“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

There exists a well-known phenomenon among American executives: As they ascend the ladder, assuming more and more management responsibilities, they perform less of the “tactical” work upon which their careers were based. And as essential as “management” is, it is no replacement for the mental acuity needed to, for example, perform neurosurgery, or draft architectural plans, or solve engineering problems.


Great leaders understand —and embrace — the behavior of personal stewardship, which rests on three legs, physical, spiritual, and mental.   They keep their minds well-exercised – at levels expected and not. They remain well-informed — in expected and unexpected ways. I work with many who have learned, later in life, to fly planes or to speak a second language. Keeping a mind keen and alert, however, doesn’t require these extremes. The point is to do something, to keep learning, to keep exercising your mind just as you exercise your body.

Exercising your mind can be easily overlooked. After all, most successful leaders have already worked, earlier in their careers, at building their minds. They attended school, took the right classes, aimed for the right scores, etc. As students, many were overachievers. The problem arises, however, in what can be an inevitable tendency to let learning lapse.


Learning keeps a leader sharp and informed. Keeping the mind sharp can be as consuming as learning to fly a plane, or as simple as going to the movies and engaging in conversations with friends. Learning should be a lifelong commitment, not merely because of the obvious benefits of improved memory and mental acuity, but also the benefits of having a more complete knowledge base.

I challenge you today to learn something new – perhaps out of your realm or comfort – and certainly outside your area of expertise.