Skip to Content

The Best Leaders are Insatiable Learners

Harvard Business Review: “Nearly a quarter century ago, at a gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, John W. Gardner delivered a speech that may be one of the most quietly influential speeches in the history of American business — a text that has been photocopied, passed along, underlined, and linked to by senior executives in some of the most important companies and organizations in the world. I wonder, though, how many of these leaders (and the business world more broadly) have truly embraced the lessons he shared that day.”

Gardner, “a legendary public intellectual and civic reformer”, gave the speech titled “Personal Renewal” which highlighted “the urgent need for leaders who wish to make a difference and stay effective to commit themselves to continue learning and growing.”

From the speech: “We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit. Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day ‘How can I be so bored when I’m so busy?’ I said ‘Let me count the ways.’ Look around you. How many people whom you know well — people even younger than yourselves—are already trapped in fixed attitudes and habits?”

PBS has a collection of Gardner’s other writings. His book, On Leadership, is also well regarded.