Courageous Leadership: The Journey of a Generalist with Reshma Saujani and David Epstein

This week on World Reimagined, host Gautam Mukunda speaks with Reshma Saujani and David Epstein about their career experiences, leadership lessons, and the power and benefits of being a generalist.

In a world of specialists, a generalist’s broad range of knowledge and expertise can actually make his or her team much better. But, being a generalist requires grit and courage. The courage to raise your hand, to take chances, and to be confident in your ability to tackle any subject.

However, in a world that most often rewards specialists, where and how can generalists shine? What benefits and learnings can leaders draw from focusing on generalization, versus specialization?

This week, Host Gautam Mukunda speaks with two trailblazers who have reinvented their careers by way of passion, diversity, and failure. David Epstein, the New York Times bestselling author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, shares thoughts about how generalism is at the core of true innovation. And Reshma Saujani, who is the first Indian-American woman to run for U.S. Congress and the Founder of Girls Who Code, discusses how failure-bred resiliency inspires confidence.

Being a generalist allows you to raise your hand when you don’t know exactly what you are doing because you have built this base of skill set that gives you the confidence to know that you can get in it and try to figure it out.

Reshma Saujani

I think there is all this evidence that every conceivable kind of diversity adds to the potential problem-solving toolbox.

David Epstein

My read of the research is that sometimes what gives you the short-term advantage, or what appears to be a head-start, actually undermines your long-term development, whether that is developing a sport or music skill or deciding what to study, or deciding what to do in your career, or accumulating the skills you need for problem-solving. That there is a tension between short and long-term development and I wish it weren’t that way.

David Epstein

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Books Referenced on World Reimagined Season 2, Episode 5:

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein 

The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation, by Frans Johansson

Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, by Gautam Mukunda

Guest Information for Courageous Leadership:

David Epstein is author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and of the New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene. He was previously an investigative reporter at ProPublica and before that a senior writer at Sports Illustrated. His two TED Talks have been viewed more than 11 million times. David has master’s degrees in environmental science and journalism and is currently the host of Slate’s How To! podcast and author of the “Range Report” newsletter.

Reshma Saujani is a leading activist and the founder of Girls Who Code and the Marshall Plan for Moms. She has spent more than a decade building movements to fight for women and girls’ economic empowerment, working to close the gender gap in the tech sector, and most recently advocating for policies to support moms impacted by the pandemic. Reshma is also the author of the international bestseller Brave, Not Perfect, and her influential TED talk, “Teach girls, bravery not perfection,” has more than five million views globally. Reshma began her career as an attorney and Democratic organizer. In 2010, she surged onto the political scene as the first Indian American woman to run for U.S. Congress. Reshma lives in New York City with her husband, Nihal, their sons, Shaan and Sai, and their bulldog, Stanley.