It definitely wasn’t my preference to delay my doctoral research. I wanted to be complete with the 4-year journey and get on with life. The sun, moon, stars and a global pandemic had something else in mind for me. I was geared up to begin conducting a 10-week course designed to advance the ways that leaders are trained and developed. After 20 years of observation in my own personal and professional life, combined with the sense of increasing global leadership incompetency, I wondered if something else could be done to make them (and all of us) better.

I toiled away to craft another way of training leaders. Instead of a cognitive-forward, intellectual and heady approach (which has led us to dreadful places), what if we trained leaders as whole-humans and relationship-forward? So, I crafted a 10-week course in mindfulness, emotional intelligence, somatic movement and creative thinking.  

Why these aspects, you ask? Simply stated, I think most leaders suck at this stuff. Inundated by the stress of stakeholder-driven, profit-on-profit goals and unsustainable growth trajectories, today’s leaders are more professionally overwhelmed and personally wrecked than ever. Chained to their desks and screens, and now more physically disconnected from their teams, yesterday’s skillsets are inadequate to meet today’s demands. In my years of acting as a confidante and guide for these exhausted leaders and sitting in boardrooms as an organizational consultant, I am reminded of how out of balance and disconnected leaders have become from themselves, their teams and the missions they (purportedly) serve.

To add insult to injury, most of the training and development coursework and educational programs out there are still touting old cognitive-driven tools. Despite the fact that leadership development training is a $366 billion industry, most human resource professionals report only moderate to poor outcomes and seriously lackluster results. What gives? Why are we spending so much, yet yielding so little? Clearly, it doesn’t take much digging in current events to see the dearth of inspirational leadership in our own country and abroad.

We may actually be in the midst of organizational leadership’s dark night of the soul.

Instead of simply bitching and moaning about it, I decided to study it. Despite the inconvenience of going to graduate school with an 18-month old child, I felt a responsibility to go beyond fiery social media posts and righteous indignation. I performed late-night literature reviews until my eyes glazed over. I conducted my own case studies with my corporate clients. And ultimately, I stress tested my theories in a mixed-methods empirical study. Those who know me would say that I’m a fairly methodical, thorough person. I thought that my fastidious preparations would render smooth sailing once I began to conduct my research. So, four weeks into my work…

<<Enter Global Pandemic Here>>

The organization that I had engaged in this study was a global travel company. They were arguably the first and most devastatingly hit by the international shutdown. Their staff was rapidly furloughed, laid-off and forced to pivot like a dreidel. Hundreds and hundreds of angry, scared customers demanded their money back. Small villager tour guides and hosts were suddenly left without a livelihood. Stakeholder-owners went into full limbic system hijack and constricted on all levels, including dark, doomsday communications with their staff with little to no heart.

But the small group of 13 leaders in this study remained strangely stoic. Despite the volatility and carnage all around, they were surprisingly adaptive- even optimistic- about the uncertain future. They had plenty of reasons to panic, including rapid unemployment, yet they dug in deep to stay engaged, to find inroads to new opportunities, and to compost the wreckage into new soil. I was astounded at the heart and resiliency they displayed…and in the end, the numbers backed it.

At the commencement of the study (in the middle of lockdown measures), I conducted structured interviews and had the subjects take post-test measures to determine what effects the program had on their leadership efficacy. Participants improved in all aspects of performance in comparison to a matched group who didn’t receive this training, they improved in the majority of areas of leadership performance.

Why did it work?


These leaders formed communities of practice- to calm their minds, accountability to get their bodies moving, a context to practice advancing their emotional intelligence and a container to expand their creative thinking skills. This happened in a psychologically safe environment where trust, connection, and communion resided. Despite the external turbulence, they found internal strength and were able to stay in service to their families and their organization. This is the definition of resiliency- not just to bounce back (because let’s face it, there’s no “going back” after all of this), but to stay engaged and in the game.

I am humbled by what each of these leaders had the courage to do and I’ve made my work about sharing these insights with others. Thus, I’m dedicated to helping cultivate resilient leadership to support those in charge to face the uncertainty of our times with fortitude and adaptability.