The Learning Leader Show With Ryan Hawk

Episode #298 with Michael Useem – How To Become A Learning Machine

Full shownotes can be seen at

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • Thinking strategically
    • Communicating persuasively
    • Decisive decision making
  • The power of using real life examples to demonstrate leadership
  • Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
    • He was a learning machine
    • “We know not the future, and cannot plan for it much.  But we can determine and know what manner of men we will be whenever and wherever the hour strikes.”
    • He was a self directed lifelong learner – “I have always been interested in military matters, and what I do not know in that line, I know how to learn. I study I tell you every military work I can find.”
    • He had a mentor/coach – Adelbert Ames was his tent mate and he learned all he could from him
      • He had a disciplined focus on learning from him.  “I asked him every night to tell me what he knew so I could learn”
    • He routinely got outside of his comfort zone – “I will watch myself and do an after action review to analyze.”
    • Get tangible experience
  • The purpose behind taking students and family members to Gettysburg every semester – To “stand where Chamberlain stood.” And to “get you in their moment on that ground.” Recreate the moment as if you’re there.
  • Gene Kranz and Apollo 13
    • “Expecting high performance is a prerequisite to its achievement among those who work with you.  Your high standards and optimistic anticipations will not guarantee a favorable outcome, but their absence will assuredly create the opposite.”
    • Being a decisive decision maker and preparing for those challenging moments with an attitude that “failure is not an option.”
    • “I knew my teams even more than they knew themselves.”
    • Had a great mentor in Chris Craft to help him
    • Teams that are well developed go through experiences together can outperform individuals under stress
  • The motivation behind risk takers:
    • “A calculating adventurer, deriving a thrill from taking a risk and watching it pay off.”  This is how visions are created.
    • How to become savvy about calculated risk
    • Risk tolerance is a learned skill
  • Persuasive communication is an art form
    • It’s a learned skill
    • You can’t hide, you must be persuasive as a leader
    • There needs to be a solid narrative (story), a purpose behind it
    • Every person must know how important their specific contribution is — “Why are we doing this and what is my role?”

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