Keeping Up To Date
As the business world continues to get more complex and the world economy more interdependent, what can you do to maintain your own leadership position and keep your company heading in the right direction? How can you stay relevant, informed, technologically savvy, and on top of the latest developments in your field or industry?
Clearly, the answer is continuing education. It’s no longer possible to rely on the skills you learned in a Bachelor’s or even Master’s degree to maintain your edge. Success in today’s business environment requires constant updating of skills and continual learning. While I suppose that this has always been true, in my view it has become an even more critical element of success. Business leaders today must spend more time learning and must master a wider range of subjects than ever before. New technologies, geo-politics, financial tools, marketing channels, public opinion – all are elements of your success and you need to stay abreast of the latest developments of each of them.
But what type of education do you need? What can you afford – both in terms of time and money? Fortunately there is a wide variety of educational programs and improvement opportunities – enough to meet the needs of any aspiring business leader. Here are just a few:
- Keep up with your reading. To be truly effective in your role, you need to read often and widely. For many executives, it seems difficult to find the time to read, but it’s the best way to stay up to date on world affairs, the latest technology trends, leadership concepts, and the like. The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, your local paper, and your industry’s trade magazines are all publications you should read regularly. However, I also believe that you should periodically take time to read things outside of you particular area of expertise. Pick up the latest management book, biography, or history. Consider magazines that cover topics seemingly far afield from your own – you’ll never know where you might pick up a new insight.
- Attend conferences and workshops. Many of us attend conferences, but few of us actually learn as much from these events as we might. Many of us think of these events primarily as networking opportunities. And, while networking is important, the right conferences can also expand our horizons and give you new insights into your organization, the future of the economy, and your own management style. Pick the events that are most likely to provide good solid information, take notes and ask questions – just like you did when you were in school.
- Participate in your school’s alumni activities. Many colleges and universities offer educational programs for their graduates. These programs often highlight the latest research by faculty or discussions on current events. They can be a low cost way to keep up to date.
- Stay connected to your favorite faculty members. Your former teachers can be a great resource for new ideas and insights. Keep in touch with any favorite teachers, read their papers and pay attention to what they say in University publications. If you’ve kept up a solid relationship with your teachers, you may find that you can even ask them for specific advice on issues you’re facing or opportunities that arise. You spent a lot of time and energy in their classrooms – make sure to take full advantage of that connection.
- Attend formal continuing education programs. Of course, you can always take part in formal executive education programs. Today’s education market boasts thousands of programs ranging from less than a day to several months in length. The topics of these programs range from basic supervisory skills to the leadership attributes of boards of directors and everything in between. Whether you are looking to sharpen your management skills, develop a new strategic direction or understand a new technology and how it will affect your business, there is undoubtedly a course you can attend.
Success in today’s fast changing world is not measured by how much you know but by how much you can learn. Your current knowledge is already out of date – the only way to maintain your leadership edge is to continually learn new skills, insights and worldviews. Exposure to new ideas and the ability to learn quickly are key elements of effective leadership today. At one point in time it may have been true that your learning curve flattened out over your career, but that’s no longer the case – at least if you want to keep moving ahead. Fortunately, there are so many ways to gain new knowledge, that it’s easy to maintain that steep learning curve – as long as you make it a priority.