Those Who Can, Do…Those Who Can’t, Teach

A good friend of mine shared that his grandmother was one of the first women to enter the Army Nurse Corps in World War II.  She was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and decades later still pulled rank when he would stay home sick from school.  She’d take him gallons of water throughout the day and take his temperature with an old glass and mercury thermometer.  He still saw her snapping her wrist just so to make the thermometer click and she could read the result without glasses.  He, however, had never been able to read a glass thermometer though he could write a dissertation on how to do so.

In this blog series we’ve been looking at contextual leadership through which our leaders to succeed in a variety of situations with the right mix of skills and characteristics.  Most recently we looked at leadership agility as the fifth core element:

  1. Drive
  2. Emotional Intelligence
  3. Values
  4. Intelligence
  5. Learning Agility

Learning agility is in fact the cohesive element that allows our leaders to contextualize within our organization.  This core element allows all of the others to be used to their fullest potential, with appropriate application, and with successful outcomes.

While I will boldly assert that I possess learning agility in a great many facets of my life, I confess that reading mercury thermometers does not fall into one of those facets.  My intelligence is not lacking, but like my friend I am unable to apply my extensive knowledge on how to read that thermometer into actually seeing that little silver line.

Such is a leader who has all the right training, knowledge, and degrees, but is unable to apply that knowledge in challenging situations.  Some scenarios call for penetrating questions to achieve understanding that transcends that scenario and adds to their total knowledge and experience.  Leaders with high agility are more likely to seek out information and effectively apply that knowledge to inform future judgments.  Similar comparisons can be made for the other elements of leadership as well.

And while teaching is an incredibly noble and wonderful profession (my humble caveat to the title!), we need leaders that go beyond knowledge and intelligence and are continually learning and adapting to the challenges thrown at them day by day.



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