What Does a Learning Mindset Look Like?

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The best leaders are learners. This statement is profoundly true and hard to argue with. The role of leadership is complex, and the skills and insights required are broad and expansive. In order to be a learner, a learning mindset is required. But what does that look like, and how can you develop it?

This is a worthy question for any leader to ponder personally, but it applies to those grooming, selecting, and developing leaders, too. The good news is that by looking at behavior, we can have a clear picture of people’s mindset when it comes to learning. Here are four specific behaviors that, when present, will be good indicators that someone has a learning mindset.

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What Does a Learning Mindset Look Like?

Asking Curious Questions

The most proficient learners are little kids. And one thing is true of all kids – they are curious.  They ask questions incessantly, wanting to learn and understand what is going on around them, how things work, and everything else!  Likewise, adults with a learning mindset are curious, and like in kids, curiosity shows up in questions.

When adults and leaders allow their egos to be defined by what they know, they sometimes try to defend what they know and prove what they know rather than growing that knowledge base. The more curious questions people ask to understand, inquire, and learn, the more likely they have a learning mindset.


One of the most powerful ways to learn is by reflecting on past events to determine both what worked (to repeat) and what didn’t (so you can change it). While those with a learning mindset are likely doing this personally, this can’t always be seen. But what can always be observed is when people use the power of reflection in groups.

The opportunities for group reflection occur almost every day. Groups can reflect on progress, success, and failure. They can reflect on the process of a meeting or the outcomes of a project. Those with a learning mindset take the time to ask reflective questions of a group to gain knowledge and improvement.

Seeking and Being Open to Feedback

Feedback helps us see what we sometimes can’t see ourselves. While getting an outside perspective can always help us learn, as a leader, this perspective is critical.  A leader’s work and success are tied to their ability to communicate with, influence, and direct others.  When they don’t understand how they are impacting others, their ability to succeed is diminished.

Asking for feedback and listening to it carefully is a clear sign of a learning mindset – it shows both a willingness to learn and the vulnerability that is required for that learning to occur.

Searching for Ideas and Information

You’ve likely read that the best leaders are readers, and my experience in working with leaders over the last 30+ years proves that statement. If you are a reader, you likely have a learning mindset.

But there is more to a learning mindset than being a reader. Those with a learning mindset are actively seeking ideas and information in many ways, including:

  • Reading
  • Attending workshops and seminars
  • Watching videos and webinars
  • Learning online
  • With others
  • With mentors and coaches

In Summary: What a Learning Mindset Looks Like

My goal was to give you a picture of what a learning mindset looks like. These behaviors are solid clues. If you desire to have a stronger learning mindset and to be learning more, these behaviors are a good place to start. And as a leader, if you want to influence others to have a stronger learning mindset, these behaviors will set a good example.

Kevin Eikenberry
Kevin Eikenberry

Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning and is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. He has spent nearly 30 years helping organizations across North America and leaders from around the world on leadership, learning, teams and teamwork, communication, and more. Twice, he has been named by Inc.com as one of the top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World and has been included in many other similar lists. He is the author, co-author, or contributing author to nearly 20 books, including Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a Time and bestseller From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership (with Guy Harris), The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership (with Wayne Turmel). His blog is consistently ranked among the world’s best, most read, and most shared on leadership.

Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn and at www.kevineikenberry.com.

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