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Transcript: Refining the leadership vision

Karl Moore: This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am speaking to Stewart Friedman, who is a professor at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Good Morning, Stewart.

Stewart Friedman: Good morning, Karl, great to be here.

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KM: Authenticity - we try to find the authentic us, and it changes over time, but how do you go about finding, as a mature adult, the authentic me?

SF: That's a great question and I think there is no simple answer to that, but what we have found is through a series of activities that involve reflection, writing, talking, listening to other people doing the same thing, helps you become clearer about what you really stand for.

One of the exercises that we do is to ask people to describe the three, four or five critical episodes, to date, which have shaped their values. So what has happened to you, in your life Karl, since the time you were born until today that had a significant impact on what you believe in and what you stand for? So you would write that out; you post that on our site, it's private and protected, and two or three other people will read that and comment on it.

In the process of their reading your story they learn more about the story that they just wrote about themselves. We ask you to describe your leadership vision: its 15 years from now, 2025, what impact do you have on the world? What are you doing? What does that look like?

I know that's hard to imagine but just try to imagine, and that act of imagination, articulating that and, again, sharing it with other people, reading their content, listening to them, and responding to that helps you to become clear about what you care about.

There were a few other things that we do along those lines and it is very useful for people simply to spend the time thinking, writing, commenting, discussing, exploring, being tested and being pushed and being supported that helps a lot and we find that works for most people.

KM: Stu, I have this image of sitting around the kitchen table at home with my wife and kids and having a planning meeting and setting objectives. Is that the sort of thing you mean?

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SF: Not exactly. What people do is they follow these three basic principles:

1) What does it mean for you to be real? To act with authenticity by clarifying what matters most to you.

2) To be whole by acting with integrity; respecting the whole person and seeing the different pieces as one, whole, integral.

And then 3), being innovative and continually experimenting with how you get things done and acting with creativity. That plays out in a very different way for you than it would for me, or for her and her or him. So everyone has a different take on what it means for them to take, on what it means for them to engage the key people in their lives in issues that make things better for all.

So what that would look like for a senior executive is very different than for someone who is a frontline employee, or supervisor. So when we talk about leadership it's not about executive authority, per se, it's about mobilizing people toward a valued goal. You can do that with nobody reporting to you in a hierarchy, or you can fail to do that with a thousand people reporting to you. So leadership, I try to think of that as a separate entity or attribute than executive authority. So this is about developing leadership capacity.

KM: So everybody is a leader then?

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SF: Well, everybody has the potential to increase their leadership capacity and I think that leadership is a limitless resource and the more that you cultivate it in your company, or in your world or society, that the better things generally are because people are clearer and more focused about what they care about and how they are contributing to the world and they are more skilled in doing that.

KM: This has been Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail.

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