Do the Leaders Have a Teaching Job?

A long time colleague and friend often reminded me: “if the student has not learned, then the teacher had not taught”.   I persisted in taking offense to this observation as I considered myself an excellent “teacher” despite some of my “students” just not getting it.

It took me some time to really understand and eventually accept what he was trying to tell me: it was about the respect, accountability, resiliency, creativity and a host of other core attributes that the “teacher” must bring to the “classroom”.  The best teachers seek to remove the barriers to learning, continually challenging the students to explore the gaps in knowledge and understanding.  They set the goals, facilitate the root cause brainstorming and require that rapid experiments be conducted to test the hypothesis’.  It is this classic scientific method that must be taught in order for students to learn how to close the gap between where they are today and where they can be tomorrow.

In most organizations, the gaps between where they and where they want to be are often significant.  Often, that’s actually a good thing as it indicates that the organization is striving to grow, reduce costs, improve quality and delivery, etc.

What keeps me up at night is when the employees do not understand how to achieve these goals.  They do not understand the fundamentals of the scientific method.  They do not know how to close the gaps between where they are and where the leaders want them to be.

Which leads me to my question: “If the employees are not learning, is it because the leaders are not teaching?”

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2 thoughts on “Do the Leaders Have a Teaching Job?

  1. I just came back from vacation to see your post, which is perfect. While out I read “Toyota Kata” by Mike Rother (per your suggestion), and was inspired to commit to being more of a teacher at work. I completely agree that leaders need to be teachers, to increase the capability of their people and the organization as a whole. Now I have to do it. Easier said than done, but will start with daily practice.

    1. Eleanor, Glad that you enjoyed “Toyota Kata” – I think that it’s just an excellent guide for leaders. Sounds like your daily practice will be best supported by “leader standard work”? Looking forward to following up with you on your learning’s on this one. – Karl

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