Did Gerald Ford’s ability to work well with others – something we at EASI·Consult® call Collaborating – help the nation heal after Nixon left office?
George W. Bush followed the same educational path as his father, George H.W., attending Andover and Yale. They were both perceived as being unyielding in their stances once they had taken them. We would describe that as a lack of one of the nine dimensions of Learning Agility - Flexibility. Were there similarities due to personality? Education? Or did this have something to do with learning agility? These probably aren’t questions you consider often – if ever – but some of my fellow students actually spent a lot of time asking these and many similar questions over the summer as we examined six of our more recent presidents.
For the third consecutive summer, I had the privilege of being a participant in a presidential forum offered by UNC-Wilmington’s Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI). In this year's student-led seminar, we focused on Gerald Ford through George W. Bush.
Again this year, I was invited to give a presentation on Learning Agility at the opening session. The idea was that, armed with an understanding of Learning Agility, my classmates and I could then use it as a lens through which to view each of the presidents we discussed.
Learning Agility is considered to be closely linked to leadership potential. Obviously, none of the men who became our presidents had any prior experience in that position before getting elected - or in the case of Ford, acceded to that role.
For the last two years, my firm, EASI•Consult®, has worked with Warner Burke, Ph.D., a professor and researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University. Burke has created and validated a test that measures Learning Agility, appropriately called the Burke Learning Agility Inventory (Burke LAI).
As mentioned earlier in this article, there are nine dimensions to the Burke LAI:
1. Flexibility - Being open to new ideas and proposing new solutions.
2. Speed - Acting on ideas quickly to discard those that aren’t working and accelerate more promising possibilities.
3. Experimenting - Trying out new behaviors (i.e. approaches, ideas) to determine what is effective.
4. Performance Risk Taking - Seeking new activities (i.e., tasks, assignments, roles) that provide opportunities to be challenged.
5. Interpersonal Risk Taking - Confronting differences with others in a way that can generate unique opportunities for learning.
6. Collaborating - Finding ways to work with others that lead to unique learning opportunities.
7. Information Gathering - Using various methods to remain current in one’s area of expertise.
8. Feedback Seeking - Asking others for feedback on one’s ideas and overall performance.
9. Reflecting - Slowing down to evaluate one’s own performance in order to be more effective.
These dimensions differentiate people who are more learning agile from those who are less so. The more learning agile someone is, the more options they will be able to draw upon to solve a problem.
Below is a summary of the OLLI Forum’s unscientific impressions of six presidents using the Burke LAI.
|Carter||Performance Risk Taking||Collaborating|
|Clinton||Collaborating & Flexibility||Reflecting|
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