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How Do You Rate as a Lifelong Learner?


In their study of top leaders in all fields, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus found, “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.” The researchers also came to the conclusion that “leaders are perpetual learners.”


Knowledge by itself will not make you a successful leader, but without it, you will not become one. The important point is that leaders have a thirst for constantly improving themselves through continuous learning. This learning can be from experience, observation, discussion, and self-study. 

Most people, if queried, would say that they fit the description of being a perpetual learner as defined by Bennis and Nanus. This is probably true for people at work where they are constantly exposed to change and the need to master the details of new products, services, and systems. At home, however, most people “go on vacation” when it comes to regularly studying for the purpose of enhancing their careers. While off work, they prefer to relax with family or friends, read, watch TV, or surf the Internet. In effect, they become “self-development dropouts” during a significant portion of their careers.

To reinforce my point, spend a moment jotting down the average number of hours of personal time (off the job) that you normally devote each week studying to enhance your professional knowledge and skills. If your answer is two hours a week (equivalent to 17 minutes a day) or less you are in good company, for that is what the vast majority of people do. 

The most frequently cited reason for not regularly spending more personal time preparing for future career opportunities is that the effort takes away from other interests. Such rationale is understandable. More often than not, if the “self-development drop outs” were to analyze how they spend their discretionary time, they would be surprised to learn that with a slight adjustment in priorities, they could free sufficient time for considerable self-improvement study.

According to the “American Time Use Survey” released by the U.S. Department of Labor, the average American spends nearly three hours per day watching television. Add in Internet time and it’s even more. Most of this time is for the purpose of being entertained – not for sharpening business acumen or perfecting leadership skills. 

The bottom line is that very few people are passionate enough about reaching their highest career potential to regularly invest time off the job to become more promotable. Herein is a tremendous opportunity – if you dare to be different. By making a slight adjustment in your priorities, you can free at least one and a half hours each day for self-development time, and thereby set yourself apart from everyone else.


All material in this article was taken from the book Core Strategy for Success – How to Lead the Pack in a Dog-eat-Dog World by Fred A. Manske Jr.

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