There's a famous saying that if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten. This describes a trap many of us fall into when we don't challenge our underlying beliefs and goals. Many people who call themselves leaders are really followers because they follow established norms at the expense of progress. To be a true leader, you have to know when it's time to do things differently. In other words, you have to engage in double-loop learning.
Double-loop learning is an improvement upon single-loop learning, a process in which someone single-mindedly pursues a goal without wondering if they should. In a 1977 article, Chris Argyris (who invented double-loop learning) compares single-loop learning to a typical thermostat's functioning. If the room is cold, it turns on the heat. And if the room is hot, it turns off the heat. It never questions if the temperature it's set at is the right one. If it did, it would be engaging in double-loop learning.
As another example, people trying to lose weight may engage in either type of learning. Many people achieve their target weights by dieting and exercising. But once they do, some return to their old habits and gain all of their weight back. If these people engaged in double-loop learning, they might realize they needed to change their lifestyles permanently.
Because no two young people are the same, working with youth requires adaptability. Even if you develop methods that work most of the time, your leadership career will be full of surprises. If you can engage in double-loop learning, you can continually progress at working with different categories of youth, young adults, and in general, all types of people. Additionally, you can question what it means to be a leader and what young people really need from you.
Submitted by Cole Trehan, YELD Apprentice