Leadership and the Environment


328: Tony Wagner, Learning by Heart

Ep. 328

People often ask for advice on how to lead in a given situation, what leadership means, or one tip they can improve their leadership with. Nearly none of the questions help someone improve their leadership.

The most useful question I can think of is: How do I learn to lead? In other words, what steps can I take to learn to lead?

No leader would answer: read a lot of books, magazine articles, or journal articles. Nor would they suggest discussing case studies of other people's experiences, write papers, listen to lectures, or take tests.

They'd probably say something about getting experience, especially related to leadership, not sitting in a classroom. What experience, though? Only random life experience, hoping it will help?

Learning the social and emotional skills underlying leadership may once have meant shots in the dark. No longer. Project-based, active, experiential learning teaches these skills as reliably and predictably as playing scales teaches piano and hitting ground strokes teaches tennis.

I learned of Tony Wagner and his work through his appearances in a documentary movie on that type of learning, mainly in US K-12 schools, called Most Likely to Succeed, based on a book he co-wrote of the same title. I had started learning to teach that way. The movie accelerated my learning and expanded my horizons.

Leadership and teaching this style overlap. You will benefit from learning this style of learning whether you teach or have kids or not. Hearing Tony speak of it will show you it's importance and accelerate your learning. You'll lead yourself and others better.

We start by him sharing problems with education. You'll likely be able to read between the lines on our ineffective leadership in politics, business, and especially relevant to the environment. Current education focuses on facts and analysis, not skills. It produces would-be leaders who focus on facts and analysis who create plans they lack the skills to implement, if they even create implementable plans.

If you haven't acted, you don't know what you're talking about regarding leading, yet people trained in the mainstream style consider themselves experts. It happens to all of us, all the more the less we know how to learn how Tony shows.

What's causing environmental problems isn't lack of knowledge or facts, but acting effectively to engage others. Tony talks about what we don't teach and what we could teach---things missing from many areas in life as people seek compliance through coercion. I see scientists trying to influence legislators by bypassing the public---a process they decry others for doing in the other direction.

They think they're right. They may be, but they're trying to bypass democracy. Do they not see the problem? People who disagree think they're right too.

When Tony says education, I recommend substituting leadership. In nearly each case, what he says applies equally.

I recommend reading his books (listed here) and watching Most Likely to Succeed, especially if you have kids or interact with other people.

More Episodes


356: I was assaulted again this morning. Can I talk about it?

Ep. 356
While I was jogging (actually plogging) along the Hudson River around 7:30am, a person not wearing a mask stepped into my path, blocking me, saying the person's shoes had been stolen. The person seemed to let me pass, but then threatened me and threw a bottle that shattered at my feet as I ran past. I kept running, the hair on the back of my neck standing up and my adrenaline high. I don't know if the person had a weapon.I describe more and some of how it affected me in the audio.I was first going to say I was threatened since he didn't touch me. I'm not a lawyer so I looked up the definition. According to FindLaw.com's page on Assault Torts and Injury Law:legal scholars define assault as an intentional attempt or threat to inflict injury upon a person, coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm, which creates a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm or offensive contact in another.Notice the words “attempt” and “threat” above. In tort law, assault does not require actual touching or violence to the victim. We use another term for the touching or contact: “battery.”Here are the notes I read from:The story from this morning runningHappens all the time, not daily but throughout my lifeI don't think he did it because black, but I suspect were I not white it may not have happened. Can't say this time.When I stayed in AtlantaFriends say, you can say to us but careful with othersShared about mugged childhood, but still happeningMaybe there is a secret white suburban life I don't know aboutRecently white friends have started sharing how they've been muggedConsistent with Dov's saying how sharing stories will lead to others feeling they can share tooThat's all background. Here is my point: every time I bring up suffering or being threatened, while I may get some listening, the other person always says, remember others have it worse---not that person, not even someone with their skin colorSo they don't know from experience but they're telling me as if I haven't heard before, and they're presuming to know my experienceI don't know anyone's experience but mine, but everyone absolutely everyone dismisses it without asking, presuming it's the caricature in the mainstream.When I hear white people talking about BLM, George Floyd, there's always this mea culpa. Maybe they are guilty, I don't know. I never hear them speak about their problems. Maybe they have no problems, maybe I'm unique, but that people open up with me when I share and they hear I'm not white supremacist or racist---though in today's world white people even mentioning race without saying how they are allies or something making up for guilt or things like that---then they tell me about their experiences, but they insist on my respecting their confidence, which of course I do.So much of what I hear from white people sounds so similar andinauthentic, I don't think they're being open, honest, or candid. Maybemany are as privileged as they say, but people have told me about being attacked, their lives threatened with weapons, and so on.I think about risks maybe not every day, but all the time. And when Idon't, some guy walks into my path, throws a bottle at me, and threatens me.For a while I feared sharing messages like this because people mightsuspect I'm turning into a white supremacist. I came to terms that ifpeople think that about the opposite, I can't let their preconceivednotions hold me from acting for equality."White Like Me," Eddie Murphy's Saturday Night Live sketch I referred to

354: Harvard Global Health Institute Director Ashish Jha, part 1: Front Line Pandemic Leadership

Ep. 354
If you've followed sensible, expert advice on the pandemic, you've probably read or seen Ashish Jha in the New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, Washington Post, and everywhere. On Tuesday he testified to the US Senate.He's Harvard's Global Health Institute's Director. Over 200,000 people have taken his online Harvard courses, which you can for free. Over 80,000 took Ebola, Preventing the Next Pandemic and over 120,000 took Improving Global Health: Focusing on Quality and Safety. As it turns out, we were college teammates on the ultimate frisbee team.I'll link to a few top articles by him. With so many interfaces between the pandemic and us---health, government, research, policy, etc---you can read a lot of his views and experiences from different sources.I wanted to bring the personal side of leading on the front lines and top levels of a pandemic---how do doctors and public health experts feel about people not following advice, facing triage decisions, how to be heard, and what affects a doctor personally. We talk about leadership, the intersection between the pandemic and the environment, which overlaps with his directorship and courses, and more.By the way, he created his Ebola course five years before this pandemic and predicted much of it, as did many. If predicting what's happened so far isn't enough reason to follow his advice, I don't know what is. Let's wear those masksAshish's faculty profileCoronavirus Testing Needs to Triple Before the U.S. Can Reopen, Experts Say, NY Times article quoting AshishIn the W.H.O.’s Coronavirus Stumbles, Some Scientists See a Pattern, NY Times article quoting Ashish Pandemic Expert Dr. Ashish K. Jha ’92: “We Will Get Through This.”How We Beat Coronavirus, The AtlanticHere's the reason we are still shut down right now, CNN video