CEO Quest Insights
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CEO Quest Insights

Week 1 : A Time for Leadership

Rising Leader,


You are the most important person in the world right now.

On Christmas Day, I turned 66 years old. I’ve been in leadership roles almost continuously since 1980–41 years. Today, I coach technology company CEOs. I am the author of five books on leadership: Scaling the Revenue Engine, People Design, Funding & Exits, The Fit Systems Enterprise and The Four-Way Fit.

To be transparent, I’ve made all kinds of mistakes as a leader over the course of my career. But I’ve grown in my understanding of the difference between inconsequential leadership and great leadership. I know this: great leaders can move mountains. This is the first important thing.

The second important thing is that our world is in crisis. From the perilous condition of our planet, to unstable nation states making refugees of their citizens, to rising threats to American democracy, to polarization in our communities, to challenges in our houses of worship — big rips have emerged in the fabric of our most precious human systems. As any student of leadership knows — once complex systems become dysfunctional, they can’t be rebalanced without big, sustained, coordinated interventions. That takes leadership — now on an unprecedented global scale, with time as our enemy.

Here’s the third important thing: you. We are on the cusp of a forty-year period of time in which the choices and actions of humanity’s leaders will determine our path, for good or ill. Will we begin the slow, hard climb up the path towards healing? You — rising leader you — will choose. You are humanity’s hope.

It strikes me that the challenge your generation faces is even greater than that faced by the greatest generation. Yes, my parents’ generation dug out of the Great Depression, confronted epic evil and rose to the call to sacrifice everything (75 million lives, the wealth of nations, years of deferred or dashed hopes, years of blood sweat and tears) so that the bell of freedom could still ring. The mind can barely comprehend what they did for us.

But now, all we hold dear is on the line. Who will mobilize the political will, national investments and interventions everywhere over the next forty years to turn back rising temperatures? Who will help fragile nation states around the world stabilize, so refugees can return home? Who will reform our politics, laws and civil discourse so as to save our democracy? Who will heal our houses of worship? Who will help us break out of dysfunctional patterns and begin transformational, sustainable racial reconciliation?

There’s only one answer: you.

My generation certainly isn’t the answer. It is we who handed you the world in this condition; it is we who are responsible for much of the shallowness and selfishness of our age. On behalf of my generation, I offer amends. I’m sorry.

No, humanity’s hope rests on your shoulders. You are the one called to a sacrifice different in kind from that of the greatest generation, but perhaps even more significant. For you, it must be in a radical reprioritization of what matters, a discovery of connectedness to and care for all other people in present and future generations, and a passionate lifelong dedication to the desperate rescue work at hand.

Yes, you are our future. You have what it takes to rise to the moment. But this kind of lifelong, selfless, sacrificial leadership won’t just happen. It requires a journey of the soul.

My Christian faith offers me a perspective on this journey to selfless leadership. I plan to share that perspective with you over the course of the next year. I readily acknowledge there are many paths one can pursue towards selflessness. My contribution is the Christian path.

Over the next year, I will send you a weekly letter, and will release a new song each month. The content will have a certain thematic flow:

  • First Quarter: Who is God, and what does He have to do with leadership?
  • Second Quarter: Who am I? What soul work must I do to become a selfless servant leader?
  • Third Quarter: Where’s the need? Planet, democracy, community, race, houses of worship — what’s the work to be done?
  • Fourth Quarter: What’s my call? What point of impact am I drawn to, and how do I get started?

In the end, this journey of the soul leads us outside of ourselves. How can we expand our circle of care, sufficient to head towards selfless servant leadership? Could it be that the transformation (from self-centered to other-centered) might require an encounter with God?

God is everywhere and in all things. And God is love. I believe that when we begin to sense and welcome God’s love, we also begin to notice all else that God loves — both those we agree with and those we don’t; fellow countrymen and those in other countries; those richer and poorer; those of races different from our own; those in crisis both near and far. With new eyes, our care for future generations grows as well. As we ponder our relationship with God, we begin a soul journey that draws us forward and into His hurting world to serve.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning, next Friday, with a simple question: what’s the root of the problem?

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11

Have a great week!

Here’s to you.


P.S.: I’ve written a poem for you. In it, I envision how a healing world, on New Year’s Eve 2060, might look back on forty years of your generation’s hard work and sacrifice — how they might honor you.


When come 2060 New Years Eve’rs,
conceive what global honors will rain down:
“All hail the global servant leaders;
you ones who gave your all, receive your crown!”

“O ones who rose, now old, you were the greatest,
surpassing all the generations past —
for you stood to serve in lifelong earnest,
so mother earth, humanity would last.”

From age to age the stories will be told,
how swelled from sea to sea such sacrifice,
how to the gap you ran to shore the hold,
to turn tsunami’s tide, no thought the price.

May gracious God your honest heart inspire!
Sense you, good lead, the rising of desire?

If you would like to add a person to the list to receive these letters, click here.



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