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A-A-A for Learning from Others

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV

In my neighborhood, children are headed back to school. It’s exciting to see them eager to learn. Their enthusiasm is contagious! 

Do you remember that feeling? You went shopping for the perfect back-to-school outfit. You carefully chose the best binder that would make this year your most productive. You were hopeful, happy, and ready to start anew! 

As an adult you want to continue learning; as a leader you want to make a difference. Somehow leading and learning should mesh.

You may know someone who inspires you to do that thing you’ve always wanted to try but have been a little anxious about.

That’s where transformational leaders make a difference. What is it about them that makes you feel that you can do whatever it is that you’re hoping to do? What is it that spurs you onward and upward?

Have you noticed that transformational leaders are learners? They approach you with enthusiasm—motivated to learn and to influence positively.

In the online course, Leadership Theory, Dr. Noel Forlini Burt discusses transformational leadership and contrasts it with transactional leadership.

Transactional leaders trade something in order to receive something back, and the transaction doesn’t advance the relationship or transform it. But transformation happens in relationships where motivation stems from genuine interest in one another. Those relationships can grow and flourish.

Transformational leaders lovingly sharpen others to help them be more effective, AND those leaders are sharpened by allowing others to influence them, too.

Maybe there’s merit in checking these three As.


If you want to transform others and yourself, you’ll need to invest in relationships.

  • Maybe you want to learn from others, and yet you don’t feel you have an aptitude, or natural tendency, for starting conversations.
  • Maybe you’re an introvert and you don’t get energized by being around people.
  • Maybe you’re overwhelmed and the easiest thing to do is to work at your desk and finish your job as quickly as possible. 

These may seem to be valid reasons to keep you from stretching yourself in the area of relationships. I know because I’ve used some of those excuses myself! 

Actually, you do know that every person has something to teach you if you are motivated to learn—every person. You also know that developing healthy relationships costs something—your time at the very least. But will you choose to improve your aptitude for learning from others? 

That’s what makes this Know Your Neighbor Christian Women’s Leadership Challenge a little scary, even though it’s fun, too. Those we don’t know have much to teach us, but we will never learn unless we are willing to learn from them—or at least get to know them.

  • The challenge gives you simple steps each week.
  • You have support knowing that other women are doing the challenge with you.
  • Doing the challenge each week will force you to be intentional about getting to know your neighbors.

Maybe you don’t feel you have an aptitude for getting to know others. (I’ve certainly been impressed with those who do.) But that hasn’t stopped you before when you’ve been faced with roadblocks. 

Leaders know that industry is always changing, and those who resist change will be left by the wayside. Change is inevitable, and aptitude doesn’t stop you. When you lack a natural tendency you learn coping strategies and gain the ability through practice. 

The Know Your Neighbor Christian Women’s Leadership Challenge will give you opportunities and simple steps to get you started. I’m a little nervous, but I want to stretch myself to learn something new about my neighbors this week.

Don’t forget about the excitement of those children starting back to school. Somehow they are excited year after year. As a leader, you have that resilience too! 

Let’s stretch ourselves a little each week and improve our aptitude for learning from others right where we live.


Have you ever worked with a haughty person? It’s easy to see it in others but not so easy for me to see it in myself. I know it’s there, because I detest seeing it in others. How about you?

Having the nose up in the air makes me unapproachable, and that’s not the kind of leader who transforms others. The Bible speaks a lot about pride and about having an attitude—or should we say an altitude—of superiority.

While living in Asia, I found myself keenly aware of my physical altitude. Though only 5'5½" inches tall, I towered over my Asian friends. Stooping became a way of life for me during my 26 years living in Asia. Look at pictures and you’ll see me stooping down to be near the heads of my friends.

Stooping may not be what we are taught, but humility is certainly something we need if we want to learn from others.

James 4:10 (NIV) says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

It’s much better to humble ourselves before the Lord and to remember how low a place He redeemed us from. When we realize our own humble beginnings and reach out rather than waiting for others to approach us, we gain wonderful opportunities to learn from others. 

Let’s lower our altitudes a little each week in order to learn from others.



Do you find yourself judging others before you even get to know them? On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I test out as a strong “J.” Though the test tells us not to confuse the judging type indicator with being judgmental, I know that I can be quite judgmental as well. 

However, if you want to get to know others and have a transformational relationship, a judgmental attitude needs to be pushed aside. Judging others in thought and in deed are equally off-putting to others. They impede our ability to truly learn and develop a transforming relationship—where iron sharpens iron and one person sharpens another, as the proverb tells us. 

The whole chapter of Romans 2 speaks to me about my judgmental attitude that has to go. For one thing, when I judge, I am condemning myself. Who wants to condemn themselves? Reading the whole chapter also puts the passage in context.

Romans 2:4 (NIV) says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

That’s convicting. In all my speech and my thoughts, I want to be a person full of mercy, yet I find myself judging. I even find myself making up scenarios in which I judge others. I need a lot of mercy, but how can I learn from someone else if I approach relationships with judgment instead of mercy and humility?

As we challenge one another in the Know Your Neighbor Christian Women’s Leadership Challenge, we must come with an attitude of learning from others.

Let’s check our attitudes and approach each neighbor by finding out what they can teach us and what we can learn from them. 

Those are the three As for learning this week. Do you like to make As when you learn? Check out the Know Your Neighbor Christian Women’s Leadership Challenge. It’s a free challenge.

You’ll stretch yourself a little each week for nine months. We’ll deliver one email to your inbox each week to help you get to know your neighbors—the people who live right next door to you. 


 -Claudia Johnson serves as director of Christian Women's Leadership Center.