I have asked leaders in different fields whom I respect their views on leadership today and what conversations they think we need to be having. If you find something valuable here, please share this post and leave your comment or question.
Today’s thoughtful leader is Blair Glaser, a leadership mentor and psychotherapist whose clients have ranged from teams at JP Morgan Chase and Este Lauder to individual entrepreneurs to couples seeking ways to lead in relationship. Blair’s distinct gift is in helping leaders as well as couples advance visions with authority and presence.
In this Thought(ful) Leader interview, Blair will share with us her definition of a thought leader, who she has looked up to, and why her client’s testimonial of relationship challenges was so rewarding. – Jeffrey
Jeffrey: When you “look around” the world and within your field, where do you see a need for a bold or new kind of leadership?
Blair: I notice that the greatest impact, the most productivity and the most profitability is generated through relationships. So I began to study what leadership looks like within relationships — intimate relationships especially. I am interested in helping people bring awareness to and learn skills for their leadership at home, with the relationships that are nearest and dearest.
What traits define for you a “thoughtful leader”? What is a “thought leader”?
Thoughtful leaders are curious, reflective folks who synthesize what they notice around them and reflect it back to others in a meaningful and digestible manner — often through tools, methodologies and theories that help people grow.
When did you realize you were a leader in your field, a leader of ideas, or a leader of a conversation?
In my early twenties I was in an empowerment group for women, and the leader referred to me as a leader. Although I hadn’t consciously thought of myself that way, the word brought instant recognition and a feeling of relief.
What’s the conversation you hope more people will have or the question you hope more people will consider this year?
A silent, internal dialogue around love as a verb, via the questions: How am I loving? What actions am I committed to that bring more love into my life? And I’m not just talking about romantic love. I am talking about that wordless experience of opening and devotion that comes from paying attention, from acceptance, and from being known and cherished.
If you could change or influence more people’s perceptions or notions of something, what would it be?
I think the notion of success is distorted. Success is not only about numbers. It is not a popularity contest. I know that when people are are worried about paying the mortgage or meeting a deadline, it is almost impossible to feel successful. But I teach people another way to connect to success. If there is a moment when instead of taking your tension out on your loved ones, or reacting negatively to your kid, spouse, or fill in the blank, you pause and redirect the interaction in a way that creates space and connection, that moment is a success. It is rich and powerful, because if you had done what you usually do, what your reactive self wanted to do, you would be perpetuating a type of deadness and even in some cases, damage. Instead you chose the leadership to move things towards life. That is powerful. That is success, too — maybe for generations to come.
As an author, what has been one of the most rewarding responses to one of your book that lets you know you’re making the kind of difference you want to?
There are a couple of students who took my course, based on the book I am writing, called Intimate Authority: Create Drama-Free Relationships Without Losing Yourself, who check in and let me know how their practice is going. I am so humbled and awed by their feedback. One person said of her new relationship, “We got to that point where there was tension brewing, and I paused. Never before in a moment like that have I had fun! But I knew I had new tools to use, and I was like — this is it! This is when I get to use them.” That was it for me. The notion that I could help someone experience a relationship challenge as creative and playful, as FUN, when for so many those experiences are hell, well . . . .no words. My job is done.
Who is someone you have looked up to or looked back to as an exemplar for how you hope you lead?
There are so many! The first person that always comes to mind is Kate Harper-Nodell. She was a theater director, and also my first therapist and then mentor before she died 15 years ago. No one person or figure has ever had more impact on me than Kate — she was super intuitive, authoritative and warm. Now I continue to study with and learn from her husband Dick, a renowned organizational consultant who works with a variety of universities and companies like NPR, and can be heard in a little podcast called Work Mysteries on a site called Pursuit of Spark. Dick has a way of asking unexpected, penetrating questions and listening for the answers as if his ears are on steroids. He often spins me around so that I see things in a totally different way. His humor, wisdom and love of life shine through in his teachings.
What one thing or idea or wisdom do you hope people remember you for?
I live to help people step into their authority in life, love and work. I am passionate about authority — being the author or director of your life. And I know the work I am doing with individuals, in organizations and with couples will have lasting impact. But when it really boils down to it, there is a tagline I used to use in my writing that pretty much sums up the key to a successful life:
Remember: Love Yourself, No Matter What.
Blair Glaser is a writer, consultant, psychotherapist, leadership mentor and relationship coach. She has been practicing her unique mentoring process – a blend of psychotherapy, consulting and coaching — for 17 years, and has run groups and workshops since 1998. Blair brings joy, irreverent humor and a willingness to take risks to her clients and audiences. She is writing a book about her unique, 4-part method of creating satisfying, drama-free relationships, borrowing concepts and skills she uses in her leadership and team trainings. Find out more at blairglaser.com.