Bon Voyage: The Requisite Journey for the New Leader

(First posted August 31st, 2013)
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” – Mark Twain

Twain’s statement is obvious to some yet not to all. In the experience giving rise to his words moves genuine curiosity. Incurious travelers cross borders and remain closed to the value differences confer. Curiosity does not reside in these travelers. Curiosity does not operate in the company of prejudice, bigotry, or narrow-mindedness: these cannot coexist. Many thinking they are curious are confusing curiosity with interest. 

To fulfill one’s promise, to become an effective and accomplished leader requires travel, and a lot of it. Twain’s travel is of inestimable value, yet there is a more necessary form of travel for leaders to undertake. Greatness and promise mandate, of necessity, that leaders travel into their own heart, mind and will. They must travel with all the curiosity they can muster. They must travel beyond the borders of personal comfort. Must go into the humility, angst, epiphanies, and delights of self-revelation and self-awareness. 

Specific travel destinations include: one’s personal worldview, one’s beliefs, personal struggles, injuries and life challenges.  Into patterns of thought, and the habits of placing one’s focus and attention. They must go into the how of relating with themselves, and others: into the consequences of these interactions. And they must become conscious of the impacts of their actions. 

Greatness demands that leaders travel into being and living genuinely: being who they are. Into the embodiment of honest thought, feeling and action consistent with integrity and wholeness. Into patterns of emerging personal equanimity. Leaders must travel into their genuine personal power. They must embody it. Also, they are to travel into defining themselves by their genuine greatness and deep generosity of spirit rather than defining themselves by their failures or foibles, or the false ideals culture touts. So too, they must go into the creative expression and fulfillment of their own true promise, the giving of their greatness to the world personally and professionally.

Leaders who do not travel successfully into and through the realms of interior personal discovery and reclamation, whether their lives and work is borne on great intellectual capacities or not, remain merely envoys of cultural and institutional biases and interests – devoid of genuine Wisdom. Without traveling, the personas of leaders perpetuate existences rife in dispensing prejudiced, bigoted, and narrow-minded internal narratives condemning and enjoining themselves and others unwittingly. Personas not inhabited by conscious and aware compassionately intelligent people are platforms incapable of enabling and supporting genuine greatness. Leadership greatness is the province of the person, not the role. To lead a life or organization well, one must become unutterably and unrelentingly oneself! This is the inside job of a curious life long traveler.

I often describe where I grew up as a place where values run deep and minds run narrow. Those peopling this description were unfamiliar with Socrates’ sentiment: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” They had not yet learned to go meta and observe their thoughts and actions. They had not yet learned that who they are is distinct – separate – from their thoughts and actions, from their personality and body. That a worldview and its ensuing thinking and behavior can be changed to enable personal freedom, creative expression and greatness. That there is a rightness of designing a worldview of one’s own rather than living the one bequeathed you.

These unwitting confusions are also found amongst the educated and ‘properly prepared’ people in boardrooms and C-suites. Everyone has aspects of themselves that are personal. Within these personal characteristics moves a promise awaiting expression. It may or may not conform to others’ expectations or social convention. Within each promise are genuinely helpful and life-affirming movements: motion from which self and others benefit. We can ill-afford the loss of the promises of these bright people.

In 1977 I experienced my first failure in leadership. The circumstances were life threatening. A few months later I experienced another failure in my leadership. Similar situation. Life is conspiratorial in that it will nudge leaders to undertake necessary travel. I procrastinated. Pretended I had not failed. Made up that all was well. Life gave me more prompts: I began traveling. Still do. They have been difficult. Yet, not traveling would have been the more brutal of options. 

If from time to time you are slowed or stopped by the self prejudiced, bigoted, or narrow-minded voices speaking to you from inside your head, you need to travel more. If you define yourself by something other than your own genuine greatness, travel more. If you are not yet delivering your promise, find a well-traveled compassionately intelligent outfitter and guide (coach & mentor) and begin crossing borders into regions of your richness, thus furthering the fulfillment of your promise!

This is an inaugural post at and This writing is also a living system whose taproot I will follow deeply into a system of nurturing and sustaining roots, which, in symbiosis, give rise to the flowering of individual and collective promise. We must avail ourselves to this great fecund harvest and its ensuing benefit for ourselves and future generations.