What I Learned in a 10-month Leadership Program

(by Katrin)

I recently completed a pretty amazing learning journey and wanted to share some of what I learned with you.

I shared that journey with 23 other, intrepid souls (my new best friends) in California. My cohort was inspiring and includes investors who care deeply about the leadership skills and teams of the companies they invest in. And we had geniuses from firms like AirBnb, Apple, Nest and OpenTable.

The scenery was gorgeous, the learning transformative, the price tag high – but worth every penny. I highly recommend it! 

My goals? Deepen my understanding of leadership psychology in service of the executives and teams I coach. And, I was curious about this Co-Active Leadership Program. It has a stellar reputation. People rave about it. It’s intense, immersive and experiential. There are no lectures. My kind of learning.

Program structure? The program is split into 4 one-week retreats, each with a theme — “Creating from Self”, “Creating from Other”, “Creating from Nothing” and then “Creating from Everything”. It’s full of thought-provoking, visceral exercises. 

What I learned? Here are 4 key take-aways that stand out for me. 

1. Dare to feel close

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We’re a social species and the sense of closeness and belonging is a survival instinct. When we feel close to each other, ease and flow are possible.

One exercise raised our awareness of how we have beliefs that create distance and keep us from feeling close to each other, limiting team cohesion and team flow.

For example, at one point the question came up, “How close do you feel to this group”? One man, who flew in across 10 time zones, said “Well, I don’t really feel that close because I’m the only person from (this region of the world)”. 

Then another pipes in “I don’t feel super close because I’m the only gay guy here”. I chirp in “Well, I’m the only Swiss and somehow that kept me different, separate”. One said “I’m the youngest here”, another “I’m the oldest here”. And, with a BANG we realized that ALL of us walk around with these limiting beliefs. They don’t serve us or the teams we’re on.

If you happen to read this while sitting in an office, look around, and know that GUARANTEED, all your colleagues are feeling separate, in a way that does not serve anyone.

Questions for you

  • How close do YOU feel to those around you?
  • What self-definitions do you have that keep you separate?

2. Drop the facade

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When trust is present, teams can thrive. 

One exercise highlighted a common behavior we have that hinders trust. It’s the mask or facade that we tend to wear.

It can be cool putting on a poker face in tough negotiations, but being guarded and keeping up a facade over time is isolating, wastes energy, kills connection and trust. So, DARE TO RELAX AND DROP THE FACADE.

For example, personally, I always tried to be so “professional” and “serious” and got feedback from my tribe that it creates distance. I discovered that people like the playful, sassy side of me, and want more of that, because when I show up in that way they connect and trust me. How liberating! 

This heightened my ability to sense more clearly when a client hides behind his/her facade. It’s usually unconscious for them. And I’m fearless in calling them out on it, so they can be at choice.

I was thrilled to hear one client report back, “I’m much more authentic in how I show up. It’s liberating. I can just be me”.


  • How do you think people see YOU?
  • Which parts of you do they want more of? 

Ask them yourself. Or, let’s chat and I’ll ask them. I do confidential interviews of your peers, and / or 360’s.

3. Know your impact

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When you walk into a room, the impact you have with your presence is real and unique.

Your ability to understand your impact, what’s unique about your presence, to embrace and work with that, will help you step into your most authentic, powerful leadership. 

For example, imagine seeing Meryl Streep walk on stage. Without saying anything, her presence has a certain, unique impact on the audience. By contrast, visualize Johnny Depp. They have a completely different presence and impact. So do you. 

The challenge? It’s hard for us humans to know how others see us. It’s a common blindspot we have. So, we waste energy trying to be or act, how we think we SHOULD be. When we do that, others sense that we’re not authentic. That hinders trust. 

Can you imagine Elon Musk trying to be like Bill Gates or Oprah trying to be like Ellen? They would give away their power. To realize your leadership potential, be you, do you. So, learn how you come across. If you want help, let’s talk. It’s what I do.

4. Read and shift energy fields

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One thing that really stuck with me were the exercises that sharpened our skills in reading and shifting energy fields.

The ability to do that is a leadership “super-power”.

 Think back to a meeting that felt like the energy was “off”. Maybe it felt like everyone was checked out, or like somebody just died. Or, it felt tense or chaotic. What did you do? Just notice it and sit there, doing nothing? 

We learned that if you feel it, others feel it too. So, you may as well “name it”. The person who “names it” is instantly seen as showing leadership. When you name it, you raise everyone’s awareness and that creates choice. For example, you can say, “I don’t know about you but it feels like we’re all pooped, do we want to take a break?”. Even just the fact of naming it, shifts it. It was super-cool to play with new ways of noticing, naming and shifting fields. 

Good leaders are great at reading and shifting fields, if and as needed.Want to learn more? Let’s talk.


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