Purpose and Learning

We had a session with executives from a Fortune 100 company. The man in charge is an extraordinary person. Unlike many executives, he has a profound understanding of human influence and the fact that real leadership orbits around commitment to higher purpose. He spoke for two hours and that room full of very smart people was mesmerized. I took 16 pages of notes and then when I stood to teach, I built on what he taught. As we went through the process, the people remained fully engaged.

I asked them what word, other than “purpose,” their boss uttered most frequently. They gave me many words but not the right answer. Finally, I said: “The word is learning. He used it over and over. The man is passionate about learning. He sees purpose and learning as two interconnected keys to constantly creating a better life and a better world. He lives in state of adaptive confidence. He hungers to realize human potential and believes it can be brought about through individual and collective learning.”

They all nodded. The man also nodded.

I told them that we were having a conversation in which I was learning as much as they were. I meant it. The next morning I woke pondering the relationship between purpose and learning. The following occurred to me.

When we clarify and commit to our highest purpose, it draws us outside our comfort zone to make contributions to the greater good. We do things we do not know how to do. Of necessity we live in challenge and suffer failure. Because we are passionate about our purpose, we do not give up. Instead we engage in disciplined reflection. We further clarify our identity and destiny. New ideas and strategies come and we move forward. We discover a deeper self. We discover that we have untapped potential and we also see the untapped potential in others. We seek to create a better future. As we do, we develop an elevated way of being and a perspective that is not available to the conventional mind.


  • Is it possible that executives do not understand leadership? Why?
  • Who in your life clarifies purpose, inspires action and nurtures learning?
  • What would happen if every supervisor, manager and executive learned to lead? How would your daily experience be different?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?






2 thoughts on “Purpose and Learning

  1. Bob, this post… so many of your posts are extraordinary in that they speak to me and what I am thinking and working to pull together and then you say it..beautifully and succinctly. I so appreciate you for that! And then to respond to your questions…
    I think many leaders believe they have leadership figured out and want others to follow and be like them. True leaders help others grow and become more amazing. That idea for many leaders has either never been considered or if it was, it was let go quickly for a variety of reasons – not sure how to teach, not sure how to let others be themselves, fear that others will grow to be smarter than them and take away their power. My goodness, if all leaders learned to be gardeners rather than carpenters…the world would be an even more extraordinary place.


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