Guy Parsons

Are You a Knower or Learner Leader?

"A landscaper works in a landscape; a gardener works in a garden" - Helen Yoest

Sometimes when people learn that I am an avid gardener they assume that I am a landscaper too. One or two friends have willingly said that I can come over and “re-do” their landscape. It’s been suggested that I go into landscape design with all of my “experience”. Um. No thanks! Some of us gardeners are somewhat snobby, myself included. I’m not a landscaper and in a general sense there is a notable difference between a landscaper and a gardener.

If you look around in pleasant weather you quickly notice that landscapers are a dime a dozen zooming all over tending plots in their pickup trucks. They have varying degrees of education and knowledge all over the board. Landscapers take the ideas of landscape designers and implement (obviously there are exceptions) the plans. They tend to be concerned with aesthetics and look at a project as a whole and what is, not what can be. Their focus is usually on installing hardscapes and tending to existing plantings. Landscapers are more knowledgeable in their practice, not the dreamers and visionaries that gardeners are.

Obviously I am somewhat biased however, gardeners are focused on visualizing what can be and carrying out a dream. We focus on the health and well being of plants including diagnosing plant diseases. We continually grow our knowledge of gardening including new plant varieties, soil consistency, pests, and propagation techniques. A gardener has to be a learner because there are always new plant varieties arriving and new techniques to try. Gardeners have a passion for the soil and a drive to learn.  Often, our gardens are our babies.

I am a lifelong learner.  I love to read and learn about a variety of things I may never need to use. That doesn’t stop me. I just finished a book right up my alley – Out of the QuestionHow Curious Leaders Win in just a few hours. I was hooked. Authors Parsons and Milham assert that there are two types of leaders, Knowers and Learners.  Most of us are somewhat in the middle of being a Knower or Learner however; we tend to lean towards one style or the other. To be effective leaders we need to learn our personal style, perhaps make some adjustments, and grow others.

Below is a visual of the Knower leader and the Learner leader. Which one are you and who do you want to work for?

Directs and micromanages
Open and creative
Tells and justifies position
Discovers and guides
Closed to input and is rigid
Dwells on possibilities and finds solutions
Tells and relies on history/facts
Inquiry based leader and values input
Your grandpa’s leadership style
Healthy ego and outlook
Title and education focused
Orchestrates and connects
Covers up errors
Leaders we admire not your Grandpa

It’s pretty obvious that Knowers are the leaders of yesterday. Our leaders need to be Learners as do you. Out of the Question offers guidance, tools, and stories about Learner leadership. These will inspire and urge you to learn in order to be a Learner leader. A key leadership skill shared is learning to think before you speak and pause. Reflect and learn before you move forward to engage others. Along with pausing, sound leaders ask questions and are open to ideas. Moreover, effective leaders re-calibrate and establish habits of mindfulness and adapt an “observer’s view” of people and situations.

One of my favorite chapters addressed activating the Learner mindset. Before you can lead others to become Learner leaders you must first activate yourself. This chapter exemplifies what leadership means to me and what I strive to bring to the table. Here’s how you can activate your learner mindset:

1     Challenge your assumptions on a regular basis
2     Bring in fresh eyes. Welcome outside people and new ideas.
3     Involve groups. Your ideas are not the best. Harvest ideas from others.
4     Be open to answers. Don’t assume you know it all. You aren’t a Knower leader!

Parsons and Milham offer pivotal ideas on how to lead Knowers and Learners. There are facets to both. Bringing Knowers around means learning what drives them and how to lead them to learning. Leading Learners is easier however; they may need guidance bringing their enthusiasm and ideas to fruition. Parsons and Milham offer advice on how to have productive meaningful discussions with our Knowers and Learners and what pitfalls can happen. It’s one feat to bring people around to a new way of leading however, it may be an uphill battle to keep them engaged and on the lifelong Learner leadership path.

Out of the Question – How Curious Leaders Win is a gem that you have to pick up. You will be inspired to work at transforming your own leadership skills and those around you. It’s a story about changing mindsets and empowering others. Start your learning today to grow into being a Learner leader. Knower leaders just don’t cut it anymore!