Why Good CXOs Must Be Constantly Learning

Continuous learning at the senior executive or C-level is usually assumed to be unnecessary. After all, if people have made it to the top, or are almost there, don’t they already know all they need to know? The truth is that while most C-level executives and second-rung senior management already have several years of development and experience under their belts, they need to work at constantly updating their capabilities and skills. They have reached where they are based on their technical and/or business skills. But to stay in the leadership position they need more than that.

It becomes easy to rest on your laurels once you’ve reached the executive level. That’s why learning and development initiatives shouldn’t stop even at higher levels, and senior executives need to be continuously learning and gaining new training too. Deloitte refers to this as the “super learning future”, where the focus is on skills and capabilities at the individual, team, and organization levels.

So what are these skills that senior management needs to develop that make continual training so important?

  • Strategic thinking – Senior executives need to be able to spot shifts in the industry, policies, etc, plan for business growth, identify opportunities and risks, etc.
  • Talent management –While this may look like a role just for the HR team, the truth is that CXOs and even HR heads need to learn how to identify the need for certain skillsets, hire the right person(s) for that role, and retain such employees.
  • Adaptability –This is perhaps the most vital skill that senior and top management need to develop in today’s scenario, i.e. how to change and adapt in dynamic scenarios.
  • Leadership–It is obvious that management needs excellent leadership skills. But there is no single formula that works in all circumstances. Building the ability to motivate, enthuse and build respect among employees is important.
  • Soft skills– A lot of people in senior management have reached there due to technical skills, and soft skills – such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, etc – may not come to them naturally.

Senior executive learning and development is good for business

Here are some of the ways that continuous learning at top echelons helps business:

  • Attracts employees – When even C-level executives are open to learning and enhancing their profiles, it projects a positive image of the organization and attracts the brightest talent.
  • Improves loyalty – An organizational culture of learning helps reduce voluntary turnover rates and boosts employee confidence in their management.
  • Enhances overall management – Continuous learning allows senior executives to better manage their employees as well as the business and operations in general.
  • Stay relevant: Business leaders need to function effectively in this rapidly changing world without a break and be ready to adapt and take on challenges. Updating their skillsets will directly impact the competitiveness of the organization.
  • Pay it forward: Continuous learning isn’t just about one senior executive. Lifelong learning helps develop leadership skills which then translates into fostering learning in employees.

There’s no doubt that we find ourselves in a highly competitive business environment, and it is only going to get more intense making continuous learning even more necessary. The good news is that learning initiatives are on the rise. The 2020 Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn reveals that over a third of global learning and development firms and professionals expect their budgets to grow every year. However, the same study reported that only 27% of C-level executives actively promote learning. It’s thus time to embrace the fact that learning is just as important for business leaders as it is for other employees, and understand that it will help organizations build, or keep a competitive advantage.