers for Self-directed Learning Childhood Teen-young adult Adulthood Curiosity-based Capacity-based Destiny-based Spontaneous Structured Systematic Focused on fun Focused on goals Focused on dreams

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