Leadership Development in New York City
My Personal Journey to Commitment, Empathy and Wisdom
Often when an owner or CEO of a company approaches me for help, it is because they can’t find a suitable solution to a complicated issue in their business. It could be a cash flow problem, stagnant growth, poor productivity, a cap table that needed revising…just to name a few.
These business concerns usually require assistance from an expert advisor. And for the first seven years of my post-MBA professional life I helped senior executives make key decisions and find solutions to sticky problems.
The truth is that while removing these more technical roadblocks may be important in the short-term – and quite lucrative for the advisor – it has almost no lasting impact on the more pernicious, long-term issues that caused these problems in the first place: the lack of good leadership.
It wasn’t until I was working at Accenture in my late 30’s that I became aware of just how important leadership is to sustainable success in business. I saw how much more effective, but also more difficult it is to help clients recognize and improve under-developed people management and decision-making skills as well as disempowering behaviors and communication styles.
This both energized and pushed me to develop my own leadership skills. I decided to leave Accenture to take on the challenge of spear-heading a presence in the U.S. market for the consulting firm, Roland Berger, where I had worked in Germany before taking a job at Accenture in New York City.
From day one, it felt like I was thrown head-first into a large wave of a very cold ocean. Nothing seemed to work – clients were few and far between, the investment costs were much higher than I previously thought. Getting a cohesive team together wasn’t hard but then that team proved unable to step up to increased challenges.
I was staring into a void, scared to death of the moment when my boss found out how poorly I was performing yet not knowing how to prevent it.
Eventually, that day arrived. I retrenched and went back to being a hired hand – and strangely enough, a much better paid one – and kept climbing a ladder I sort of knew the rules to.
In the middle of the Great Recession of 2008, I was asked to be the CEO and President of The Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF). My mandate was to restore its standing within the consulting industry and its precarious financial situation.
Working with a very committed Chairman and Board, my team and I turned the situation around and after four years I decided I needed a new challenge.
Going back into consulting wasn’t an option but I liked the act of gaining the trust of business leaders and making them more successful. I also wanted to try the entrepreneurial thing one last time.
Supporting myself financially with consulting work, I thought about my next move over the next two years. And as soon as I had given a name to what I wanted to do – eg. coaching CEOs and business owners – an organization named Vistage contacted me about becoming what they call a Chair. Using the Vistage platform, I would recruit, coach and facilitate meetings for groups of CEOs and business owners. It was like a gift from heaven.
My initial success surprised me, since I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. If nothing else, I had learned to let go of my brain and let my consulting and coaching muscles take over.
That was fine until COVID hit and my group and my confidence crumbled.
Few of my usual approaches and strengths seemed to be working for me. A carefully polished exterior suddenly went from a being suit of armor to a cage. My well-honed ability to think strategically and logically deteriorated into a need to be right. Being able to work independently turned into an inability to reach out and ask for help.
I looked feverishly for answers. And as it so often happens in my life, those answers suddenly appeared in the form of a coach and another fellow Vistage Chair. They used some pretty dramatic and often highly uncomfortable methodologies to open my eyes to the truth about myself, business and the world:
- Nothing happens in life without making a COMMITMENT. A commitment to leadership is a commitment to a life-long pursuit of excellence, learning and growth while overcoming doubts, hardship and roadblocks along the way.
- The real journey to leadership only begins when you’ve learned how to access the power of EMPATHY. EMPATHY is not the same as sympathy – after all, my clients and I run businesses, not charities. Rather, it is the ability to understand what people – including yourself! – are feeling or thinking.
- Empathy is like X-ray vision – you can see through people and situations to the TRUTH of what’s going on. Truth is the basis of WISDOM. And that provides you with the ability to successfully navigate through the most difficult situations, the freedom to innovate, and the power to motivate and inspire.
My journey is nowhere near complete. If anything, it’s become more intense, authentic and empowering. Instead of wasting my energy worrying and going down rabbit holes looking for answers, I very easily renew my commitments, empathize with myself and others, and access truth and wisdom.
Most importantly, I’m able to guide my clients and Vistage members more successfully through their own journeys and bring joy and happiness to my family, friends and the people I meet.
- President & CEO, The Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF)
- Chief Strategist, CEO Strategy Institute, Sony Corp
- Head of International Strategy, Discovery Communications
- Partner, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants
- Project Manager, Accenture
- Provided pro-bono strategy consulting to the leadership of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
- Member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD)
- Worked with Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams, and his team to develop and roll out a borough-wide digital technology festival to build a community around new developments in the sector and showcase Brooklyn as a major hub for technology firms
- Executive Education, Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- MBA, Finance, New York University Stern Graduate School of Business, New York, NY
- BA, Liberal Arts, Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts
- English: Native speaker
- German: Full professional proficiency
- French: Limited working proficiency
- Italian: Limited working proficiency
The Great Disruption of 2020
Pushing the Reset Button on Business
How the Best CEOsDisrupt to Win
Interview at the CEO Club of Baltimore
The Four Types of Disruption
Speech at Barnes & Noble, New York City