Wright Foundation | April 24, 2014

A Look at Where Your Leadership is Heading

I just attended the funeral of my younger cousin, which has me questioning a lot about life, how I am living it, my purpose, my leadership.

Then I received a lovely acknowledgment from one of our graduate students who has been recognized as a leader and asked to help make a significant cultural shift in a major global firm to start my Easter Sunday. I really appreciated the acknowledgment and appreciative comments he sent to me. It was his email to me that spurred me to write this blog.

The email was especially touching given my state of soul-searching after the funeral yesterday in northern Wisconsin. My cousin and his family were, and are, the Leave it to Beaver family in real life and it has caused me to introspect a good deal. He was, and his brother, sister, and their wives and children are, everything most people think people should be. They are a very warm, alive, circle of Midwestern morality. They are all truly lovely people.

Questioning Leadership

As I look at and question my life, my story, and purpose are very different (schools in Germany, France, student strikes, activism, etc.), and my direction of leadership has a different focus. I believe that we are all leading all the time, and the question is, toward what are we leading? For me, I look at how leadership relates to consciousness and national, and global, responsibility. I look at stretching and fully developing my potential and the potential of all I touch as a responsibility for the advancement of humanity and sustainable, conscious living on our planet. My cousin led in different ways. He was legitimately warm, loving, friendly, a great teacher, Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry, and professor at UW-Stevens Point slated to retire this spring, jokester, loving husband, father of successful children, beloved friend to the community, and so much more. He taught critical thinking, was a sensitive listener, and an important force in the lives of those he led. We can certainly say that peoples’ lives were better for his being in them. He was a true blessing to his community and significant community leader.

His example is daunting. We are clearly different. I am nowhere near as neat and buttoned-down. My questions and concerns are driven by continued lifelong development and ultimately to human potential. In our work, these questions are essential for all of us to answer, toward what are we leading? As I think about the direction of leadership, I think about the state of the state, the country, the poor, and so much more. I am sure my cousin did too and saw his teaching and parenthood as his contribution in those directions.

I am reminded of when I went to school in Germany in 1968. My world exploded. My mind was blown to learn of the Black Panthers, the Chicago School of Architecture, and student strikes. Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been shot and I didn’t really appreciate the enormity of that. From my country upbringing (now suburban), we lived an isolated existence as our post-WWll parents sought their ideal, and the ideal my uncle and cousins
have attained. They are surprised that at 65 I am still working hard and praying to G-d to let me keep going to 80 and have the graduate university at a sustainable, self-developing, self-organizing level so it can continue without me to bring together the best in human emergence methodologies and empower leaders in all areas to bring rational, mutual, decent, sustainable living to all people, plants, animals, and the planet.

Where Is The Direction of Leadership Heading?

Is retirement the aim? Is it enough to lead companies to throw off profit, even if it is socially sustainable using sustainable materials? Aren’t we here for more? Isn’t there still so much more to learn until we have lived on this planet together right? What do you choose? I wonder if a comfortable retirement is enough. Unless we are in the trades and legitimately wear our bodies out, can’t you see retirement as an aberration? How do you want to die? Wouldn’t you rather die with your boots on?

Stop and examine your life and the direction of leadership around you. Are you headed in the right direction?

Questions One Should Ask about the Direction of Your Leadership

I invite you to join me in my questions. Toward what are you aiming? Toward what are you leading, for what are you burning? How do you spend your daily life? What risks are you avoiding and how does the environment in which you lead invite others to take risks, tell the truth, learn, grow, and develop?

Please don’t think I am being a bleeding heart. I think our job is to know and take full responsibility for ourselves and to provide for ourselves and others. I am hugely skeptical of bleeding heart ventures to “save or help others.” Too many of these folks are not helping and saving themselves—they don’t see that they are projecting their own denied selves out and then dealing with themselves externally, thereby compounding the mess they purport to clean up. I am not saying all do-gooders, simply too many, so if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it, but if you find yourself feeling defensive, ask what you are defending that you are not comfortable within yourself. Same if you are fixated on money for a comfortable retirement with a life focused on the golf course and nothing else.

The question for us to ask ourselves is not “What are we fixing?” The question is, “… to what are we leading and who are we as we lead?”


To harness more of your leadership potential, please explore our courses on Wright Now. We offer an array of interactive resources to help you learn more about your relationships, your career, and yourself. If you’re ready to start living a life of MORE, there’s no better time than now!

Liked this post and want more? Sign up for updates – free!

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Learn more about Wright Living’s Career & Leadership Coaching in Chicago & Career Coaching Courses in Chicago.