The Defining Moment

I was speaking to a large group of chief learning officers, and after my speech, we had a very open and engaging dialogue. The last question asked was, “Mrs. Hesselbein, what was the one defining moment that determined the person you would be—the leader you would become?” No one had ever asked me this before, yet I knew the answer and immediately responded. Long ago, when I was eight years old, I was visiting my grandparents in South Fork, Pennsylvania, a small coal mining and railroad town. My grandfather had a men’s clothing store, was justice of the peace, and played the pipe organ in the Methodist Church every Sunday.

I adored my grandparents and spent every weekend with Mama and Papa Wicks. They had seven children, so ...

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