Over lunch Frances described to me her background. I had wondered how she got started, why when the CEO of Ford, Alan Mulaly, gave her a car, she picked it up near Pittsburgh.
She told me about growing up near there and going to the University of Pittsburgh. If I remember right, she didn’t finish. It struck me because she is yet another prominent leader who didn’t graduate college.
She’s surrounded by the best and brightest—leading them, responding to their requests for advice—and didn’t get there through traditional education.
One of my main inspirations for teaching and coaching leadership end entrepreneurship experientially and actively was seeing the high emotional awareness and skills of the guests on the TV show Inside the Actors Studio, then hearing during their interviews how the majority of them got kicked out, left, or somehow didn’t finish school. Yet most of them described learning their craft somehow. The more I researched the names they mentioned—Stanislavsky, Stassberg, and Adler, later learning about Meisner—the more I learned about a style of learning different than I had come across, valuable for leadership skills, but absent even from top business schools.
With five Ivy League degrees including an MBA and a PhD, I’ve invested a lot in traditional education. It’s given me a lot, but Frances Hesselbein is yet another example of great leadership emerging independently of traditional education. It’s amazing how much it misses in its focus on credentials, grades, and facts over performance and skills. To see how most of its testing helps administrators at the expense of students and teachers.
It’s funny to say I’m not that impressed with something I put decades of my life into, and I value a lot of what I learned, but it missed teaching me important parts of life—meaning, value, importance, purpose, passion, etc—in favor of a lot of facts.
Anyway, the lesson from Frances was not to criticize traditional education but to reinforce seeing what more is available. Meeting with her reinforced my interest in developing and distributing leadership and entrepreneurship training and coaching different, more effective, and equally tried and true as traditional.
Now I’m getting ahead of myself, thinking about how I’m about to introduce my online course soon, after inspiring reviews from the first round of pilot testers, but that’s another story.
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