Leaders are Learners
Insights - February 2021

Internal Links Bruce Whitehurst

I’m learning all the time. My tombstone will be my diploma.” - Eartha Kitt

The late Eartha Kitt, a singer, actor, comedian and activist who led a colorful and impactful life, got it right with her quote on lifelong learning. She also embodied her quote; if you read about her, you will discover a person who rolled with the punches, reinvented herself when she needed to do so, invested in youth in low income neighborhoods and stood up for the rights of others. Kitt clearly learned continuously, adapted based on what she learned and left her mark as a result. Eartha Kitt died on Christmas Day 2008, just shy of her 82nd birthday, after a battle with cancer. Her daughter, who was with her at the end of her life, said her mother went out kicking and screaming; I guess she figured she wasn’t done learning!

Recently I have had the privilege to speak to our just concluded Management Development Program Class and to our new cohort in the VBA Executive Leadership Institute. In both cases, I have talked about the phrase that makes up the title of this column: Leaders are Learners. I am a strong believer in lifelong learning and I think I have learned enough along the way to know how very much more I have to learn! I also know that the best leaders are the ones who seek to increase their knowledge – and therefore their impact in developing others – on a continuous basis.

We have all had to learn new ways of living, working and interacting with others as a result of the pandemic. We had to adapt to very sudden changes nearly a year ago, and now to a much longer period of uncertainty over when we will have the pandemic behind us. Thank goodness we have the vaccine rollout underway and can be optimistic that it will lead us forward to the new normal that I envisioned in last month’s column.

One of the most fulfilling parts of my job at the VBA – along with my teammates – is our role helping bankers develop their personal and professional skills. In many respects, our in-depth involvement with so many training programs, schools and conferences gives us a learning laboratory, as we learn alongside bankers. We certainly miss the relationship building and networking aspects of in-person events and look forward to resuming them later this year. Meanwhile, I hope you will join me in seeking new ways to learn and grow every day.