Category Archives: Organizational Development

Transformational Leadership in Crucible Moments

This post was shared by Executive Certificate in Leadership Coaching Program Director – and Principles of Transformation faculty – Bill Pullen. 

There comes a moment in the career of every leader when they are tested in ways that dramatically exceed the scope of any prior situation.  To continue guiding their organization to success, they must transform the way they think, act, and lead. For many leaders, that moment is now.

As the novel coronavirus spreads across the globe at breathtaking speed, organizations and their employees are being forced to reckon with radically changed institutional environments. New skills and new ideas are required to thrive as old assumptions are questioned or discarded. Certainties are fading away and an environment of ambiguity is unfolding where agility and creativity will be required of those who hope to have a hand in building the future.

In their 2002 Harvard Business Review article titled Crucibles of Leadership, Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas define “crucible experiences” as intense or traumatic experiences that have the potential to transform leaders – for better or for worse.

  • Crucible moments can make or break leaders and the organizations they lead – leaders either grow to match the moment or resort to more reactive, less skillful ways of leading.
  • Leaders who are prepared for the transformative potential of a crucible experience will be better able to navigate challenges and thereby guide their organization to success.
  • The experience of the crucible moment allows the leader to reach a new level of professional accomplishment and experience “a new or altered sense of identity.”

Bennis and Thomas lay out four essential qualities that allow leaders to make the crucible experience into a positive, rather than negative, growth experience:

  • “The ability to engage others in shared meaning.” Leaders need to be able to place events into a narrative that allow their employees to make sense of the situation.
  • “A distinct and compelling voice.” Leaders need to model confident and calm behavior as well as express humility – employees want a leader who is steady but also relatable.
  • “A sense of integrity (including a strong set of values).” As events move quickly and new ambiguities arise, a successful leader will be able to articulate a moral framework in which employees and organizations will be able to evaluate their actions, providing clarity.
  • “Adaptive capacity.” Bennis and Robert call this the most important quality and define it as composed of “the ability to grasp context and hardiness.” Adaptive capacity is the quality of navigating towards a goal even when the times require the questioning of old assumptions and the ability to maintain equilibrium even in the face of multiple adverse events.

I’ve spent the last seven weeks talking with leaders around the world about what this moment is asking of them and what it will take to step forward and creatively respond to the moment, rather than getting trapped in ineffective, reactive patterns. Regardless of where they are or the type of organizations they lead, the answer is always the same – this time requires that leaders resist the urge to act impulsively and instead take a moment, however brief, to pause, breathe, connect with their body and heart in order to respond thoughtfully and wisely. When it seems like the world is asking for quick action, having the ability to be present, centered, and grounded enables leaders to engage with others to create shared meaning, model calm and humility, act with integrity, and develop agility.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” It can be difficult in this moment to generate a vision for a better world, but that is precisely what is required to meet the needs of the present. Leaders who successfully guide their organizations through these times will face a reckoning that will test them as never before. Some will fail; but many will succeed, and they will do so by creating a new equilibrium that retains their core values while embracing the opportunities of disruption. In the process, the leaders themselves will find that they have been transformed just as radically as the institutions that they lead. They will pass through the crucible and, in the process, shape the world of tomorrow.

Click here to learn more about the Principles of Transformation.

Taking Care of Earth’s Beauty, Magic & Mystery

This post was shared by Health and Wellness Coaching faculty member Russ Watts.  

While the current crisis is weighing heavily on everybody’s hearts and minds, the situation has simultaneously triggered an enormous wave of creative generosity and awareness in our Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL) community.  New innovative solutions being applied seemingly overnight clearly show how important being in service to our communities is, while practice and cooperation between all parts of society play a huge part of the rapid response to such situations. And through these weeks, we have seen a glimmer of hope and beacons of beauty unseen for quite some time as our skies clear from pollution, and the birdsong overpowers the traffic song, as we are required to shift from old habits and patterns to new ones.

One particular pattern that is showing up for me on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is that amidst the struggles we humans are having, it seems like the rest of our global ecosystem is taking some breaths of fresh air and enjoying a detox session. I question what was sustainable in my old pre-quarantine self, and am finding my thoughts forming hopeful actions that I will make moving forward.  Through my weekly grocery outings, I’m aware how easy it is to use the bike to get to the store. It’s better for me and the planet. This, obviously, isn’t new news, it’s not some grand discovery, but I have been reminded and have now formed this as a small but sustainable habit. For the first time in a few years, we are actively growing our garden, celebrating each sprout that pops up its little bit of green. We are buying from, and, thus mindfully supporting our local food producers. And all of these things feel good. They feel right.

I have also been reminded of the simple joys: hanging out and playing in the garden with my family, creating new simple non-electronic games, enjoying picnics as much as we can, and even having late night movie date nights with my wife.

Collectively and individually we know we can all reduce our ecological footprint (and are all doing so in the last month or two), take only pictures and leave only footprints as the saying goes, consume less and consume wisely, buy locally and eat seasonally. We need to think broadly about our individual impact, how we spend and invest our money, the trash we create, the thoughts we have. We need to think of our lives as a mission, one that we can have the greatest impact by being excellent role models to those around us, not to lead lives that are excessive, but rather humble.

This bountiful planet of ours provides us with all that we need, and we have so abused her with the creation of chemicals and toxic pollutants all in the name of a “better” standard of living. We can eat and grow food that is organic and phase out the many pollutants that have become so common in our lives, and help her flourish by being aware of and taking care of her beauty, magic, and mystery.

Let’s all strive for less stuff, more fun, simpler, more meaningful time here.

And let’s not be too hard on ourselves, we all are still learning how to walk on our planet thoughtfully and sustainably.

Click here to learn more about the Certificate in Health & Wellness Coaching in Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership. 

Digitally Caring for the Whole Person

This post was shared by Jaime Kralovec, Associate Director for Mission Integration, School of Continuing Studies (SCS), Georgetown University. 

As the routines of daily life drastically change in response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, many people are feeling unsettled, uncertain, and, likely, afraid. The precautions being implemented at Georgetown, and institutions around the country and world, to ensure social distancing are in the best interests of health and well-being of all in our communities. But social distancing does not have to mean social isolation. In these times, how might we marshal the spiritual and mission resources of our Spirit of Georgetown Jesuit values to support one another and maintain deeper inter-personal connection as we adjust to this new reality that requires us to keep our physical distance from one another?

In an effort to maintain our Jesuit mission commitment to Care for the Whole Person, Georgetown SCS is offering some dedicated online opportunities to maintain connection in a time of social distancing:

  • Daily Digital Meditation at SCS: Each day of the work week, from Monday to Friday, at 12 pm EST, SCS will host a digital meditation for 10 to 15 minutes over Zoom. You can join the digital meditation space by clicking this link. Led by Jamie Kralovec, SCS Associate Director for Mission Integration, this 10-15 minute meditation will be a contemplative opportunity to sit in intentional silence in group solidarity with everyone who participates. This will be an inclusive form of silent meditation, blending Eastern and Western practices, and all are welcome to participate. Participants will automatically be muted upon entering the digital space but will have the option of appearing visually through the camera feature. Please send any questions about this opportunity to Jamie Kralovec (
  • Prayer Intentions: In an effort to create space for all members of this community to express whatever intentions are on your hearts and minds during this challenging time, we are offering a way for you to submit these intentions online. Click this link to enter whatever requests that you would like the larger SCS community to take to prayer, meditation, or silent reflection (if you would prefer to remain anonymous, you can fill out the prayer request confidentially). Whatever spiritual or religious tradition you are part of, or no tradition all, expressing these requests is a way to practice deeper inter-dependence and mutuality in a time when it might feel harder to do so.
  • Other Spiritual Resources: There are many ways you might deepen your own spiritual and reflective practices in the midst of the response to this situation. We suggest reading this message from Fr. Greg Schenden, S.J., Director of Campus Ministry, who offers ways to stay connected to the chaplaincy resources of the university.

While it might not feel like it, this time of uncertainty is an opportunity for our learning community to grow a greater spirit of generosity, magnanimity, and solidarity with each other.

Learn more about Mission in Motion: Reflections on Incorporating Jesuit Values at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies 

Educating the Whole Person

The Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL) has always derived great strength from the foundation on which it was built, Georgetown University and its Jesuit Heritage.  Today, the work of ITL is best captured in its mission: to develop and sustain worldwide communities of leaders dedicated to awakening, engaging, and supporting the leadership required to create a more sustainable, harmonious, and compassionate future.   In addition to offering educational programs that develop leaders, this mission speaks to our higher purpose and responsibility to prepare leaders who can address the issues that will lead to greater peace, environmental and economical sustainability, and a future in which human beings relate to one another with a caring approach consistent with Georgetown’s Jesuit values.

Connecting with and Embodying our Values

Each year, ITL chooses one of the Jesuit values as an area of curricular focus.  This year our focus will be the value of “Educating the Whole Person.”   We will explore this value through our programming, our community dialogue and in our classrooms.  By making these explicit connections, we will link our unique Jesuit and transformational missions to the learning experiences and outcomes of our students with a committed focus on the development of the intellectual, artistic, social, physical, and spiritual aspects of each person.

Mind, Body, Emotion, Spirit, Identity

While institutions of higher education are recognized for challenging and developing great minds, the mastery of leadership must address the whole person; mind, body, emotions, spirit, and identity.  Through our Certificate programs, advanced training, and professional workshops, the ITL curriculum guides participants to explore these rich domains and to develop continuous on-going practice and reflection on the life-long journey of leadership.

We look forward to engaging with our faculty, students, staff and community as we embrace our commitment and value of “Educating the Whole Person”.