When you hear the term expansiveness what comes to mind? Perhaps bulk, large, or even scale? Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary defines expansiveness as: the act or process of expanding. So if we examine what it means to be an expansive leader (leaders who are avid continuous learners) we see there are a few markers that denote such a leader. To begin with, they may have an external focus (learning and developing new products, growing organizations, or expanding work teams, etc.) and/or an internal focus (developing themselves and/or their relationships with others). Whether an external or internal focus, the hallmark of expansiveness is continuous growth and development.
In his book 151 Quick Ideas to Inspire Your Staff (2005) Jerry Wilson* quotes his grandfather as saying that “When we talk we only learn what we already know. When we ask and listen, we learn and grow” (p. 32). As you continue your journey towards excellence it is important to remember that the knowledge that often gets us to an original destination may not be the knowledge we require to sustain expertise in that arena.
When I was studying to defend my dissertation so that I could take my Ph.D., I was constantly aware of the fact that I could not possibly recall from memory every possible topic I had written about and that would be fair game for questioning during my oral defense. At some point I had to reconcile my desire to be the subject matter expert with the reality that I may have to admit to not immediately knowing an answer to a question. Any honest student in a graduate program will quickly embrace the need to learn and face the reality that the more you learn, the more you realize just how little you really know. This fact, in and of itself, is not an entirely bad revelation because as we begin to understand what we don’t yet know, we learn how to research and when to look outside of ourselves towards others to learn it. In some cases we create new theory as we go but even in those times we are “standing on the shoulders of giants” as they say. Applying this scholarly attitude towards working for excellence, we see the need to take the time to learn and grow as we progress through our journey.
*Wilson, J. (2005). 151 Quick ideas to inspire your staff. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press.