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Four Virtues of a Leader

Eric Kaufmann, President and Founder of Sagatica, shares his personal philosophy for leadership when he visits with Ryan Picarella, President & CEO of WELCOA, in this inspiring expert interview. Learn about the four elemental virtues of great leaders from Eric’s book, Four Virtues of a Leader: Navigating the Hero’s Journey through Risk to Results, shared by successful, passionate, and creative leaders as they navigate through uncertainty and anxiety.


Eric Kaufmann, President and Founder of Sagatica, shares his personal philosophy for leadership when he visits with Ryan Picarella, President & CEO of WELCOA, in this inspiring expert interview. Learn about the four elemental virtues of great leaders from Eric’s book, Four Virtues of a Leader: Navigating the Hero’s Journey Through Risk to Results.

Four Virtues of a Leader
An Expert Interview with Eric Kaufmann

Ryan Picarella Thank you for joining us today. This is a really important topic. I’m really looking forward to the conversation. I think you’re the perfect person to speak to us about leadership. I know I have told you, and hopefully a lot of our listeners and readers know that we just reintroduced WELCOA’s Seven Benchmarks™.

Benchmark One historically was senior level support or CEO support. We all know that’s obviously extremely important. The senior leadership is an important part of any business decision or equation. But, everybody plays a leadership role within an organization. Leadership isn’t about titles. Leadership is not about span of control or amount of people. It’s really about being conscious about decisions and about role modeling.

That’s why I think it’s really going to be a great conversation today to get everybody to think about what their role is in leadership. How can we improve ourselves, be better leaders, and hopefully help those along the way?

Eric Kaufmann Awesome.

RP But, before we get started, you have an amazing story. Can you share some things about your life and your journey that have gotten you to this point, so that our listeners and readers can relate more to who you are as a person?

EK Let’s see. Where do I start? I was born and raised in Israel in a small town. My family emigrated from Israel to Johannesburg, South Africa when I was around 16. I finished three years of high school in South Africa.

Then I came to the States to go to college. I never left. I stayed here. 30 plus years I’ve been here. I have ditched my accent. I married an American. I have American kids. I love living out here.

Living in San Diego in the mid-1980s, I got involved in the full spectrum of life: Ponzi schemes that fleeced my money, crystals that I bought to wear and display, and meditation; I got really involved in meditation practices.

Thirty years later, it’s the meditation practices, Zen practice in particular, that have remained a real powerful thread through my life, my work, and my relationship.

After college I joined corporate. I worked at 3M in sales, and then at Corning in marketing. After about 12 years I realized that leading within an organization was exciting; driving for results was amazing, the people were terrific, but what really made my heart sing was focusing on leadership; not on marketing and not sales systems, but on leading leadership. Fast forward to today, and it’s been 19 years of running my firm Sagatica, an executive and leadership development firm.

My work combines an unrelenting commitment to results with an unyielding regard for the human spirit. We focus on how to kick butt and get amazing things done, and how to awaken, honor, and serve the whole human.

RP I love it. Along your personal journey, I’m sure you’ve had the opportunities to see great leaders and maybe leaders that weren’t so great. Are there any standouts, whether someone you knew, or even someone maybe you’ve looked up to that you think are examples of great leaders?

EK Not surprisingly, there are a couple leaders that I learned a lot from because I never wanted to be like them. As a matter of fact, my daughter, who is a senior in high school and a lifeguard and a swim instructor at the YMCA for two years, has learned so much from having a remarkably ineffective boss. That is a huge leadership lesson for my daughter, as it has been for me in my career.

I’ve learned from people that didn’t keep their word, that didn’t have integrity, that gossiped, and manipulated people. Leaders that didn’t show up, and didn’t show passion. But I’ve also learned from leaders that were really remarkable, and as I’ve analyzed many leaders, I’ve noticed that they excel in three buckets.

We can call one bucket intelligence. These are cognitive skills, problem solving, the ability to think clearly, and strategic thinking.

The other one is experience. Domain knowledge, do you know the industry? Do you know the space? Do you have experience as the leader and manager?

The third one is interpersonal skills. How well do you feel connected, related, and honored?

I’ve observed leaders in industries as varied as healthcare, engineering, software, to professional services. The pattern of three buckets repeats every time: Stand out leaders are smart – they have cognitive capacity. They have some domain expertise and experience. But, what really makes them stand out is their expression of their interpersonal skills, “How you make me feel.”

The most powerful lesson I learned from leaders that I’ve worked with is that I wanted to follow them.

Ultimately, a conversation about leadership isn’t a full spectrum exploration if we don’t fully attend to followership.

Leadership can be all about the leader. But followership is about engaging people. Because if you’re not engaging them, then what are you really doing?

What I have learned most from the folks that were remarkable to me, is what reduces followership. In other words, what makes me not want to work with them?

RP Interesting. I had a similar experience with wellness. Early in my career, learning about so many things that really didn’t work. But, I knew that there were a lot of things that I didn’t want to do. The field needed to go a new way.

I want to go start diving into your book. I know the four virtues of a leader is something that I’m sure you thought a lot about. What was your motivation, and your goal in writing the book? What did you really seek out to achieve of that?

EK My book is called Four Virtues of a Leader: Navigating the Hero’s Journey Through Risk to Results.

Leaders who were embracing their hero’s journey are the ones that are thriving and really engendering followership. I wanted to clearly articulate the elemental virtues that each leader and hero turns on in order to navigate that journey successfully.

If you want to be a leader, there are our elemental virtues that will help you to become someone that people want to follow: focus, courage, grit, and faith. It’s not so much about personality. It’s really about choice.

RP I know your book seems to have some very common themes, and a lot of Joseph Campbell’s work. Being that he was an advisor to George Lucas on Star Wars, he coined the term monomyth. What’s the relationship between your work and his work?

EK What’s a hero? The hero does a few things. The first thing that the hero does is they answer a calling, right?

There’s some kind of a trigger, or a motive. A reason to go after something significant. I mean, it’s not a super heroic to say, “I’m going to the store to buy tomatoes.” That’s not heroic for most people. But, I think the idea that there is a calling, this is what Joseph Campbell was so powerful in identifying. What makes a person heroic? There is a great prize.

It’s something you want to accomplish. Hercules has to defeat the Hydra, and Luke Skywalker had to defeat the evil Empire. First, the hero is pitted against something big, difficult, and challenging. Second, the hero has to step out of their comfort zone. You leave your known world and with it you leave behind the things that are certain, familiar, and comfortable. You take on risk and uncertainty. Third, the hero works with other people, wins this great prize, and brings it back to the community, back to the village, or family. These are descriptors of the hero’s journey, but also of leadership, right?

A leader pursues a mission and a vision, something that hasn’t been done before. The word leader actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lithan, which means to travel. Literally, the word means to leave. You leave your comfort zone. You face all kinds of uncertainty, and difficulty, and challenge as you well know.

As a CEO, you have an intimate view of uncertainty. And when you succeed, it’s really about sharing the success with the whole community.

RP You have four specific virtues that you talk about. If you would, give me a quick overview of each of the four virtues and then we can get into unpacking those a little bit more. But, what are the four virtues?

EK The four virtues are of focus, courage, grit, and faith. Focus asks the question, “What am I creating?” There’s this implicit understanding that we are always creating something. Focus is saying, “What am I creating?” Courage is asking the question, “What am I avoiding?” There is something that we’re avoiding. If I were to ask you, “What are you avoiding right now?” you would be able to tell me with a few moments of reflection. Grit asks the question, “What am I sustaining?” How do I keep going and press on in the face of difficulty and challenge? Faith is really the leap of faith. It’s the question, “What am I letting go?” Something is outdated. Something is done. It’s time to leave. What am I letting go of?

RP Do you see any one of those four either being more of a tipping point for leaders, or harder than one of the other, or just is it all over the place? Or, is there one in particular that seems to be just more difficult for whatever reason?

EK Interestingly, I worked for years to try and sort of whittle it down. I think all four are requisite and critical. Different folks are focused in different places.

Focus, or what am I creating is more conceptual. It’s coming to grips with the fact that you are an actual creator and manifester of the reality of your experience.

My world is my reflection. It’s not just happening outside of me. I am an intimate participant in the creation of what’s happening. In the leadership role, particularly the title leadership role, that’s very evident.

Courage is more embodied. Fear is the basic mood of the ego. I don’t want to deal with this. I don’t want to deal with that.

Grit is almost a little more muscular. It says, “You’ve got to keep going.” How do you persevere? How do you keep going?

Faith is almost more spiritual. Because it’s about letting go, and surrendering, and being able to move on.

Different folks have different areas of attention, but these virtues apply to everyone. They are universal.

RP Let’s get more specific into each one now. We can start with focus. When you’re working with a leader, particularly in this virtue, what do you do? Are there some tactical, tangible things, or advice that you would give to people trying to grow in these areas?

EK There is this remarkable VP of Operations, Faye, that I have worked with for a while. She was, I mean, truly, off the charts in intellect, and creative in every way. She was super frustrated because her direct reports were clearly playing a defensive game. They weren’t really coming in with ideas, with innovation, with challenging processes, or with improving their organization. She couldn’t figure out why.

I’ll share a little insight into Faye’s behavior. It illustrates something about her. Her team would give her reports and documents, and she’d write notes and comments in the reports and return them to her people. But the notes were always written in red ink. She was literally grading their papers in red ink and turning it back to them.

Imagine, you’re an adult and your boss is writing notes in the margin, and crossing stuff out with a red pen. What do you think?

RP That could be a little demeaning.

EK It’s demeaning. I’m being graded. I feel like a child. How does this relate to what am I creating?

We don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are. We are co-creators of the world. We are active participants in interpreting and shaping our reality.

Faye didn’t connect that her team’s defensive behavior was related to her punitive and critical behavior. In order to grow, she had to understand that her behavior was engendering behaviors in others. Her behavior of being critical, and punitive, and grading people caused them to be anxious and defensive and discouraged them from coming forward and doing their best.

It’s a small example, but clearly illustrates the idea of, “What am I creating?” She was participating and creating an atmosphere of anxiety and recalcitrance because of the way she was behaving with them.

RP Yeah. It makes total sense. How did that play out? I’m assuming she stopped the grading and the red pens. But was there a period or a process that she had to rebuild the trust and the relationships with her direct reports?

EK Just because she stops writing with a red pen, it doesn’t mean that they suddenly felt safe, right? There is an important predictor of team effectiveness called psychological safety. Faye’s team, under her leadership, was psychologically unsafe. The first thing she had to do to regain safety was to come clean that she had been doing this. She had to admit to her team that she was aware of her behavior. The red pen was not the only way she was making them unsafe. It was literally the most visible way.

We talked about lack of safety and did some interesting work around resetting expectations on a team wide basis, and casting a vision for the future of the team. We answered, “What’s the vision of the team in the future? What’s the current expression of the team? How do we close the gap?” Faye had to commit to certain behaviors, and repeat those behaviors.

The coaching for Faye was focused on helping her to become skilled at the new ways of cultivating safety. What am I creating? As she deliberately and intentionally created safety, the team began to relax and demonstrate their creativity.

RP Yeah, awesome. Let’s talk about another. Maybe the courage virtue. Do you have an example of how you’ve seen that play out with someone that you’ve worked?

EK My definition of courage is really simple. Courage is walking towards what you would rather run away from. There is nothing magical. There is nothing mystical. There’s nothing about it other than courage. Because when we face something that is scary; whether that’s a person, a situation, an idea, we want to back away. We want to avoid it.

When I’m with a group of leaders and they say, “What are you avoiding right now?” Within two minutes, each person can list three or four things they’re avoiding.

RP It’s hard work. Being courageous isn’t easy.

EK It’s not easy. I’m avoiding having a difficult conversation with my coworker. I’m avoiding dealing with this project piece. I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out. I’m avoiding a client call because I don’t want it to go sideways. I’m avoiding bringing something up to my wife. I’m avoiding bringing up something to my husband.

I’ll give you an example of Brian, a CEO of a firm doing about $300 million in revenue. The last four years were flat, barely any growth year over year. He was super frustrated that his team is not really bringing more energy and passion to the conversation and to the company.

I challenged Brian, “I have a feeling you’re not being courageous as a CEO.” He said, “Well, what are you talking about? We’re doing all kinds of things.” So I asked, “Yeah. But, what are you avoiding?”

In the course of our coaching conversation we uncovered that he wanted all of his team to be friends with him and to like him. What he was avoiding was pushing them and demanding a higher level of accountability and more drive, he was avoiding the possibility of rejection.

His people were skating by, not because they were lazy or uncreative, but because he was afraid to push them, and risk pushing them away. By helping him find the courage to press into the conversations and to raise the bar and expectation, he started getting the team juices flowing again. It didn’t take more than a year and the results started turning around. They literally started growing as soon as Brian began to courageously push for creativity and accountability.

RP I think that story could probably apply to a lot of leaders out there. I have certainly seen examples of that, what you described. I mean, I’m sitting here thinking as you mentioned that, “What are the things that I’m avoiding?

EK When we’re in fear, we want to avoid the actual feelings and sensations of fear. We don’t want to feel the tension, sweat, racing heart, and churning gut. We want to reject those feelings.

Our fears are typically made up of some mix of four elemental fears that we all have. The fear of failure, so I’m avoiding failure. There’s a fear of rejection, which was Brian’s primary fear. . Another fear is fear of feeling worthless, you know, nobody wants to feel humiliation, looking like an idiot, and looking stupid. The fourth is fear of losing control; I don’t want to lose control.

Briefly, then, the four elemental fears are:

  1. fear of failure – I don’t want to lose control
  2. fear of rejection – I don’t want to be alone
  3. fear of humiliation – I don’t want to feel worthless
  4. fear of pain – I don’t what to feel discomfort

There are variations on the theme. But if you reflect and say, “What am I avoiding?” it’s going to be something in those neighborhoods. Then, you can do something about it.

RP Let’s talk about grit for a second. Again, can you give us an overview of how you define that and provide an example of what that looks like?

EK I love Angela Duckworth’s definition. She’s a researcher and a writer who focused on grit, and her definition of grit is, “passion and perseverance towards long-term goals.”

Grit, you know, is one of the key elements of leadership and life. Because grit, perseverance, that kind of stick-to-itiveness is what we call on when we’re not motivated or enthusiastic.

When I’m pumped up. When I’m motivated. When I’m enthusiastic. I’m going with my flow. I’m doing this stuff because I’m totally into it. But, if I was to ask you to consider your total day as 100 percent and what percent of your day are you enthusiastic and motivated? You’re lucky if you get to 50.

RP Everybody is a person, even leaders. I mean, there are some days just getting out of bed and getting to the office is a challenge. I look at grit like just being a grinder. You just get in there, and pull the boots up, and just make things happen.

EK Both of my daughters are teenagers. I talk with other parents of teenagers and they say, “If only my son/daughter were more consistent with their homework, or practice more in sports/music/theater/reading, etc.”

In fact, I just had this conversation about grit with an executive team. At one point the CEOs said, “How old were you when you started going to the gym regularly just because you should?” and the VP said, “I don’t know, in my 40s.”

Grit is the capacity to keep going when you’re uninspired, tired, and disheartened. But don’t confuse it with just having to do it alone. Because we often associate that with the Lone Ranger. The idea that you have to do it alone is unnecessary. The Lone Ranger is this really powerful American mythology that is debilitating for leaders. Of course, you have to do things by yourself. But, have you seen pictures of the Lone Ranger? Who is always with the Lone Ranger? Tonto. His sidekick, Tonto. Even in the mythology of the Lone Ranger, the guy is not alone. He has a sidekick. He has a helper. The notion that we have to do it alone is a horrible notion for leaders.

You are part of a team. You have allies. You have coaches. You have mentors. You have a board. Use the folks around you to help you do the things that are difficult to do on your own. You have to show up. You have to do it. But, this idea that you have to do it on your own is really where we have this profound disease state of loneliness and isolation. This idea of the Lone Ranger is a sickness that plagues American business leaders. In the wellness community, it’s something we should be very worried about.

RP What’s interesting is that we have all heard over and over that being at the top is lonely. Leadership is lonely. I think there’s just that general stigma in general. When you’re the leader, I guess, outside of a coach, you’re out there alone. You can’t trust anybody.

EK Yeah, so a couple of things just on this grit piece. One, in order for me to have grit and in order for me to persevere, I have to have a sense of purpose. Any leader out there who does not have a clear sense of what their purpose is, is really up for trouble. Because when I don’t have my sense of purpose, then why am I doing what I’m doing?

In a leadership role, a lot of what I’m doing is challenging, difficult, uncertain, and scary, right? It’s also fatiguing. It’s exhausting. What is your purpose? Who are the partners? There are the people that will support you when you’re waning and when you’re feeling low.

Then, you can get persevering again. What are the practices? What are the specific behaviors that you can do over and over to build that muscle of grit?

Three elements cultivate your grit: Purpose. Partners. Practice.

RP Awesome, I love it. Then, the last piece here, faith. Why don’t you talk a little bit about faith and how that applies to the model?

EK Faith in the construct that I have created is not necessarily faith in God or religion. It’s the idea of the leap of faith.

There is a scene in one of the Indiana Jones movies that shows the leap of faith. He is pursuing the Holy Grail and has to cross this big chasm, a giant crevasse in his way. Supposedly there’s a magical bridge that appears only for those who are pure of heart. But, it’s invisible. He has to have faith and step into the crevasse, into the breach, and into this abyss. If your heart is committed, and you’re willing to take the step of faith, the bridge appears. The leap of faith is that willingness.

Faith is commitment without proof. If you think of your role as a leader, and particularly if you’re the most senior leader, you are often committing without proof.

Of course, you have to create a strategy. Of course, you formulate an operational plan. You have an annual plan. You have a team. You have a board. But, if you’re doing something that you haven’t done before, and leading the team to a new outcome, then there is no proof it’s going to work.

The leap of faith is committing yourself without the proof. By virtue of that, it means you have to let go of some things. You just have to surrender some things. Tim, for example, in order to grow his team’s ability to be more successful, had to take a leap of faith and let go of doing the projects that he was particularly good at.

He had to. Delegation is a leap of faith. Delegation is “I know how to do it, but, I need to free up more time. I need to step into the abyss and do things I haven’t done. I have to let go of these projects that I’m really good at or that I’m passionate about and give it to somebody else.” Delegation is a leap of faith.

RP I’m going to flip this a little bit. What if you’re in an environment where you see a leader, or a colleague, or somebody that’s maybe really struggling with one of these things? What is our role, either as a leader, or as a friend, as a colleague, as a peer, or whatever to help people get refocused? How do you see us helping others with this, outside of just us focusing on these ourselves?

EK What a great leadership question. You’re looking at, not just yourself, but the capacity to improve everyone around you. I mean, there are a couple of components to this.

One is if you are dealing with your direct reports. If you’re dealing with peers, it’s another. Working with folks who are not your direct reports is another. I guess my belief is that the first place to start is by making sure that I have rapport established. Because if I walk up to Joan, and I say, “Hey Joan, I noticed that you really look scared and timid. You should turn up your courage.”

RP You might not have a job.

EK Depending on who Joan is, right? If she’s my boss, or my peer, or my direct report, or just a colleague. I think the first thing we need to do as leaders is establish rapport and make sure that there is rapport.

Because when there’s rapport, there is safety. When there is safety, there is listening. When there is listening, there is a willingness to uptake the information that you’re willing to impart.

The first thing to me is safety. If a person doesn’t feel safe around me regardless if they’re my peer, or my direct report, or my boss, then they’re not likely to listen to me or take up what I have to say.

I have a great example of Nick, a fantastically brilliant man and a shining example of a leader on a hero’s journey. His boss was weak; weak in every way. He wasn’t decisive. He wasn’t strategic. He wasn’t really building teams.

Nick was able to help his boss by establishing rapport, and creating safety, and then being very skillful in the amount, and frequency, and timing of the suggestions and ideas that he brought to his boss.

About two months ago, Nick was promoted. His boss is now his peer. The two of them have the best relationship of everyone else on the team together. Because this guy still feels safe, even though they’re now peers.

RP Yeah. I’m sure. They’ll probably have a relationship forever. That’s pretty awesome.

EK Yes, and just bouncing into someone without them being really ready to receive your input is just a recipe for failure.

How do you bring it forth? This to me is one of the most profound leadership pieces. I talked in the beginning that there is IQ (intelligence), experience (domain knowledge), and EQ (emotional intelligence).

When you cultivate your emotional intelligence to understand, to receive, and to really grasp the other human being, you can help them. But, you can’t help them if they don’t feel safe.

RP Yeah, that’s a great point. Something that you have said in a past conversation that has really resonated with me. It’s knowing the whole Yin and the Yang concept. How to be more fluid. Knowing when you need to be more courageous or allow people to be more courageous, and to be there with them along the journey.

Talk to us a little bit about what conscious leadership is? What does that even mean? How can we start paying attention to that within ourselves, and bringing that to the leadership equation?


Conscious Leadership isn’t something we’re inventing. It’s something that we are honoring. It’s something that has been emerging and is taking shape because it’s critical to our planet.

Corporate wellness didn’t really exist as a codified sort of process until, I think around the early 1980s. It’s not until the ’90s that there are some federal regulations that actually make it so that companies of a certain size have to have a wellness of a certain kind. It’s really 30 years or so.

Thirty years ago, this idea of corporate wellness was this new idea. But, it was emerging, again, not because that the few people said, “Really, we should.” But, because it became inevitable.

As we spent more time at work, as we spent more time being influenced by the work environment, corporate wellness became a reality. It emerged as a human necessity.

Now we’re operating in a 30-year maturing field of, “How do we integrate worker bees and human beings?” Conscious leadership today is kind of like where corporate wellness was in 1984 or ’85. It’s an emerging sense that something has to happen. But, it has not yet become a core competency.

The reason that conscious leadership is emerging, similar to what happened with corporate wellness, organizational wellness, or workplace wellness, is that the world that we live in has shifted over time.

If I go way back, like 100,000 years to the hunter gatherers, leadership was distributed between men and women evenly. There was not a big clan. There was not a lot of hierarchy. Because it was all hands on deck. If you want to eat it. If you want to survive. You’re either hunting or you’re gathering.

We then transitioned to farming. There was a little more striation, a little more fixed role. Religion starts to show up, we get organized, and then city, states, the appearance of nations and the emergence of large-scale Army and massive production. Everything affected leadership.

The growth of commerce and the global organizations has shifted the face of humanity. We’ve transitioned from being guided and shaped by chiefs and shamans to kings and rulers, to priests and religions, to governments.

Do you know who is shaping society now? Businesses. And who is shaping corporations, and businesses? Leaders. In the early to mid-2000s leaders have become the de facto shapers of society and humanity. We are for the most part wholly unprepared for this. Because we have been trained to deliver profit, return on investment, stakeholder value, and investor value.

Now suddenly, business finds themselves in this unexpected and new territory where we, the business leaders, are the shapers of society and the guardians of humanity. Conscious leadership is really the felt sense of what do we have to do to wear this mantle and not blow it all up.

RP It blew me away when capitalism almost had this bad sort of connotation for a while. I was like, no, look, we can take that and make it good. Leadership is kind of the same thing. I know there are three sorts of pillars of consciousness. What are they? How can you begin to cultivate those?

EK With Conscious Capitalism and this idea of conscious leadership, there is the triple bottom line. I think it’s an important construct because it speaks to the evolution of the role of business in society.

The triple bottom line is profit, people, and planet.

Profit. This is simple, if there’s no margin, there’s no mission. We have got to have a profit. It’s the blood and the life of an organization.

People is really about society, humanity, both inside and outside the organization. How are humans and your workforce being treated internally? What are you doing socially and culturally in a larger level?

Planet is really the understanding of the ecosystem, the interconnectedness of all of life. That’s your supply chain. That’s how you’re treating the planet. What do you do with toxic chemicals? How do you get and dispose of things? How do you recycle?

Profit, people, planet is the outer container. That’s the wrapping up of what conscious business and conscious leadership really look at. I think if an organization just went there, we’d already be making massive movements in the right direction.

They’re already looking at profit. That’s a given. If you don’t have a profit, if you’re not making money, if you don’t have good margins and you can’t sustain yourself, there is no business.

I am compelled to talk about people and planet. If every leader said, “Okay. I need to split my brain in three.” One part is going to think about profit. I got it. One part is going to think about people. I got it. What am I going to do for folks internally and externally? One part is going to think about how everything is interconnected, and how what I’m doing here is going to affect generations to come. The butterfly effect, right?

RP I think the social responsibility piece can be regenerative. It just continues to give back. I think that’s the thing. You’re not sacrificing the planet for the people, or the people for the planet, or the people for the profit. It really can be a symbiotic, regenerative process for all three, which I think is pretty amazing.


At the essence of what is a conscious leader, is this willingness to understand that in addition to being self-centered we can also be life-centered.

There is self-centered view of the world. I need to be comfortable. My family needs to be happy. This is normal. But we also have to include a life centered view of the world. That is where the emergence of conscious leadership really starts to take hold. When I can include self-centered and transcend it into life centered.

When I’m life centered and I start looking around at the fullness of life all around me, I realize the way that I treat my employees has a reverberating effect throughout the entire community.

The choice I make about how to power my plant and where to dispose of the chemicals has an effect on all of life throughout the ecosystem. A conscious leader begins to move from self-centered to life centered.

That requires more cycle time, more calories, and some training. That requires a specific way of being and thinking about how to conduct myself with you individually, and with our team collectively, and with organization holistically, and with the whole world.

RP What are some resources you can share with us? How do we begin to start thinking about these, and growing these for ourselves, and to help? Are there places for people to go to really get a better idea of how to bring this to life for themselves?

EK Sure. My book, The Four Virtues of a Leader is a deep dive into how you can show up as a powerful force of followership and a very conscious leader.

There is a great website and magazine, the Conscious Company Media and Conscious Company Magazine. They are at the epicenter of collecting articles, ideas, and people, as well as events around conscious leadership and around the evolution of conscious leadership. Conscious Capitalism, Inc. is another one to look at because they’re very sort of ground level. How do you make this stuff happen inside of organizations? You guys [WELCOA] are at the epicenter and at the heart of this wellness movement and understand full well what it means to give a voice and structure to a felt sense that’s emerging.

Organizational wellness is something that you have turned into a professional conduct. I beseech you to consider how to bring more of the leadership focus because wellness is one of these key elements.

Wellness is partly people and partly planet. It all relates back to profit. You have umpteen studies to show that the improved wellness improves organizational performance. If you can, within your construct, expand this discussion to go beyond just physical wellness; but into this idea of mental and even spiritual wellness.

That promotes this idea of being conscious, of being aware, being connected, and being caring. I know that’s a bit of a reverse. You said, “What resources do I have?” But I think WELCOA has a potentially unique opportunity to expand its own mission. I’m not trying to recreate the strategy here. But, there is something emerging here that you guys are uniquely prepared to live into because of your history.

Individually, activating your conscious leadership doesn’t have to be sophisticated. You don’t have to go to Harvard or Stanford to get degrees in this. Just band with three or four people, and say, “Hey, we are here to stand for up leveling the kind of conscious leadership want to in our organization.” As soon as you have three or four people working together, you will energize and support one another. It will start becoming real.

RP I think that’s creating community. It’s such a powerful thing. Leadership development was where I began. We know now that the biggest impact to your health within an organization is the relationship you have with your boss.

If you wake up every Monday morning and you have to go into a troubling relationship, or an uncomfortable situation, chances are it’s going to impact your sleep. It’s going to impact your eating behavior. It’s going to impact your physical activity, all of those things.

So I’d like to end with this. If you had one thing that any reader or listener could start doing today?

EK There is a really simple practice; a practice of gratitude.

Practicing gratitude, moment to moment, and day to day is one of the most profoundly impactful elements that a leader can do with their people to establish the psychological safety and trust that we talked about earlier.

It’s also personally one of the most profound ways that we can counterbalance the deluge of negativity and fear that we’re flooded with in the modern, connected, and information rich realm that we live in.

Gratitude is as simple as finding three of four things a day for which I’m grateful and for which I’m thankful. I’m thankful that my body works. I’m grateful for somebody helping me. I’m grateful that my car worked. But being very intentional about seeking out purposefully a few things a day that I feel I’m grateful for and that have worked for me. It begins to have a profound shift. Particularly, turn that gratitude towards other people. The things I want to be grateful for in the people around me; my colleagues, my coworkers, my peers, and my bosses.

If we do more of that, we begin to actually cultivate the capacity to be a heart centered human being.

RP Thank you. This will just be an opportunity for us to continue to do more. With gratitude today, thank you so much for your time, your expertise, and your wisdom. We appreciate it.

EK Thank you, Ryan.

About Eric Kaufmann

Eric Kaufmann

Eric Kaufmann is an author, facilitator and executive coach who guides leaders to go below the surface and beyond the obvious so they can think more clearly, make better decisions, and relate wholeheartedly. Eric is President of Sagatica, a leadership advisory firm for leaders and teams seeking to prevail in critical personal or organization transitions, whose clients include Sony, SunPower, Verizon, T-Mobile, Genentech, Union-Tribune, Union Bank, and BAE Systems. By applying tested processes and skills that blend Strategic Thinking with Zen Practices, Eric guides leaders to evolve and change, and upgrade their priorities, strategies, relationships, and skills.

Eric’s book, The Four Virtues of a Leader: Navigating the Hero’s Journey Through Risk to Results, explores the four virtues shared by successful, passionate, and creative leaders and how they navigate through uncertainty and anxiety. Eric’s work is shaped from the crucible of his journey which includes 17 years of leadership consulting and coaching, management roles at Fortune 100 firms, degrees in business and psychology, a quarter century of Zen practice, living in Israel and South Africa, teaching as a Master Scuba Diving instructor, working as a certified hypnotherapist, marriage and children, and even from living in a year-long retreat in an isolated cabin he built in the mountains of New Mexico.


Kaufmann, E. (2016). The Four Virtues of a Leader: Navigating the Hero’s Journey Through Risk to Results. Boulder, CO: Sounds True Inc.

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