Category Archives: Transformational Leadership

The Mindset of an Entrepreneur

Each year in the Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL), we train hundreds of coaches (leadership & health and wellness), consultants (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion & Organizational Development) and facilitators.  Many are looking to leave their previous jobs behind to chart a new path on their own.  Academic Entrepreneur Jay Markiewicz, who has trained over 1000 global practitioners of entrepreneurship,  offers his perspective and personal story to help us navigate the journey.

What advice do you have for a new entrepreneur?

It all starts with the mindset that Entrepreneurs are first and foremost empathetic problem finders. Seeing challenges, unmet needs, and opportunities from the customer’s perspective is fundamental entrepreneurship. Once we hone in on customer problems then we shift into innovative and creative solution generators. The work of the entrepreneur then, playfully stated, is to “make it up and test it.” The process of finding problems and creating solutions (making it up) must be methodically tested through customer centric experiments in order to validate what we just created (made up!). The tests and experiments are iterated based on feedback in order to optimize our concept. Growth of our startup then comes down to “repeating experiments that work!”

What should practitioners keep in mind as they make this leap?

I too set out on my own to create startups in support of working as a coach, facilitator, and consultant. What I found was that the skills, behaviors, and most importantly mindsets that I had developed as a coach (facilitator, consultant) do not easily translate to those necessary for success as an entrepreneur. There are distinct capacities that I needed to learn and develop in order to be effective as an entrepreneur. At times, it led to frustration as I had to put on a beginner hat (seriously, why wasn’t this easy!). And now to you, you got this! Don’t let the notion of being a beginner hold you back as you can learn those capacities and live your entrepreneurial dream. The journey is very rewarding and brings with it many emotional roller coasters that simply remind us that we are alive and doing it!

How can internal leaders tap into the entrepreneurial spirit?

What I have found astounding is how translatable entrepreneurship skills and mindsets are to the world of leadership. Entrepreneurs are leaders, though leaders don’t necessarily think of themselves as entrepreneurs. There is an identity that has been created called “intrapreneur” to describe the internal leader that exhibits entrepreneurial capacity. Today more than ever we need those intrapreneurs because business is operating in an ambiguous environment where complex problems and challenges are ever present. Through the years, entrepreneurs have developed capacities to navigate these situations. So translating these entrepreneurial capacities and applying them in today’s business context as an intrapreneur leader makes total sense. Entrepreneurial approaches and skills like problem solving, creativity and innovation, customer centric solutions, and empathy will enhance any leader’s toolset.

Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.

First and foremost, I have discovered my internal compass directs me on a career path that is dynamic. I love to discover new and exciting things in service to my insatiable curiosity on how things work. This results in a career that has shifted many times in the past; nuclear engineer, officer in the Navy, leader in a fortune 100 financial services company, entrepreneur, even an ‘amateur’ athlete, and now educator…curious what’s next! From the entrepreneur standpoint, I found my inner self just urging me to make the move. So around the age of 40 and after several years of building up the courage, I put in my 2-week notice from my cushy job to step into the unknown and start a business with two partners. It was one of the greatest decisions of my life, and the scariest one too!  Since then, I’ve engaged in several startups, some of which are successful and some of which are not. I keep my entrepreneurial skills honed as a consultant entrepreneur and am always on the lookout for the next thing… In the meantime, I have found a love for supporting those who desire to follow their entrepreneurial dreams and do that by creating workshops and courses that have been delivered around the world.
Learn more about Georgetown’s professional workshop Entrepreneurial Leadership Capacity led by Jay Markiewicz. 


This post was shared by Maria van Hekken – faculty in Georgetown’s Executive Certificate in Leadership Coaching.

What would it take for you to live life in full flourish?

If you flowed in the wind like flowers do?

If you naturally tilted your gaze unabashedly toward the light?

If you blossomed right where you’re planted now,

Grew luxuriantly for all to see,

Achieved success as you define it,

And created seeds of change as only you know how?

What if you reached your full height (and power),

If others looked to you for advice or inspiration,

If you planted seeds as far and wide as the breezes will carry?

Yes, you can flourish.

You can dare to thrive.

It’s all right to blossom in this season

To show what you’re made of

To love who you are and the life you’ve cultivated.

Look at the clever flourishes of the sky-blue clematis,

The soft yellow flowers of tomatoes-to-be,

The feathery fronds of the grasses everywhere –

They don’t worry what others might think.

They carry on, doing what they were meant to do.

And really:

Who among us looks at a flower and asks, why are you allowed to be so amazing?

To be so happy?

To be so admired?

Now, this summer,

This time in your life,

Live your life fully,

Share your beauty with the world,

Go forth and flourish, as you are meant to.


Read more from Maria van Hekken on her Positive Thinking for Leadership Success blog here. 

Caring for Our Common Home

This post was shared by Lynn Screen, Managing Director in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.

This month marks the 51st Earth Day, a global celebration and reminder of the fragility of our planet.  This year, we also celebrate Georgetown University’s newest Jesuit value, “Care for Our Common Home”.

“Care for Our Common Home” calls us to enter into a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”  In addition to protecting the Earth through conservation and preservation efforts, there is also a moral imperative at play.   We recognize the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color, so we are called to advance the work of environmental justice.

What can you as a leader do to care for our common home?

Start at Home

Consider your own ecological footprint and reflect on how your lifestyle compares with that of the other 7.6 million people on the Earth.  The are many tools to calculate the impact of your lifestyle choices.  Try this one from the Global Footprint Network.  

Identify ways that you and your family can continue to decrease your ecological impact on our planet.  Reduce your waste, your use of disposable plastics, your meat consumption, and your water use.  Switch to renewable energy sources and to buying as much as possible locally. Commit to starting something different today.

Learn About Environmental Justice

The environmental justice movement began in the 1980s as massive disparities were exposed in the burden of environmental degradation and pollution facing people of color and low-income communities .  Since then, the environmental justice movement has focused on gaining government support to decrease the disproportionate impact of environmental degradation and pollution- especially on those communities that already face discrimination.

What is your role in environmental justice?  Educate yourself on the environmental justice efforts in your area, and elevate the voices of impacted communities.   As a leader, use your power and position to influence others to support environmental justice.  As a citizen, hold your representatives accountable.   If you are in the U.S., start here at the Environmental Protection Agency site. 

Add a Sustainability Lens to Your Decision Making

Each day, we make thousands of conscious decisions.  What would happen if you paused twice a day to ask yourself, “How will this choice impact the environment?”  In your organization, at what point in your strategic planning, budgeting, procurement, hiring, and operations do you consider the implications on the environment and those disproportionally impacted?  Raise your individual and organizational consciousness by adding a sustainability lens to your decision making.  If you are a coach or consultant, support your leaders as they navigate the moral call for sustainability, regeneration and environmental justice as they also tend to the bottom line.

Our collective home is calling us to witness the realities of how we use and abuse the Earth in a new way.  We must use our voices and make bold moves to reshape the future of our planet.  After all, we are truly in this together.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Body Intelligence: Coming Home

This post was shared by Marcia Feola, MCC, faculty of Leadership’s Untapped Resource: Body Intelligence in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.

What is body intelligence and why is it important?

First let’s start with an historical perspective. It was not until the 16th century when Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.“ that  we began to believe that the mind, body and emotions are three separate and independent systems.  We now know, with the advancement of neuroscience aided by radiological imaging, that the human body in its totality operates more as a chord: all of the functions and processes work together as a whole system. We have a cognitive rational mind, emotions and physical sensations.

If you think of our human body as a three-legged stool with a mind, body and emotions as its legs, you can readily see that if we take one leg away, the stool falls over. When learning to come home to our body’s intelligence we are learning to operate with all three legs of the stool, which are all of the resources we need to be successful in our journey as a human.

Most people with whom I work talk about wanting to be their full, authentic selves — an auspicious goal for sure. If we, as humans, are not in touch with our bodies and the intelligence in our bodies, we are leaving a large portion of ourselves behind. We are socialized to disregard the important data we receive all day long from our bodies. This is epitomized in many organizations by the request to, “Leave your emotions at the door.” Ignoring physical sensations and emotions is a norm for so many of us. This comment suggests that feelings and emotions are not welcome at work. This is why tapping into body intelligence is actually a homecoming: we’re coming back to our whole self.

The work of body intelligence is to raise processes or patterns into our awareness. Awareness provides us with choice and improves our outcomes and relationships. There are three critical elements to coming home.

1. Pay attention (listen to or tune into)  – Can we be aware of our physical self, the sensations, the moves we make, the cues we receive?

  1. Discernment – How do we make sense of those physical signals?
  1. Choice  – How can we use this information to make choices and inform our actions?

When operating with body intelligence, leaders, coaches, facilitators and others have stated they have immediate access to skills and choices that allow them to show-up with more capacity and wisdom, creating positive outcomes for self and others with greater ease. When working with individuals and organizations, your personal decision tree can shift in any given movement. The fastest and most effective way to access authenticity and effectiveness, while creating inclusiveness and connection – is to come home to body intelligence.

Learn more about Leadership’s Untapped Resource: Body Intelligence in the Institute for Transformational Leadership.

Stress, Resilience, and Recovery

This post was shared by Institute for Transformational Leadership Academic Director – Bill Pullen. 

We’re all human.

Obvious, right? Maybe even a cliché.

But how often have you been witness to people acting as if it isn’t true of themselves or, perhaps, others? How often does decision-making neglect this simple fact?

We’re living in interesting times (another cliché – but also, again, true). The nation is undergoing profound changes that are calling for personal and institutional adaptation to a degree that hasn’t been seen in decades. New possibilities are opening up and, at the same time, new challenges are arising. Leaders are being asked to step up and create a safe path forward for their organizations through a chaotic and turbulent landscape, all while doing the same thing for themselves and their families.

The classic archetype of leadership in American culture is that of a lone figure, demanding and remote, who perseveres by withdrawing and powering through obstacles without regard for the emotional cost to themselves or others. It’s a model that carries with it a lot of implicit baggage around gender and race, which makes it a poor fit for the increasingly diverse workplace of today. It’s also brittle, inflexible, and leaves very little room to be human.

But leaders are human. Organizations and institutions are composed of humans. And what is increasingly apparent is that if we truly accept these facts then the outcomes for both individuals and organizations are better than if we deny them. Rather than weakening us, creating a space for us to understand our gifts and limitations and how they interact with our environment can be a source of great strength. It can bring resiliency.

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as, “…the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves ‘bouncing back’ from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”

Instead of minimizing or dismissing stress, a leader who has resilience is one who allows themselves and others the necessary space to take actions that affirm their human characteristics in a way that promotes growth and strength. The APA suggests building personal resilience by building connections through prioritizing relationships; fostering wellness by taking care of your body and practicing mindfulness; finding purpose by helping others, looking for opportunities for self-discovery; and embracing healthy thoughts by keeping things in perspective, accepting change, and maintaining a hopeful outlook.

There are many ways to develop greater resilience and build in periods of recovery. Every person can find healthy practices that work for them. These practices need not be time consuming; just stepping away from the computer, walking outside for a minute of fresh air between meetings, or pausing and taking a few deep breaths can send a message to the nervous system to slow down. The cumulative effect of utilizing these techniques is the creation of a more resilient physical, emotional, and spiritual posture towards personal and work life.

Leaders play an important role in setting the tone for their organization. A leader who practices resilience techniques is one who creates space for their employees to do so as well. All too often leaders voice encouragement for their subordinates to set appropriate boundaries but do not do so themselves. It is important that leaders model the behaviors they want people to engage in by providing an example as non-verbal cues demonstrated by leaders are at least as important as vocalizing support for healthy practices.

Organizations can be resilient, too. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review titled on organizational resilience the authors write, “To cope – and thrive – in uncertain times, develop scripted routines, simple rules, and the ability to improvise.”

Researchers have identified three broad approaches to getting work done, and what they’ve learned can help managers respond more effectively to highly changeable environments. The first approach is the one we’ve just described: organizational routines, which are efficient when work is predictable. The second approach is simple rules, or heuristics—rules of thumb that help you speed up processes and decision-making and prioritize the use of resources in less-predictable contexts (for example, “We invest only in projects with a projected ROI of 10% or more”). And the third is improvisation—spontaneous, creative efforts to address an opportunity or a problem (for example, when a team figures out how to do manual production because a factory’s automated line has suddenly broken down).

This mix of approaches creates both continuity and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. In other words, it is possible to approach challenges using a set of tools that preserves institutional identity but leaves room for growth.

Everybody goes through turbulent periods. We’re all human. But intentionally foster an attitude of balance – of equilibrium – can help us to meet our challenges and thrive in uncertain times. Leaders who cultivate a framework of daily practices that leaves room for creative growth will find themselves and their organizations better equipped to meet the challenges of the day, whatever the day brings.

Ask yourself: what steps can you take to create resilience in your own life and in the culture of the organizations that you lead?

To learn more about Resilience and Transformational Leadership, check out our podcast:  Transformational Leadership for Transformational Times podcast.