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Lifelong Learning and the CEO

There is a perpetual controversy about the value of the MBA degree. Books are published weekly about one form of …

There is a perpetual controversy about the value of the MBA degree. Books are published weekly about one form of new management philosophy or another. 

Well known and respected CEOs and a variety of consulting guru’s selectively endorse almost every new book that is published. Leadership forums and annual conferences featuring business leaders and academic experts from leading schools of business attract crowds of CEO’s anxious to glean the latest nuggets of management wisdom. 

Obviously, there is a need for lifelong learning for every manager, and especially the CEO. 

The challenge for most CEOs is which of the myriad of all of these educational offerings should they attend, if any? And, do I have the time to go? Expense is also a consideration. 

Like all the other challenges facing the typical CEO, education has to be part of the plan or to do list, or else as you already know – it will not get done! 

Let’s examine some of the common sense value added reasons to participate in life long learning as a CEO. 

Time to think: What I hear and see from all the CEOs that I know, talk to and visit is a common theme – “I don’t know where the time goes everyday, but most of the time I have no time to think.” 

Every time I have gone to a conference, seminar, forum, executive briefing, or even a business breakfast, luncheon, or dinner with a guest speaker it has been a wonderful opportunity to get out of the “combat zone” and to think. 

Sharing with other CEOs: Another invaluable benefit is to listen to and share problems and solutions with other CEOs. I wrote a column on – “It’s Lonely at the Top”, wherein I offered similar advice. 

New ideas or reviving old ones that were never implemented: Every speaker that I have listened to has motivated me in one way or another. As I said in another column – “talking to your self is a familiar echo.” While the speaker’s specific topic or their concepts may not always be applicable to your situation, their comments may jog you into an action you might not take otherwise. 

A topic of special interest to you: Every CEO has a nagging interest in something that they feel is missing or incomplete in their skill set. Most likely the longer you have delayed finding out more about it, the more troubling it has become. Bite the bullet! Get the information, or at least get started down the path to embellishing your skills. 

Another resource: Lastly, one of the speakers may represent a resource that you can utilize to help you and/or your team manage better. If you are motivated by the speaker they can probably motivate your team, too. Perhaps some of the handouts or other materials can be helpful to you and your team, as well. 

I hope that some of these suggestions make sense to you and will motivate you to get out of your combat zone and into a valuable lifelong learning experience. It should be on your to do list and certainly part of your strategic imperatives. 

Remember what an anonymous business philosopher said – “a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world”. 

Let’s start a dialogue on how to get going on a program to help you get some fresh ideas and maybe much needed education on a topic that has been on your mind for quite some time and is clearly  troubling you. 

You might be surprised at the resources available to you right around the corner. 

E me with questions about what’s available for your specific interests and learning needs to rmdonnelly@chiefexecutive.net

An entrepreneur himself, Bob has spent most of his career involved with starting, growing and selling businesses. Having held managerial positions with IBM, Pfizer and Exxon, he draws upon extensive organizational experience with large and small companies in advising CEOs of growing firms. He is available online to answer questions from Chief Executive readers, as well as offer workshops, tips, books to read and a monthly online column about common issues facing CEOs of growing firms. Bob has been featured in USA TODAY for his work with Inc 500 firms and is associated with NYU’s Stern Graduate School of business in their Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where he is a Venture Mentor, Marketing Strategist and Business Plan Reviewer.


He is the author of GUIDEBOOK TO PLANNING – A Common Sense Approach to Building Business Plans for Growing Firms, which has recently been reprinted. He is a past contributor to Chief Executive and one of his articles was featured in The Best of Chief Executive.  E Mail Bob at: rmdonnelly@chiefexecutive.net

About Robert M. Donnelly

Robert M. Donnelly
Robert M. Donnelly is CMO of Flo-Tite Valves & Controls, a U.S. based supplier of valves and components to the process control industry in North America. A coach, educator, and advisor to founders/CEOs of growing firms, he is a serial entrepreneur, having started, grown and sold several technology based businesses. Previously he held executive positions at IBM, Pfizer and Exxon.