Good leadership requires an ability to incite the desire to learn

A number of years ago, my nephew, Adin, expressed an interest in learning how to make an arrowhead from my brother Jack. Jack learned how to make stone tools (flintknapping) 40 years ago. In the late 1970s, there were not a whole lot of people who knew how to flintknap.

My brothers and I had an early fascination with arrowheads. While growing up in Kentucky, we often walked the newly plowed fields that adjoined our yard and were thrilled to the find several Native American arrowheads. Later, on the farm at Malaga, Ohio, we found several more arrowheads.

As time passed, Joe and I gave up the dream of being archaeologists. However, the desire only grew with Jack. He majored in anthropology at Western Kentucky University and later earned a Master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Missouri.

Now, Jack is an archaeologist and assistant professor at Missouri State University at Springfield, Missouri. During his undergraduate coursework, one professor challenged Jack’s class that anyone who could make a certain Native American projectile point would get an A and not have to take the final examination. Jack, who had learned the fundamentals of flintknapping six months earlier, went back to his apartment and flintknapped all weekend. For the next class, Jack presented a nice replica of the point the professor desired.

In later years, he made points, knives, and scrapers for fellow graduate students who used them to butcher deer carcasses and scrape their hides to document wear patterns of the tools. For another experiment, Jack made several points, painted them bright florescent and placed them on a gravel bar in a small stream. After each heavy rain, he located the points and recorded the distance they traveled downstream. Ten years ago, he completed a seminal book on flint resources in the Ozarks. This book was thirty years in the making.

Jack agreed to teach Adin the art of flintknapping. He laid down a piece of plastic in Mom’s garage and unwrapped his tool kit that included, a thick section of elk antler, some antler tines, and a hammer stone. He also pulled out several pieces of flint.

Jack demonstrated where to hit the piece of flint to knock off a blank and how to thin the blank. Finally, he handed a piece to Adin for practice. Each blow was strategic and followed Jack’s instructions. Next, Jack used the smaller antler tine to shape the edges of the blade, form the base, and make notches. After about 45 minutes, Adin had fashioned a two-inch point that looked much like an ancient tool and probably could have been used as a knife. I was very impressed.

It is interesting how the driver for learning occurs. For Jack, it was a challenge. For Adin, it was curiosity and a self-imposed challenge. Good leadership requires an ability to incite the desire to learn. In business, the desire can come from self-improvement or benefit to the team or company. Regardless of how it is achieved, learning across the organization is critical to the company’s survival.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.

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