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WHY-dening Your Learning Horizon

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to energize your ability to learn new things. Reading time: 3:03

        The young crime reporter wasn’t squeamish the first time she entered the county morgue. Her curiosity overshadowed any fears she may have had standing in front of open drawers of dead bodies filed away like so many forgotten papers.

       curious georgeHer curiosity was piqued. How did they die? And most intriguing of all –why? That’s what leaders do. They can see more than what’s in their sight. And they can cite so much more than they can see. They ask Why when others are too focused on What.

       And they yearn to learn with the flair of Curious George, the hero in the popular children’s book series written by Margret Rey and illustrated by Hans  Augusto Rey.

     With their curiosity “why-dened,” these leading learners and learning leaders more readily subscribe to author Robert Ingersoll’s notion that education is the only lever capable of raising mankind. Leaders understand that learning is part of work — not something apart from work.

    Curious1Leaders like Max De Pree — the former chairman of a Fortune 500 company writing in his book Leadership Jazz notes: “Good leadership includes teaching and learning, building relationships and influencing people as opposed to exercising one’s power.”

     Influencing people begins with nurturing a learning environment, a place for specific observation, study and evaluation.

     Lewis Meriwether became an expert map-maker for example first by walking around at night at President Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello, according to historian Stephen Ambrose in his book Undaunted Courage. Later Meriwether and his partner Clark became famous for mapping what turned out to be half of the present day United States.

       In teaching and building relationships, leaders champion continuous learning. That’s why effective leaders consider learning a never-ending process of excitement, awe and wonder . Maybe that’s why education pioneer John Dewey said: “The aim of education is to enable a man to continue his education.” Or to why-den his scope of understanding.

      Ben Franklin why-dened his scope of understanding. He continued his education even after he failed arithmetic his last year in school. Numbers intrigued him, nevertheless. He was curious. And he leveraged his leadership learning and created mathematical magic square. Each row of eight numbers equalled 260 regardless of how they were added: Up. Down. Across. Or diagonally.

     Franklin saw more than simple addition and subtract in the numbers in to do his arithmetic properly. He saw so much more with his sense of curiosity.  He asked “why” when everyone else was seeking the “what”- the answer. Leaders, plying “why-dened” horizons know there are always more questions than answers.

           In fact, leaders know the morgue can tell you scientifically how a victim died, but it takes more probing, more curiosity to determine the why.

            And even when presented with the hard facts of life and death in a morgue, curious leaders know there is so much more left lying on the table.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Be curious to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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