I had the honor and pleasure of spending a week in early December with George Kohlrieser watching he and his team in action at IMD, a leading business school based in Switzerland, where he delivers a very well-known course called High Performance Leadership (HPL).
I was first introduced to George in the process of contributing towards The Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence, a series of primers that delve into the practical application of the four domains and 12 competencies of emotional intelligence, published by Key Step Media, which also happens to be the company from which Goleman EI and eventually Beyond EI was incubated and launched.
Over the years George and I have chatted on the phone about our respective work and finally were able to meet in person. George is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I’ve met a lot of truly inspiring people. I found myself hopeful about the future in his presence.
I believe this is because he is a leader who truly lives his life’s purpose and continually inspires others to do the same. He embodies what his work is about which can be summarized by the value of becoming a secure-based leader. He is both emotionally accessible and skilled at conflict, two incredibly important yet rare skills to find on their own, let alone demonstrated together.
During the time I spent learning from George and the remarkable team of faculty, administration, and coaches that run the HPL program at IMD, I was inspired to look at my own track record of losses and successes over the course not only of my career but my entire lifetime. I’ve been fortunate to have many examples of each. Even the losses—albeit quite painful—were incredibly valuable. With loss or failure comes the gift of learning, unlearning, and relearning and the opportunity to become more resilient and skillful the next time. What George might say is an opportunity to build character.
I took away some key insights. My first key learning was this. We all suffer losses. We all need to grieve those losses. And we all need to make peace with our own sense of loss to the point we can once again taste the joy of all that life has to offer. It isn’t that whatever has transpired gets erased or forgotten. We do however relate to it differently. While this could seem like a seemingly insignificant act, our willingness to move through the cycle of grief and loss makes all the difference. Otherwise, the grief associated with our various losses has a way of seeping into the fabric of how we think about ourselves and others, how we move through the world, and ultimately can get in the way of our own potential.
When we make a mental shift and embrace the grief process, not feeling ashamed or sweeping our emotions under the proverbial rug, it allows us to acknowledge and heal old wounds and move forward with our sense of purpose and efficacy. To do this, we must allow ourselves to feel our emotions and to grant ourselves and others the grace of forgiveness. I can’t say that in one week I fully managed to process all I’ve come to carry, but the experience did show me a path forward. I experienced first-hand that it can be done, that it needs to be done.
I want to thank you, George, for your willingness to share your wisdom with me and with others and for adding to my life in a meaningful way. Thank you, George! You’ve inspired me and you’ve moved me, and in so doing, have given me a secure-base and path towards being able to embrace and process my own grief and losses. I’m not sure there is a gift greater than that.
For those of you who may not yet be familiar with George’s work, I can’t recommend his work strongly enough. He has written much by way of books and articles over the years and shared many recordings of his talks. Here, are two books with which you can get started:
- Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership
- Hostage At The Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance
We’ve also had the honor to have George and his work featured in our online programs in which he and other thought leaders, such as Dr. Richard Davidson and Vanessa Druskat, offer their respective insights on how to grow your own emotional intelligence.
I leave you with this bit of wisdom from George, “Never be a hostage to anyone, anything, or even to yourself!”