“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other” – John F. Kennedy
How can you and I possibly use this leadership quote?
Of all the things you and I must do to maintain our position of leadership, our attitude of mind towards learning is the key above all. We must keep in the forefront of our thinking that we need to learn in order to reach our goals and fulfil our purpose.
In the 80s, I was travelling regularly from England to Germany as part of my work as an engineer, developing automotive components with Ford Motor Company and General Motors. I really enjoyed the travel and like many English-speaking people, I convinced myself that all Germans speak English. This was largely true in the more senior levels and especially in the American owned automotive companies. It wasn’t true for the population in general, as I soon found out when I started to go out into the shops and pubs. Also, one of the big things I noticed was that whenever my customers wanted to discuss something between themselves and they didn’t want me to understand, they switched to German.
This is a natural thing for them to do but boy, did it frustrate me! I can tell you that it was the overriding reason why I decided to learn German. This great leadership quote by John F Kennedy summarises one of the most important things I learned from that experience.
A plan as well as a reason
Another part of my job involved a lot of driving to visit customers in England. I was driving over 50,000 miles a year. Let’s call that 1,000 hours. I decided to use a good portion of that time in the car to learn German from cassette tapes. Over a period of about two years I absorbed tape after tape, learning the structure of the language and the vocabulary.
Quotes about Leadership: Determination
Some of my colleagues at the time were amazed that my progress. They decided to learn German from tapes as well. None of them managed it. What I did sounds simple and it was. But it wasn’t easy. It needed persistent hard work and dedication. What drives that is motivation. I had motivation because I was going to Germany every month. I really wanted to learn German to reduce my frustrations in the business meetings and to enhance my experience in the country. I also had a belief that I could do it and the new knowledge that they didn’t all speak English! All these things together combined in a virtuous circle to motivate me.
As an aside, there is no doubt in my mind that my ability to speak some German at that stage put me head and shoulders above the other candidates when I took up a great opportunity to work for a big German automotive Tier 1 supplier. From then on my career took off. You never know what positive benefits your learning will have!
The Silver Bullet
From this story and from this quote on leadership I want to share with you the magic silver bullet I found. Like I said, it is simple but it’s not easy. It is this: find a way to develop and maintain an overriding urge to learn. There must be an overwhelming reason. You must find a way to drive your determination to learn those things which you need to know to reach your goals. Visualise yourself being able to do the things you are learning, imagine yourself in the position where you already have the knowledge or the skill and. Imagine the results. Imagine what you will see, what you will hear, what you will feel. Do this regularly and do it over and over. Create that overwhelming determination to learn and you will do it.
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