Reflections From The Leadership Challenge Forum 2013

The Leadership Challenge Forum 2013, the annual conference for students, practitioners and others excited about  this proven methodology, was held during the last week of July.  The Forum theme was Inspire A Shared Vision, based on one of the Five Practices, described in The Leadership Challenge.  Here are some reflections about the conference which I hope inspire you about your own journey of leadership, and the wonder of the world around us. Enjoy.

1.  The location was The Four Seasons in the desert terrain of North Scottsdale, AZ. The landscape is brown and dry, with cactus plants, wild brush, and a few peaks of glacier-laden rocks which add some depth and interest. Many don’t find the desert setting very appealing. But after watching a silent sunrise, framed between the shadowed arms of a cactus plant, and the night time lightning flashes streaking across the wide open western sky, I found unexpected beauty in the area. Nature’s splendor is inspiring.

2. One of our speakers was acclaimed photographer, Steve Uzzell. He presented a photo journey of the paths of his life and work. His photos were astonishing. One of his key messages centered on how preparation leads to providence. He cited several examples of how he had done everything he could possibly do to capture the perfect moment, when providence intervened in magical ways and suddenly created a scene of even greater magnificence.  Providence is inspiring.

3. Another speaker, Alyse Nelson, author of Vital Voices, shared the stories of women around the world who defied the odds to make positive change. Whether literally ignoring the barrel of an automatic rifle held at their heads by the Taliban, in order to provide education for young girls in Afghanistan, or persevering through the danger of other types of physical harm to free young girls from bondage in other perilous areas – the courageous women Alyse talked about have made the world a better place for countless people. Courageous leaders are inspiring.

4. Attendees were able to hug old friends and acquaintances, and get to know new and fascinating people from around the world.  And, all were able to say hello to, and spend time with authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, who once again, were present and accessible throughout the entire conference. Great relationships are inspiring.

5. There were presenters from all kinds of organizations and backgrounds, who shared their stories about how they have applied The Leadership Challenge Five Practices to transform their organizations, improve their communities, or to be more effective colleagues and contributors. I also heard many personal examples of how the Practices have enabled people to  become better parents for the children, more loving partners for their spouses, and more grateful caregivers for their aging parents. The Five Practices make people better leaders and better people. And that is inspiring.

6. The staff of people who planned and pulled off this conference were no doubt overworked and constantly on alert during the session. They were tireless, always on the spot to help, and just downright cheerful. Being around competent people, who also lift your spirits, is inspiring.

My final comment is a bit personal. After meeting Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in 1986, and learning about a new leadership methodology, being introduced by these two trailblazing authors, I have devoted the last 25 years of my life to helping people learn about and embrace The Five Practices. Through volumes of documented research and an endless number of anecdotal, not so scientific examples, I know that The Leadership Challenge has made a real and lasting impact in the lives of an incredible number of people. To know that one’s life’s work has been connected to something that has proven so meaningful for so many people… that may be the most inspiring of all.


  1. Well said Steve. I wish I could have attended.

    I’ve seen snippets of Uzzell’s talks. That must have been a treat.

    Leadership, I think, is about being a good person. To be successful, whether you’re leading an organization, attracting customers, or being a parent, you’ve got to be perceived as a Leader in your space. A big part of that is demonstrating you’re a really good person.

  2. Steve-

    Nice summary! Sorry I could not join you all. I plan to! Keep on sharing the leadership inspiration!

    Carrpe Diem!


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