Mark Douglas, Partner at Blue Ptarmigan, considers the importance of learning and asks if leaders are born or made.

Maybe you believe that people should use their life experiences to develop the skills to do a role.

To an extent we do all learn from our experience, especially our negative experiences, as we tend to reflect more on these than our positive experiences. However, the learning from that is often very superficial, in that what we learn is not to do it again.

A company director once said to me ‘Leaders are born and not made, you either have it or you don’t’.

Naturally, some people have better people skills than others. However, just for one moment think what you were like in your first role? What mistakes did you make?

Are you not a better manager and leader now than you were 10 years ago?

Is it not that one of the key attributes of a great leader that they help create the next generation of leaders through stretching, supporting and developing their people?

I have mentored people aged 16 to 65 years, I have lectured to teenage students and presented to CEOs and I can honestly say that those who wanted to learn something did, and the ones that didn’t… didn’t.

If you have a closed mind and are not receptive, nothing will go in and nothing will change.

We need to remember that learning is a two-stage process.

Firstly, there is the mental thought process that this is new, interesting, relevant and/ or useful. This is followed by the physical process of putting that mental thought or learning into action - the physical creation or manifestation of your learning.

I believe our job, as leaders and managers, is to provide an environment and develop a culture that encourages our people to have an open mind, to explore the new and test the different. It is vital that we take our mental learning, turn it into practice and make the best bits a habit.

So is investing in both your and your people's future a waste of time and resources?

It is if the minds are closed and nothing changes as a result. But hey you’re a good leader aren’t you?

You can surely challenge closed minds, identify development needs and create a safe environment for the physical application of the learning and above all, give your people the same opportunity that you had when someone believed in you and gave you that chance.

Mark is leading two courses at the Law Society in early 2019:

Essential people management skills, 5 February

Building resilience and self-confidence workshop, 11 April

Find out more about our range of professional skills and training courses for 2019.