“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” ∞ Goethe
I watched the accompanying videos with a sense of joy and high appreciation for the 18 thought leaders who co-created the American Leadership Forum (ALF) curriculum with me back in the 1980’s as we began to launch the forum program nationally. These were commanding figures in the then emerging discipline of leadership development. Prior to then in business and academic circles, it was “widely accepted that leaders were born not made. We thought otherwise and set out to prove it.
This circle of highly respected Americans includes:
James McGregor Burns – the Pulitzer Prize winning historian of Williams College, who wrote the seminal book on the subject leadership.
The late Warren Bennis of USC, author of 30 books on leadership and on whom Jack Welch of GE once remarked was the “Peter Drucker of Leadership.”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter – then of Yale, now of Harvard Business School; the author of the best-selling books, When Giants Learn to Dance and The Change Masters.
Harlan Cleveland – then Dean of the Humphry School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, former ambassador to NATO under Lyndon Johnson.
Admiral James Bond Stockdale – an authority on military leadership and the winner of the medal of honor for his bravery and incredible creativity while a captive in the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War; and
John W. Gardner of Stanford – a member of LBJ’s cabinet, who had been President of the Carnegie Corporation, and who established the revered White House Fellows Program, upon which ALF was modeled.
We set out to create a powerful curriculum designed to enable the rising generation of business and civic leaders to become models of Robert Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership” and to rise to the next level in order to meet the high requirements of the coming age of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – now known as VUCA.
I’ve written and spoken many times about the life-changing meeting I had with the physicist, David Bohm in London in 1980. That afternoon, Dr. Bohm said to me, “You have capacities within that are phenomenal, if you only knew how to release them.” With this injunction in mind, I used John Gardner’s words to me to provide the message of the pioneering mission of ALF “to enable the full release of human possibility.”
We set out to define the theories, processes and practices to enable these rising leaders to access new knowledge, as opposed to knowledge from the past, providing their organizations the pathway to superior performance. During those years of the 1980s, we planted and nurtured the seeds for what later emerged as Generon’s U-Process – core practices for sensing and actualizing emerging futures.
The most essential of those core practices is the one identified by the legendary scientist and writer, J. W. von Goethe: Acting on one’s high commitment. By acting boldly on your commitment, “then Providence moves too…a whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” (William H. Murray)
Over the intervening years, almost 5,000 business and civic leaders have graduated from the year-long ALF program. It is now our responsibility to continue to refine and continuously renew the curriculum, demonstrating its high relevance in this VUCA world. The accompanying videos give you a glimpse of our commitment to this path.
Stop yourself the next time you are about to pass a window, and for a moment let yourself become part of what you’re seeing, then paint the moment with the brush of acting in an instant.