Where Leaders Go to Learn (This I Believe)

I was at a monthly gathering of local business colleagues last week when I encountered the following illustration (if you don’t see it, please “load images” in your e-mail or click through to the post):

The main idea was that leaders are willing to venture into the vast area of the unknown. (The slices for “What I know” and “What others know” are generous, it should be noted.)

This (or something close) was offered up by Jane Smith of Dorrier Underwood, who had been invited in to speak to the group. While I have encountered similar drawings before, it was helpful – as is so often the case – to see the concept articulated once again, and in a new context. Repetition, as they say, is the mother of learning.

That might have been the end of the story, except that I was driving down Hwy 54 west of Carrboro this weekend when I caught a bit of a segment on Edward R. Murrow’s 1950s This I Believe series.

Specifically, Bob Edwards – who is launching a weekly retrospective on the series as part of his NPR show – was talking with Dan Gediman from ThisIBelieve.org about the “essay” that Jackie Robinson did for the series. I was stuck by the spirit of Robinson’s words and by the following passage in particular:

I fought because I knew it was not doomed to be a losing fight. It couldn’t be a losing fight—not when it took place in a free society.

For me, this was one of those moments of connecting the ever-so-obvious dots that hover continually in our mind’s eye. Robinson had courage, and more importantly, Robinson had faith. These characteristics drove his will to learn – for truly his journey was one into the unknown.

The speakers in any number of the other This I Believe essays, whether from the original Murrow series or the “modern” This I Believe essays produced by NPR, exhibit similar qualities. Many of these people, in reflecting on what they believe, are reflecting on learning journeys. And many take on these journeys as a matter of faith. Not religious faith, mind you – though that is certainly a factor for many – but simply the faith that it is worth learning what we do not know, what we do not even know we don’t know, as Jane Smith put it.

Leaders must possess an intense desire and willingness to learn. To go into the unknown with a faith that they will be able to succeed. An obvious point, I suppose, but one that bears repeating again and again. (This I believe.)

Jeff Cobb
Mission to Learn

P.S – Here’s the Jackie Robinson piece, if you want to hear the whole thing:

And you might also want to check out the This I Believe podcast series

P.S.S. – Kudos (again) to Brian Kinahan of Summit Performance for organizing the monthly meeting I reference at the beginning of this post. It is always a learning event, in my experience. Be sure to follow Brian on Twitter if you are interested in how you can build a higher performing organization.

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