Author Simon Sinek is famous for his leadership advice, including the 2011 best-selling book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. (The book expands on the ideas put forth in Sinek’s famous TED Talk, which has garnered over 33 million views and is currently the third most-viewed TED Talk of all time.)
“The best leaders don’t consider themselves experts; they consider themselves students.”
Preach on, brother.
Why You Should Always Consider Yourself a Student
If you follow my column, you know I’m a big fan of this advice. Just a few months ago, I shared similar sentiments from Satya Nadella, when he encouraged Microsoft employees not to be “know-it-alls,” but rather, to be “learn-it-alls.”
But why should you consider yourself a student instead of an expert?
For one, anybody out there can label themselves an authority. Search the word “expert” on LinkedIn and in return you’ll get over 4.5 million names.
But this type of mindset is dangerous.
“For me, referring to yourself as an ‘expert’ in any field assumes the position that you have reached your fullest potential,” writes my Inc. colleague Mandy Antoniacci in a past column. “It implies you have attained a thrilling pinnacle in your career and that your thirst for knowledge in a particular subject has been quenched.”
But when it comes to topics that are important to you, your thirst for knowledge should never be quenched.
As Sinek puts it:
“Anyone who considers themselves an expert, do not trust them. Run in the other direction.”
Focusing on learning, as opposed to how others view you, changes your primary concern to one of continuous growth. If you’re a true student, you won’t consider mistakes as “failures.” They’re simply learning opportunities.
This mindset will profoundly affect your entire approach to work and life.
And according to Sinek, it’s the stuff effective leaders are made of.
“We call [these people] leader, not because they’re in charge,” he says. “We call them leader because they’re the ones willing to run headfirst into the unknown or into the dangerous. They’re willing to risk their own resources to protect and grow their people…. I’ve met some really, really senior, some really remarkable people…. They have an insatiable curiosity to continually improve their leadership skills.”
True leadership isn’t a rank one achieves, explains Sinek. It’s a skill to be perfected, like parenting.
“You’ll never be an expert parent,” says Sinek. “But you’ll keep practicing and practicing and practicing and hopefully you’ll get it right someday.”
So, whether you’re a CEO or employee, parent or child, young or old, remember:
Don’t be an expert. Be a student.
Because if you never stop learning, you never stop growing.
Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.