L&D Legends

The learning and development (L&D) world has more than its share of gurus, heroes, and legends. Who do you trust and rely on most—and why?

What makes someone worthy of being considered an icon or legend?

Certified Life Coach Tracey Rodgers, MA, puts it this way:

“A legend is someone who leaves behind an unforgettable impression on others. They touch lives, they’re remembered, they’re cherished. There are all sorts of legends in this world—famous or not. Becoming one means finding your particular role, your calling, following it, and touching others around you.”

The learning and development (L&D) world surely has more than its share of gurus, heroes, and legends. There are many to recommend—too many to remember or list here. Isn’t it great that we have access to most materials online—and search engines, too?

In thinking about your L&D icons:

  • Whose books or articles do you read?
  • Whose wisdom do you look to when you’re stuck?
  • Whose body of work has helped shape your own philosophies and bodies of work?
  • What makes you interested in following someone’s career, read all they publish, and do whatever is needed to be seated in their room?

Most importantly, who do you trust and rely on most—and why? Is it shared ideologies or because their viewpoint shifted yours? If so, how? And is this a good thing?


Are you a guru, icon, or legend to others? In other words, what are you working on that might become your legacy that others remember and cherish? How? Write and publish in industry publications. Speak at events, on podcasts, and anywhere peers and those in the industry will be in attendance. (Note: You should get on this sooner rather than later.)


A point of personal privilege: In 2023, our industry lost two of its luminaries: Bob Pike, CSP, CPTD, and Ray Jimenez, Ph.D. I am fortunate to have known them both for years. And they were—and continue to be—important to the work I do every day. They are missed already. But their legacies are long and will last well into the future. People will be able to rely on their bodies of work. Be sure to add their work to your legends bookshelf and their philosophies to your greater body of work. You’ll be glad you did!

Dawn J Mahoney, CPTD
Dawn J. Mahoney, CPTD, is the program content manager for Training magazine. She also owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. E-mail her at: dawn@trainingmag.com.