Do I Have to Like You to Learn From You?


None can argue with the fact that learning is one of the key attributes of leaders. Leaders are indeed learners. The fact, however, is that most of the things the leader should learn may be in the custody of people the leader doesn’t necessarily like. This prejudice to learn only from individuals or institutions one likes or is comfortable with is the greatest hindrance to true learning. 

Most times we can seldom separate how we feel about the source of our learning from the validity of what has to be learned. We often succumb to the illusion that for facts to be valid to us they must be presented to us from vessels that are palatable to our liking. This is seldom the reality. 

The truth is that the facts and truths that should constitute our learning are indiscriminate and promiscuous in nature. In other words just about anyone and anything can be a source of valuable lessons in leadership. For instance, I personally subscribe to the Judeo-Christian ethos that has built the better part of western civilisation today. I will be in self-delusion as a leader if I am not objective enough to acknowledge that the Islamic religion got certain things right, which is largely responsible for the influence in society. One thing I have envied about the Islamic community is the rigor and discipline with which they go about the education of their young.

Just about anyone and anything can be a source of valuable lessons in leadership Share on X

Do I personally agree with the Islamic position? Obviously not. But I do not necessarily have to agree with them to appreciate the point and the effectiveness of their approach. This inability to distinguish agreement from appreciation is one of the greatest barriers to learning that a leader will have to deal with. In many cases, once we either do not like or agree with an individual or institution, we often cut off the flow of the lessons they have to offer us to the detriment of our personal learning experience. 

Objective learning in leadership, therefore, requires that the leader develops the ability to keep the streams of agreement and likeability separate from the streams of learning. Every opportunity to learn must be freed from the baggage of our personal prejudices and be weighed upon their intrinsic value and acted upon as such.

Keep the streams of agreement and likeability separate from the streams of learning. Share on X

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the leader has to change their position. It means that the leader will have to appreciate the seemingly contrary position and glean as much as they can from it. This rare leadership ability will greatly foster collaboration and understanding, two virtues that are greatly needed the good of our world.

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