Quintessential Leaders Never Stop Learning and Educating Themselves

Posted: October 30, 2015 in Examples and Analyses of Quintessential Leadership
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Quintessential leaders continue to learn and educate themselves all their livesThe day a human being – other than teenagers, who don’t know any better – decides they know it all and there is nothing else to learn or no reason to continue educating themselves is the day they die from the inside out.

When people in leadership positions do this, they become foolish, ignorant, and irrelevant, fit for nothing more than to go live as a hermit in a cave somewhere.

Because when people in leadership positions stop learning and stop educating themselves, they become useless.

We live in a world where ego breeds ignorance in people in leadership positions. Increasingly, this triumph of ego over knowledge (I’ve discussed this before) is applauded, embraced, and endorsed.

When this egotism and ignorance is in people in leadership positions, two things happen.

Ignorance starts when learning and education stopsFor the majority of people impacted by them, an increase in gullibility (engendered by each of these people’s failure to continue to learn and educate themselves, preferring instead to let media and technology appeal to their baser – and ignorant – natures and give them neatly-packaged, but erroneous, talking points they can parrot) leads the majority just to accept whatever they hear as being true. Ignorance, then, perpetuates itself throughout society.

For the minority of people who are continuing to learn and educate themselves, these people in leadership positions lose their respect and their trust. And they lose this minority of people who either internally, first, and physically, eventually, walk away from them for good.

I’ll give a real-life example of this kind of ignorance because I hear and have heard statements about this over and over.

Not long ago, a person in a leadership position was talking to a group of people, which I was among. The person told the group that President George W. Bush didn’t know anything about the threat of attacks on 9/11/01 just like President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t know anything about the threat of attack on Pearl Harbor.

I sat there in disbelief because because both statements were totally false and if this person who is in a leadership position had continued learning and educating themselves, they would have never made those statements.

History has revealed that both presidents were well aware that the respective attacks were not only probable, but imminent. They chose to ignore that information because the attacks would give them the go-ahead to do what they would not be able to do any other way.

President RooseveltIn President Roosevelt’s case, the only way the United States could get into World War II officially (it had already been unofficially involved since the late 1930’s) with the support of the American people was if America was attacked. Therefore, the attack on Pearl Harbor was his (and his advisors’) ticket into the global conflict.

In President Bush’s case, one of his objectives was to finish the job in Iraq – killing Saddam Hussein – that had been unfinished when the Gulf War (August 1990 – February 1991) ended.

President BushHe couldn’t just go attack, so he had to find a way to be in the Middle East. Al Qaeda’s uptick in activity and increased direct threats to the United States gave President Bush (and his advisors) the promise of an open door to complete his ultimate objective. When the attack came, the door opened.

Perhaps it’s hard to believe that a country would let its own people die in order the meet other objectives.

However, anyone who is continuing to learn and continuing their education – which includes history – will know that’s been the story of humanity.

Ignorance of the truth of our story as a species leads to more ignorance about our story in all its organizational contexts and ignorance about our story as individuals. The net effect is that we have no clue about the big picture and we believe lies and perpetuate them.

Because quintessential leaders keep the big picture in mind all the time, they know they don’t know everything about everything, and they know that ignorance breeds lies (quintessential leaders value and ensure, to the best of their abilities, truth in everything), quintessential leaders never stop learning and they never stop educating themselves. 

How?

As anybody whose been through both the K-12 and higher educational systems in the United States knows very little learning and education happens in the process.

Much of what is taught are the propagated lies and sheer memorization of them (there are exceptions to this and I was fortunate enough to have a handful of educators along the way who were exceptions, just as I was fortunate enough to have parents who put a high premium on lifelong learning and education).

We come out of these systems with necessary pieces of paper, but, in most cases, very little real education and knowledge.

And that is when quintessential leaders embark on their lifelong quest for learning and education.

Quintessential leaders read widely. They read the classics (quality fiction), but mostly they read non-fiction on a wide variety of topics of substance.

Quintessential leaders know how to test and prove or disprove what they read. The more a person reads (and I’m talking about spending quiet and focused hours, not skimming something on Reading widely and substantively leads to a lifetime of learning and educationthe internet and saying you read it) the better they become at discernment and at being able to determine what is true and what is not.

Quintessential leaders know how to think about and apply what they read because what they’ve learned stays with them and becomes a part of their collective reserve of information and their behavior.

Because quintessential leaders are well-read, they are very attuned to verbal inconsistencies and outright verbal ignorance.

Without that learning and educational process continuing, quintessential leaders would be susceptible to believing everything they hear (or read), because discernment, understanding, and knowledge is absent.

As always, we must, as quintessential leaders, look at our own lives to see whether we are on a journey of lifelong learning and education.

Therefore, we need to ask ourselves some questions:

  • Do we read?
  • If we’re not reading, why not?
  • If we read, do we read widely and substantively, or do we read “easy reads” and “fluff?”
  • If we read, can we compare what we’re reading with other things we’ve heard or read and know which is true or whether some or none is true?
  • If we read, does it change our lives because we learn something we didn’t know or we gain a different understanding of something we thought we knew?

If we are not committed to and actively pursuing a lifelong commitment to learning and educating ourselves, then we are not quintessential leaders.

How are we doing?

 

 

Comments
  1. iammarchhare says:

    You wrote: “They chose to ignore that information because the attacks would give them the go-ahead to do what they would not be able to do any other way.”

    Eventually, America would have had to go to war with Germany in any event. We could have done so as part of a larger coalition or later on our own after Germany already dominated the US. Like Winston Churchhill, Roosevelt realized what was at stake and worked towards what was eventual anyhow. At least America had the luxury of choosing when to enter the war.

    America had not up until that time been prone to be the one to throw the first punch. When we were a nation of values, it was one thing to appear to be the aggressor in a war, but it was entirely an different matter to retaliate for violence against us in self-defense. Let them draw first blood, and then it becomes obvious what nations are out of control.

    Of course, things have changed a lot since then.

    That’s why I offer no such sympathies for invading Iraq. GW Bush long before 9/11 spoke about the danger of Iraq. The terrorists who took over the plane were not from Iraq. In fact, Osama bin Laden was from our “friend” Saudi Arabia. We had no excuse for invading Iraq the second time. It is just another in a long line of interfering with the internal affairs of other nations without the least clue as to the consequences, which are ISIS, a failed Arab Spring and the lack of any restraint upon Iran, among many, many others.

    We have turned from waiting for someone to move first to a much more interventionist policy. Iraq did not provoke us, did not threaten us (in reality) and was a balancing force in the Middle East. While Iraq and Iran were occupying themselves, we had much less to worry about in the way of terrorism. Only the rich and bored of Saudi Arabia and Yemen could afford side pursuits.

    We are reaping what we sow.

    • You’re right, John. Roosevelt’s choice got us into World War II legitimately (we’d already been in surreptitiously) sooner rather than later (unlike World War I, where we did not join in until mid-1917 and that late entry probably affected the devastating human – death and casualty – cost in that war).

      Should we have been in World War II? Yes. Should we have lied about it? No.

      The whole Iraq mess (even Afghanistan before – and maybe this sounds harsh, but I think it fits with your point – if we wanted to really get Bin Laden, then we should have blown a hole in the earth where Afghanistan is in that initial attack; we would have not only “accomplished the mission,” but we would have sent a definitive message to anyone else who thought about attacking us) and since then has been one fiasco after another.

      As you said, we are reaping what we sow, and it will only go downhill from here.

  2. […] leaders differ from everybody else because they are aware of – continually learning and educating themselves and thinking deeply and critically about everything – how tempting and strong the […]

  3. Thanks for giving me a link to this blog. I do not profess to be as educated as you or iammarchhare who commented, but I totally understand what you are saying in this post. For a very long time I have been so discouraged with World Leaders. I am often very upset about how expendable human life is, when leaders choose to send people into battle to accomplish some agenda.

    • You’re welcome! You are educated…it’s not a competition…it’s a way of life. And you are continuing your education by reading widely, intelligently, and getting the facts. Most people don’t care and that is why they’re being led down the primrose path into believing dishonesty in others and becoming dishonest themselves. They’d denying it all day long, but dishonesty has become the standard operating procedure of our society to the point where people don’t even recognize that they have let dishonesty creep into to what they believe and what they do and say.

      • I will say I generally research everything I hear and read to find the real truth. You are right, there is a lot of denial and dishonesty in this world. Downright frustrating how disinterested people are in what is most important in this world.

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