Leading from Within

About a month ago I spent 3 days at the magnificent (Orvis recommended) North Fork Ranch in Shawnee Colorado. While it’s only about an hour from Denver, it feels inaccessible, as in there is no ATT cell service there. I was blackberry silent for 3 days although the lodge did have wireless internet in some areas. Karen her husband Dean are amazing hosts. Some from the trip are still talking about the food. The accommodations were great too. I had a private room, suite really, with King sized bed, sitting area, and walk in rain shower with heated tile floors in my bath. The location was breathtakingly beautiful.


Going to a functioning Dude Ranch had never been on my “to do” list but in many ways it was just what I needed. I was there for a 3 day program called “Leading from Within” taught by Greg Giesen  & Steve Sorenson. A colleague had introduced me to Steve who’d invited me to sign up for the program. While Steve had attended the program in the past, this was the first time he’d been one of the facilitators. Most of the leadership training I’ve done in the past has either been predominantly skill based (e.g. HERS Denver Institute for women in Higher Ed Administration) or goal/vision/purpose based (e.g “Visionary Leadership” as taught by Ed O’Connor  at the Business School at UC Denver). This was different, and I knew it would be going in. We only had 8 people in our group which made for a very intimate & safe environment. Historically, Greg had been keeping these small by design. I can’t write many specifics because we all promised to keep each other’s secrets, and it’s a proprietary program and one of Greg & Steve’s businesses so…if you want more detail, sign up!

My friend Luis writes often about “fast trust.”  Greg really has this mastered. How do you create trust in a group of strangers (or even harder, in a group of coworkers, some perhaps with adversarial or supervisory roles) in the first hour or two of meeting so that meaningful conversation and self work can begin? And perhaps more importantly, create a change that endures past the 3 day retreat so that people do not regret what they’ve shared once they’ve left the safe environment.

At its most fundamental, Leading from Within, is structured around the premise that you cannot lead others effectively until you are completely certain that you know who you are. And that being your authentic self, all of the time, is the most effective and powerful place from which to lead.

We did some mundane things to poke at our values and life purpose. We probed those barriers, insecurities and anchors that hold us back from our potential (Greg has another name for these and a way to release them). We shared our biggest fears, our most embarrassing moments, and our greatest hopes. And at least for me, all of those things were the easy part. I’ve done many of these exercises in some form before. I’m pretty clear on my strengths and weaknesses. I’m largely comfortable in my own skin. I know where most of my major issues are and how they get in my way and under what circumstances. And then we wrote our own eulogies with the choice of today or some future day but we had to write them as someone in our lives (not as ourselves), and I broke, a little; OK I broke lots. I am still looking for the pieces to put back together.

For some in our group the other exercises were the big challenges and this one was easy. For me, even one month later, I still do not want to examine it too closely. There be dragons. Unresolved. Not quite ready for the light of day. If the metaphorical bus runs me over tomorrow, what will be my legacy? Will anyone know me well enough to speak a eulogy that represents me truly? Why have I allowed so few to know me fully? In the perhaps half of my life that remains how can I do more, be more, have more impact? And while I’ve blogged about them, how many who count me among their friends really grok  my core values and life purpose and know how fundamental it is to me.

For some this was so easy. They were incredibly certain in their roles as sons/daughters of god, as parents, as children, as spouses, as business people. I envy them. All.

And that perhaps is the secret of the Leading from Within 3 day retreat. One exercise may bring one person to their knees while the rest of the participants remained unfazed. But after 3 days, there will be at least one that will cut to the core. It’s not comfortable, and I don’t recommend doing it often, but every year or two, these things should be poked at. How big are your dragons getting? How can you shrink them? I am pondering mine.

I’m thinking about impact and openness. ALL.OF.THE.TIME. I want to do more, be more, make more. But how? Where?

We’re hosting Greg & Steve (picture below is Greg, me, Steve) for a brief seminar on June 22 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM at the Bard Center. Let me know if you’d like a taste of what they offer. Else catch them in July in San Diego at the  Destiny Now event  or register for their next  Leading from Within workshop in September in Colorado.