The most impactful leaders know that high performance is both an outcome of what we break – and what we build. They know the power of what the right chains produce.

Intentional leaders break through chains of limitations, and they build a strong Chain of Learning®.

At its core, a Chain of Learning® refers to how we are all simultaneously learners and leaders helping each other improve – through successes and failures. Learning can happen in all directions within an organization: from the top down, from the bottom up, and across any and all levels, teams and peer groups. It’s more like a mesh of chains interlinked together to provide strength and scaffolding for improvement, learning, and impact.

Organizations with a strong Chain of Learning® have a culture where people feel engaged, empowered, and connected to propose, and where they are growing and contributing to the greater purpose of the company. And engagement results in more innovation, lower turnover, and higher profitability. What company doesn’t want that?

How to Create a Chain of Learning®

So how do you create this powerful Chain of Learning? And, as an intentional leader, how do you set your team up to add links to it instead of finding opportunities to break it down?

While each leader is unique in their specific approach to leadership and the organizational goals they need to achieve…we all can benefit from building a Chain of Learning® to strengthen our own abilities, our team’s effectiveness, and our organization's impact.

Intentional leaders — ones who are people-centered, committed to improvement, and lead from the heart — will find the 7 Cs of leadership as a roadmap to building a strong Chain of Learning® that encourages ongoing learning, facilitates individual and team growth, and positions everyone – and their organizations – to succeed.

When you embrace leading with caring, curiosity, and courage…you grow others and your organization in capability, confidence, clarity, and creativity. The Chain of Learning happens when the 7 Cs are fully embraced and embodied…and when they are connected.

The Foundational 3 Cs: How You Lead

The first 3 Cs focus on the how of leadership. Embrace these core capabilities to start building your Chain of Learning®.

CARING: Our attitude of caring about other people first is vital. Go to gemba — to the place where the work happens — to show that you care about the people doing the work. Focus on establishing a human connection that starts with trust, kindness, and human connection first.

CURIOSITY: Curiosity is the foundation of learning. Ask questions from a place of humble, open inquiry, where you are neither expecting or leading toward an answer. Be curious about what the other person is thinking and about what is actually happening…not what you think should be happening. Be open to other ideas, and the next step in the other person’s learning.

COURAGE: Courage is essential to leadership at any level and, yet, it isn’t always easy to act on. Courage takes practice…and a belief in yourself. Courage by its very definition means taking a risk and stepping out of our comfort zone. We need courage to set a challenging direction, to admit mistakes, and to look within for opportunities for improvement. When we lead with courage, we help others develop their own.

The Resulting 4 Cs: What You Create

The resulting 4 Cs in the Chain of Learning® are the outcomes of what happens when you lead with caring, curiosity, and courage. It’s what results when we work together to strengthen and grow.

CAPABILITY: Intentional leaders help develop the capability of other people’s skills and abilities so that they can move forward with achieving goals and solving problems. Focus on how to help the other person to constantly improve their abilities, to grow, and to become better and more capable.

CONFIDENCE: Intentional leaders bolster the confidence of their people by supporting them to develop the self-belief that they can accomplish anything…that they can take the next step and move forward. Give people permission to make mistakes and to fail…and help them to understand that the most important thing is to get back up, and keep learning.

CLARITY: Through words and actions, intentional leaders help others get clarity on what is the real problem to solve, the challenge to overcome, or the next step they need to take. Ask supportive questions from a place of curiosity, to help others see the actual issues at hand, and their opportunities for improvement — to come to clarity about the problem, the possible answer, and the actions needed to make progress.

CREATIVITY: Intentional leaders help others develop clarity not only on what the actual problem is that they need to solve, but also expand their thinking about possibilities of how to solve it. Help your people bring forth creativity, generate ideas, and link possibilities together. Collectively tapping into their creativity enables your people to tackle even more complex organizational problems and develop even better solutions.

Connection in the Chain of Learning®

There is actually an eighth C – it is the link in the Chain of Learning® – it is the connection between us.

CONNECTION: We are all joined together in the Chain of Learning® through connection. Intentional leaders see personal connection as valuable and powerful. It’s our link together as humans focused on helping each other grow, learn, and improve. It’s the connection between us in our Chain of Learning® that is the bond that unites all as leaders and as learners.

When you lead with caring, curiosity, and courage, you foster and unleash the capability, confidence, clarity, and creativity of your people. Teams are more effective at solving problems and moving towards realizing important challenges. Companies are more likely to achieve their organizational outcomes. Through the 7 Cs of Leading to Learn®, learning continuously happens, and the Chain of Learning® links become strong, solid, and unbreakable. We become connected together as we strive to make a positive impact in this world.

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Katie Anderson is an internationally recognized leadership coach, consultant, speaker, and author of bestselling book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn, with over 20 years of expertise in developing people-centered learning cultures across a range of industries. She has worked with leaders of organizations such as Roche, Facebook, Toyota and regularly keynotes international events. Katie received her BA with honors from Stanford University and a Masters of Philosophy in public health from Sydney University, where she was a Fulbright Scholar.