Best Leaders Are Great Teachers
Great leaders teach through active engagement, not passive lecturing.
As leaders, we know that our success depends on the success of those we lead. But too often we focus on delivering results without really considering how we empower our teams to excel. We give directives and feedback without truly enabling learning. Well, leaders, it's time we step into the chalkboard erasers.
As outlined in The Learning Pyramid model developed in the 1960s by National Training Laboratories or NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine, more passive methods of sharing information like lectures and presentations have shockingly low retention rates. Simply reading material leads to a 10% retention rate. Listening bumps that number up to 20% if combined with visuals. Not great odds when we need our teams absorbing key lessons.
Clearly, we must incorporate more active learning into our leadership approach. But that doesn't necessarily mean expensive training programs or workshops. In fact, the Pyramid shows us that activities like teaching (90% retention rate), dialogue, and applying concepts deliver the highest retention rates for our teams.
As leaders, we need to ask more high-quality questions that activate critical thinking. Share stories where our own experience maps to current challenges. And provide stretch assignments that let teams examine problems hands-on. We should host clinics where teams collectively troubleshoot issues. And introduce peer-coaching partnerships for skill development.
Not only will these approaches boost understanding dramatically, they also develop more trusting, cohesive teams. Facilitating authentic discussions builds psychological safety to communicate openly. Linking challenges to real-world application makes the work more meaningful. There is power in making space for teams to construct solutions together.
At the end of the day, leaders focus on results. But lasting results require teammates who deeply comprehend priorities and can adapt knowledge to evolving situations. By adopting an active, collaborative learning structure, we create stickier teachings for our teams while forging tighter bonds in the process. Sure, lectures are easier. But real leadership asks more of us.
So next time you communicate a key message, don't just broadcast it. Engage in dialogue. Let the team apply concepts iteratively. Have individuals share back interpretations. At heart, great leaders know learning happens by doing. And our role, first and foremost, is to be teachers.