Weekender: Larry Wilmore on the Need for First-Hand Experience


Welcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a peek of information to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a once-over? Because it’s the weekend!

We’ve all read the research that almost 20% of the workforce is actively disengaged in their jobs. That is a staggering figure…but do you know what it means? I’m not asking whether you can define “actively disengaged” or calculate how many people would equal 20% in your organization. I’m more interested in whether you are dependent upon research findings or are making an effort to congregate amongst the masses to fully comprehend their lack of engagement. Larry Wilmore recommends the latter.

In an interview for Esquire magazine, the host of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show was discussing how we can best comprehend events and situations. Larry Wilmore stressed the need to be a witness:

And one of my phrases is—and I usually use it with sports but I had to use it with [Ann Coulter’s] books—like when a young person is trying to tell me why Magic Johnson isn’t as good as whoever and I say, ‘Here’s the problem: You’re a researcher, but I’m a witness.’

People try to tell me that because there were certain laws that were passed that racism was gone, and they use research to try to prove that. They weren’t with me when I saw someone write an N on my mom’s check… Just because a law is changed doesn’t mean the culture is changed. And so to use that as your evidence was just very wrong.

Leadership demands more than what can be read on a spreadsheet. We need to attain first-hand, face-to-face exposure with our workforce. What is it like to work in a particular department? How does each manager drive the company’s mission and affect morale? This can be more reliable than the results of a research study and helps you avoid being overly reliant on other people who may inject their biases.

Don’t depend solely on research to lead your team. Be an active participant. Be inquisitive. Be a witness.

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