4 Traits of Teachable Leaders – And How You Can Demonstrate Them

The role of a Leader can be a tough gig – one that’s made even harder by some who feel that they’ve reached a point in their career where they no longer need to submit themselves to learning and leadership development opportunities.

As Leaders, it’s easy to think that we got to where we are because we’re the most capable – and as a result should be teaching those on our teams how it’s done based upon our experience having done it all before. But every living thing needs to be fed in order to survive and thrive – and as a Leader, you do too!

So how can we be more teachable as Leaders in an effort to learn and foster growth? It’s starts by putting ourselves in the frame of mind that we can (and must) learn more.  Best-selling author and leadership expert John Maxwell calls this a “teachable attitude”:

Teachability is not so much about competence and mental capacity as it is about attitude. It is the desire to listen, learn, and apply. It is the hunger to discover and grow. It is the willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn. I love the way legendary basketball coach John Wooden states it: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

When I teach and mentor leaders, I remind them that if they stop learning, they stop leading. But if they remain teachable and keep learning, they will be able to keep making an impact as leaders. Whatever your talent happens to be – whether it’s leadership, craftsmanship, entrepreneurship, or something else – you will expand it if you keep expecting and striving to learn.

Assuming that you’ve got the orientation of a Teachable Leader, here are four traits to focus on:

Trait #1: Teachable Leaders are consistent and continuous Seekers. 

To avoid stagnation as a Leader, seek out opportunities to listen, learn and apply knowledge not only from like-minded, similarly situated colleagues, but also from those who can offer different perspectives and even contrary points of view. Read books, blogs and news from authors and websites that are both similar and opposite to your way of thinking. Effective Leaders need to be able to think through and justify their own decision-making to many different stakeholders, so actively seeking out alternative perspectives in advance is a great way to solidify – and improve – your ideas and plans.

Trait #2: Teachable Leaders are willing to be Receivers.

As someone who has worked with and coached many senior level executives, I can confirm that it’s rare for Leaders to get honest and direct feedback from those on their teams and in their organizations – positive, negative or constructive. Why? There’s still also an unwritten rule within much of the business world – “The Boss is always right”, but an even bigger reason is that it’s actually rare for a Leader to ask – and be willing to receive feedback other than agreement with their approach or idea. If the people on your teams aren’t willing to or used to providing you with feedback, teach them how. And most importantly, act upon the feedback that you’re given. Show your team that you have a hunger and desire to grow and improve as a Leader, and that they’re an important part of that journey!

Trait #3: Teachable Leaders understand the importance of being good Followers.

We often assign mentors to young professionals at work, to help them gain insights and encouragement from someone that they can model and learn from. Regardless of your longevity in your career or within your organization, as a Leader you need mentors and role-models too. Do you have someone in your network that you can go to for advice and counsel? Maybe that’s another CEO, a colleague from a professional networking group or an outside coach, but make sure that you have someone whom you admire and respect to offer you a safe place to work through problems and opportunities – and be willing to submit to their leadership. We get better by learning from others who have been there/done that – and got the t-shirt.

Trait #4: Teachable Leaders grow stronger when the are Producers. 

A great way to grow in character and competence as a Leader is to build into other Leaders. Are you mentoring others? Are you actively sharing what you’re learning as a Seeker, Receiver and Follower? Don’t keep all of the goodness to yourself. Invest in others to multiply the results of your continuous improvement efforts!

Question: What did I miss? What are some additional traits that you feel Teachable Leaders have? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Unbridled Talent LLC is a consulting and advisory firm providing services to clients in the areas of leadership development, executive communication skills and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and teach business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people. Contact us to schedule an event or to discuss our strategic consulting and advisory services.

President & Chief Talent Strategist

Jennifer McClure is a Keynote Speaker, Talent Strategies Expert and Executive Coach who works with clients and companies in the areas of leadership development, communication and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and empower business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people.

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5 thoughts on “4 Traits of Teachable Leaders – And How You Can Demonstrate Them

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. These are great insights not just for someone who is mid career, but thisnis even better for us Millennials. I asked the question at a summit: How can millennials prove or gain leadership experience without being in a leadership role? You answered my question right on target. Great article. I will be sharing this.

  2. Teachable Leaders teach other what they have learned. Real Leaders do not use information as power. They use it as instruction for others so that others can turn into leaders themselves.

  3. This article confirms a long held belief of mine. That said, This type of individual in an organisation that is autocratic by nature is generally labelled as “not a team player” amongst his peers and “Elitist” and in that environment one needs to be very strong willed to succeed. The outcome of these traits have a big impact on their subordinates. I can attest to this having had a person begin as a programmer and now is a Senior VP at Bank of America and another who is an Executive in charge of the Stewardesses/Stewards in a Canadian Airline.

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