Leadership as a Calling: Creating a Story of Inspiration, Passion and Purpose

George Kohlrieser _WBF_LincolnCenter_206George Kohlrieser has a deep conviction in the power of emotional bonding and what it can accomplish. The international bestselling author of Hostage at the Table and Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership has worked with police, military and humanitarian organizations around the world teaching crisis negotiation. Additionally, he worked in a psychiatric hospital, teaching mental health specialists how to work with chronic schizophrenics. He brought his clinical psychology and crisis negotiation background into the world of executive education and corporate leadership training, founding the flagship High Performance Leadership program at IMD, Switzerland. He stresses that poor bonding skills is a significantly underrated cause of why many leaders fail.

Emotions matter. Getting to the heart of what really motivates people is what Kohlrieser learned as a hostage negotiator, and the same is true for effective leaders. The ability to build trust with others and create a positive mindset is a key leadership component. Leaders need to be able to see what is wrong without getting into a negative state. “The negative mindset is often resistant to change. The positive mindset is always looking for opportunities, looking for ways to learn,” said Kohlrieser. Like hostage negotiators, effective leaders create trust and offer choice, creating the conditions necessary for people to show their full potential, change their way of thinking, take risks, and be creative. “Mindset is the foundation of all leadership,” declared Kohlrieser.

Kohlrieser asked attendees of the 2015 World Business Forum in New York City to consider if they are living their dream. He believes great leaders know their calling and have discovered the vision and purpose that drives their personal leadership story. They stay positive even through the inevitable pain and sacrifice any journey requires. This positivity allows the transformation brought about by the learning from their experiences. They celebrate accomplishments and make the department/company/community world – something larger than themselves – a better place.

Great leaders:

  • Inspire
  • Hunt for and develop talent
  • Drive change
  • Build high-performing teams
  • Build a culture that supports high-performance

Supporting high-performance through culture is the great challenge. Fear is a great motivator and dominates people’s actions. To get the most out of people, they need to be free of fear. They need to be inspired to be creative, to live life to the fullest and to take risks. That freedom is born of trust. With trust, conflict becomes nothing more than a learning process and a necessary step toward creativity.

Great leaders are able to stop talking and ask questions. It is through questions and offering choices that leaders can re-wire themselves to become creators of trust.

Kohlrieser believes women tend to make better leaders, because they inherently connect in a different way than men. Woman are creators who learn to deal with conflict and how to push back. Men on the other hand are challenged by effectively bonding, handling emotions and being caring. For Kohlrieser, women have a head start when it comes to empathy, consecutiveness and forming interpersonal bonds.

Every leader must learn to deal with conflict. Turn the enemy into an ally. Kohlrieser likened it to cleaning a fish – a messy task, but necessary to make a great fish dinner. The great leaders can communicate their stories in ways that inspires individuals, teams and entire organizations. That communication begins with trust. Show yourself to be a real person, one who cares, and people will listen and follow you.



William Flamme

William Flamme

William Flamme is ExecuNet's Marketing Content Manager, where he is responsible for developing engaging career, job search, and leadership insight and delivering executive-level content across the various properties under the ExecuNet brand. Prior to joining ExecuNet in 2008, Will earned a master's degree in education and taught fifth grade and sixth grade. As a teacher, he deepened his appreciation for the written word and mastered skills necessary for managing writers who sometimes view deadlines as homework.

2 Replies to "Leadership as a Calling: Creating a Story of Inspiration, Passion and Purpose"

  • cody dillon
    January 5, 2016 (11:14 am)

    Coming from someone who is an older brother, played & coached baseball at NCAA level, and experienced both ends of having a manager who is the one above; and the one who was put there because of the organizations promotion activity still being based on highest numbers gets the raise, no questions congrats side of things… My personal experience of experiencing this type of management was the most deflating environment I had even been apart of & only snowballed throughout the division 1-by-1. Those type of managers only know how to “do whatever it takes to hit their numbers”, and that’s exactly their approach to their team goal. It is literally one of the most unproductive & irresponsible moves an executive could make if they want to keep their job & care for their employers.

    I cannot agree more, and stress that there are leaders & those that are able to reach their potential through the right leadership. Anyone with the “Leaders and Followers” belief, just provided you with verbal confirmation that they believe that it’s about who’s under who. That person is not even understanding the simple definition of Managing a TEAM. I was fortunate enough to get my experience that started in High School – College, as an elected team Captain. I was not the best player, but I knew that it all boils down to the 9 of us balancing the work load in order to reach that goal.

    • cody dillon
      January 5, 2016 (11:15 am)

      and EXCELLENT ARTICLE, I’m sharing this too.