Joanne Pitman: Reading, Leading, Learning and Life (Podcast Episode)


In this episode (Season 3 Episode 11), Charlie Kraig and Rick Gilson visit with a long-time friend and colleague, Joanne Pitman, who was recently appointed Chief Superintendent of the Calgary Board of Education (CBE). Jo (as she prefers to be called) shares some thoughts on her most recent read – and re-read, “What We Owe the Future” by William MacAskill and how it has influenced her thinking and work as a system leader and human sharing planet Earth. The episode draws to a close with Jo sharing one of many great poems from the book, “Leading from Within: Poetry that sustains the courage to lead.”

Our conversation touched on recent and foundational reads for those wishing to grow and develop as leaders, the iterative nature of leadership development, and the importance of keeping students at the center and supporting everyone engaged directly and indirectly in the learning experience of those students.

In sharing “What We Owe The Future” by William MacAskill, Jo took us through some of her key takeaways, acknowledging this is not a book specific to education or education leadership but one that invites us to consider our thinking through a series of three particular points of reflection – some of the terms having explanations that may not quite align with the common understanding of the words:




  1. Significance (Average value of bringing a certain state into existence)
  2. Persistence (An estimation of how long the undertaking or condition will last)
  3. Contingency (A consideration of “if not for this ______ how long would the world be in this state of affairs”).

Jo shares examples and follows up with how the ideas in the book inform conversations around prioritization, importance, traceability and neglectedness.

Other books discussed include How the World Really Works by Vaclac Smil, Changing Leadership for Changing Times by Kenneth Leithwood, and Viviane Robinson’s Student Centered Leadership.

Our conversation drew to a close with Joanne sharing the book, “Leading from within: Poetry That Stustain the Courage to Lead” a fascinating and often eclectic collection of poems and contributor stories or reflections all focused on leadership.


A Note by Wislawa Szmborska (p.169)
Leading from Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead
Edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it is not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up drenched in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.