Reflections of The Leadership Challenge Forum 2014

After attending this year’s annual conference, I wanted to share some highlights and personal reflections about it. Research about and application of The Five Practices remains vibrant and growing. Here we go.

1. The focus on this year’s conference was related to the practice of Challenge The Process. Recognizing, confronting and overcoming adversity were clearly some key sub themes. As usual, Jim and Barry had been doing their homework between Forums, and this year everyone received a copy of their latest publication, Turning Adversity into Opportunity.

Two things I most appreciate about their approach. First, Jim and Barry continue to do research to help us all keep learning. And then, they provide people with relevant and actionable options, vs. non-usable, but impressive sounding theory. The Leadership Challenge Model and the annual Forums, are geared toward Enabling Others to Act, not just Providing Interesting but Non-applicable Knowledge.

2. Symbolically, New Orleans was a perfect location, given what the people there have had to overcome throughout the past few years. No matter how much all of us outsiders think we might know about Katrina, the people of New Orleans (and the Gulf Coast), have had a much different experience than we can imagine. A remarkable and heartwarming sense of history and pride exists in that city.

3. The Forum offered a number of terrific learning opportunities. Kouzes and Posner, once again, happily gave up the stage to a couple of other authors. Bill Treasurer shared lessons and insights from his ongoing work on leading with courage, and Jennifer Robin helped everyone learn about what it takes to create a great workplace. Courage is part of dealing with adversity – and, it takes courage to confront the unchallengeable norms in a workplace, in order to make it better. I appreciate being exposed to the additive work or other researchers and authors.

4) The closing activity was an example of experiential learning at its best. To be in New Orleans and have a jazz ensemble rocking the room would have been grand enough by itself. But along with some great music, we were able to learn some great lessons about New Orleans traditions and music, song-writing, and collaboration. It was amazing to watch how the energy level just continued to soar, and how that energy, along with the lessons learned, was harnessed into an immediate result. We learned, we delivered, and we thoroughly enjoyed. Imagine that combination in your workplace every day!

5. This may be my most important reflection. If there is one value that was immensely modeled at the Forum, it was generosity. Jim and Barry were very accessible and generous with their time and knowledge. All of the speakers, including the breakout session leaders were generous in sharing what they know and what they have learned. Master Facilitators looked forward to sharing what they could with attendees who wanted and needed advice and knowledge. And our host, Wiley Publishing, continued to show great generosity in supporting the Masters Give Back program. Several leaders from New Orleans area non-profit agencies were provided the Gift of The Leadership Challenge Workshop this year, because of the generosity of Wiley, and the many Master Facilitators who donated time and money to support these deserving non-profit leaders. It is a joy for me to see this value so abundantly displayed.

6. My final reflection is this. The Leadership Challenge community is not just a group of people from around the world who enjoy their common work and like to socialize about it once a year. Rather, it is a well-intentioned, focused community, all deeply committed to the work of leadership development. There is a real power in this community. For years, many of us have seen the impact The Leadership Challenge has had on individual people and organizations of all kinds. This impact is growing worldwide, including places like, Asia, Africa, and Australia to alliteratively name a few. There are members of the community devoted to helping students become exposed to leadership at earlier ages, perhaps changing their futures forever. And consider this. There is Leadership Challenge work being done in the Middle East, which with time and its accumulating, visible results, could actually become a factor for future peace and interdependence. It is a privilege to be part of a community which makes such a difference for so many people

PS: In 2015, we will gather in San Francisco on June 18 – 19 to continue strengthening our collective desire to grow leaders and yes, even change the world. We extend a hearty welcome to all, who want to join in on this wild and rewarding adventure.


  1. Steve, Thank you for sharing your lessons from the Forum. As always, you get to the essence of things and enable us all to both recall and reflect on what we have learned. The best leaders are the best learners, and you are an example of someone who is always learning! Take good care. Jim

  2. Thanks Jim, Truly enjoyed spending time with you and the crowds of great people from around the world who embrace The Leadership Challenge. See you soon.

  3. Marisa Kelley says:

    Thank you Steve! I’m delighted that the Forum offered you such a rich learning experience.

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