The Ethos of Enlightened Leadership

It’s Autumn, and you can see the seasons changing, multi-colored wind blown trees, rustling leaves falling down everywhere, creating a stirring, whirling dream world.

The white moon becomes the blue moon which balloons into the orange moon ~ the Autumn moon we remember from long ago and faraway comes back to visit us once again.

Even though the air of Autumn feels and smells strangely different, something is in the air, and we’re all breathing it in, taking it inside of us.

Of course, how you experience Autumn depends on where you are in the world. Isn’t that true? Though Autumn isn’t quite as vibrant or dramatic here as it is in other places, it can still be a wonderfully romantic season (if it’s within you).

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s a quiet calm before the winter rains come. Still, it’s the time of the season for reflection. As the year winds down and we all slow down a bit for year-end retrospection, introspection amidst the noise of holiday celebrations and distractions. Time is passing, not everlasting.

As for me, I’ve been thinking about a peculiar 2012 trend in business: a tendency to use catch-all words and phrases to mean anything and everything. It is surrealistic. It’s such a supercilious, stupefying trend, and it’s happening everywhere I go:  Inside mega-corporations, small and middle market companies, within the bandwidth of the “management consulting community.” We’re all breathing the same air, in boardrooms, in working meetings and sessions, in broad daylight, in the stillness of the night.

As organizational leadership consultants, Vitalia Consulting is in the process of expanding our multi-disciplinary consulting and coaching teams, and in the interviews, this strange phenomena is also evident. For instance, one thing I’ve noticed is that “change management” is being applied to every change initiative, and can mean anything to anyone. When words lose definition our language becomes blurred, and the power of words diminishes. In other words: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” is no longer true. Sure, “change management” can have different applications and be different interventions but, come on! Anything Goes? Are there no longer clear definitions to words, phrases, and terms?

I contend that this unsettling trend is not the natural evolution of our professional work, or the necessary interference of technology twisting the signals. More than ever, I am convinced that this disturbing trend has been incubating within the guiding principles and character of those who have the power to create, influence, and reinforce organizational culture, values, beliefs, norms, and the rules of the game. A simple suggestion: Change the leadership and you will change the culture.

So ask yourself: “Who am I? Where do I stand? Now that I know, what will I do?”

In the film “The Visioneers” the company is “the largest, friendliest, and most profitable corporation in the history of humankind.” Yet, the employees are exploding when they dare to dream and act on their dreams. It finally becomes an international crisis when the number exceeds 100,000 implosions. That’s when the President of the United States gets involved, supporting the corporation’s goal to manufacture a device (a relaxer) that will be fitted on the neck of every employee – to stop those dreamers who act on their dreams! In “The Visioneers”: The quickest way to kill your dream is to kill what you love most about your dreams.

Question why, in our multicultural society, when you’re asked to blow-out your birthday candles, you’re told from the moment you understood language, don’t tell your wishes aloud, and don’t even whisper your wishes – because if you do – your wishes won’t come true. We inherit these odd customs and traditions, and if we don’t question them, we pass these deranged values and beliefs onto our children. The same thing happens in organizations. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

“Leadership Development” is another one of those catch-all phrases that seems to encompass everything under the sun and moon and stars. Who wants to be leader? Step right up! Roll right up! Come with us on the magical mystery tour. All you need is love and information, the right suit and tie, the right haircut, some leadership coaching, and probably the right shoes. And: Yes! You too can be a leader! (Sorry folks, this doesn’t work in reality, at least, not in the long run.)

Leadership Development is reserved for those who have the innate capacity, talent, and potential to be a leader. Perception and self-assessment are not enough to ensure that the right people are selected and promoted. 

Enlightened Leaders are born, not made. We believe: The identification, assessment, nurturing, and cultivation of emerging leaders should be a business imperative. Opportunity is the missing piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t matter how much innate leadership capacity, talent, and potential there may be in your organization, it lies dormant and fades away, without opportunity.

Find the keyhole, turn the key, open the doors of perception to build organizational capability and expand leadership capacity. Align your open organization with the strategic business vision of your Enlightened Leadership.

Imagine you have a metaphoric factory that produces leaders. Be rational. You can’t develop anyone or produce anything without having the right materials. Besides, even with the right materials, you can’t develop anyone or produce anything if you’re in the wrong factory!

In much the same way, your organization must be tooled to manufacture what you want. How is your organizational culture set-up? Do you know? Is it set-up to produce the absolute best managers and leaders for your business? Well, is it?

You’ve probably experienced leadership development programs which espouse inspiration, motivation, and modeling – to be replicated throughout the organization. Blah, blah, blah…

Inspiring What? Motivating What? Modeling What? Why? To What End?

I despise “leadership training and management training programs” which presume that what can be taught can necessarily be learned, that those who are selected, promoted into management can necessarily become leaders. Remember, leadership is not about position, title, or entitlement.

Leadership is behavioral. Enlightened Leaders are hybrids: the right blend and balance of Knowledge | Emotions | Thinking | Abilities | Actions. Behavioral actions are the results of how these competencies are developed, or not. Most organizations still fail to fully understand, embrace, engage, and capitalize on these competencies in meaningful ways.

In our vital project-based research: After all these years of countless workshops, seminars, and webinars, we find that most companies are still mass-producing bad, ineffectual managers and leaders with these salient traits experienced by the human beings who report to them:

  1. Weak management/leadership competencies and capabilities
  2. Low Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  3. Absence of relationship-building skills
  4. Hypocritical
  5. Pretentious
  6. Autocratic: Suppressive, Oppressive, Depressive
  7. Incapable of dealing with ambiguity, and making sense of it
  8. Inability or unwillingness to adapt to change
  9. Reactive
  10. Apathetic
  11. Unwillingness to admit own ignorance
  12. Neglectful of own personal development
  13. Organizational decisions based on corporate politics
  14. Inability or unwillingness to develop others
  15. Ineffective Communication Skills
  16. Untrustworthy
  17. Ineffective task management
  18. Inability to accept feedback
  19. Unethical: Selfishly blaming others for their failures, while taking credit for the successful ideas of others 
  20. Insufficient Production (Bottom-line: Is it any wonder why?)

With the warning signs just listed, what would you do with the incompetent managers and leaders in your company? What to do? What to do? What would you say are the remedies to this dilemma? What do we do with dysfunctional managers and leaders?

Far too often people are promoted into management/leadership positions for the wrong reasons ~ mainly because of their prior functional performance or who they know or both. Either way, without any structured assessment, these are hardly predictors of future management/leadership effectiveness and success.

Think about it…

  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great scientist becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great musician becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great teacher becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great surgeon becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great actor/director/producer becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great athlete becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great psychologist becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great software engineer becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great artist becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great politician becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great attorney becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great parent becomes one.
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great consultant/coach becomes one
  • Not everyone who aspires to being a great manager/leader becomes one.

Get the message. Salieri could not become Mozart, no matter how strong his desire. No band will replace ever “The Beatles.”

It’s the difference between wishes and dreams.

The Ethos of Enlightened Leadership is about the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of an individual, organization, or business. You want to experience satisfaction? Try This. You’ll love it!

We are Vitalia Consulting. We are awakeners.

Marc Ortiz de Candia | Executive Partner | Vitalia Consulting







The Genius of Being Bold

“Whatever you can do or dream you can do…begin it! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Enlightened Leadership is about action, not position or title or entitlement. Decisive action is the key to any decisive victory. It begins with believing in something meaningful to the business organization, and acting on that belief. For those who see Enlightened Leadership as a soft concept, nothing more than Sunshine Supermen sitting around listening to Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow,” wrong you are, when you are…Guess Again!

Enlightened leaders move swiftly, out-maneuvering their competition with precision. There is an old Italian saying: “Chi si ferma e perduto.” (when translated to English) “He who hesitates is lost.” It’s a truism in life and in business. In French, “Celui qui hesite est perdu.” In Spanish, “El que duda esta perdido.” In any language, the first product or service to market wins, and dominates the marketplace 96.69% of the time.

Take the first steps toward greatness. Be a bold leader. Become the market dominator, armed with an arsenal of resources produced by your ability to create a thoughtful, risk-accepting organizational culture supportive of innovation and investments for the future.

Unfortunately, traditional corporate cultures are petrified forests of apathy and in-decision, a culture of fear, disdain, fatigue and boredom, negativity, conformity and complacency, reinforced by the executive hierarchy, sadly inherited by the emerging leaders of tomorrow. Traditional corporate cultures, especially in the mature stage of the business life cycle, can become increasingly rigid and risk-averse. Entrenched behaviors and cultures kill the innovative spirit of your people.

In the new age of enlightenment, I believe that there is a better way. We’ve explored many other dimensions of what it means to be an Enlightened Leader: Being open-minded, empathic, High EQ (emotional intelligence) intuitive, actively listening and observing, having a sense of purpose, a willingness to act thoughtfully, and so on. Another important dimension of being an Enlightened Leader is “Being Bold.”

Be bold because innovation requires taking risks. Nurture, support, and cultivate an organizational culture that makes space for innovative insights. To create the business of tomorrow, you must break-down the inhibitors of change today.

While always considering the risks involved (bolstered with contingency plans) Enlightened Leaders are Napoleonic in their fearlessness, relentlessly fearless in the face of overwhelming odds, in the pursuit of their dreams. “Cogito ergo zoom!” (I think, therefore I go fast!) Create a pluralistic culture of bold, free-thinking, decision-makers who deliver decisive actions and results for the good of all.

Understand the idea here is not to replicate Napoleonic leaders through-out your organization. The point is to take one of Napoleon’s most brilliant strengths: a willingness to act boldly and decisively when perceiving the opportunity to do so.

To quote Napoleon: “Ability is nothing without opportunity.” Those opportunities come from the organizational culture that you’re willing to create. In essence, you can create your own opportunities.

In sharp contrast, King Louis XVI (incapable of decisive action, preferring personal interests to the interests of the people) was executed during the French Revolution, just as Napoleon was rising to power.

Yet, the genius of being bold has been abandoned by most so-called “modern business leaders and organizations.” Why? Closed organizational cultures are oppressive and suppressive, causing people to fear political and career retaliation for speaking-up. Remember, silence foreshadows failure.

Ask yourself these questions: Do you have the audacity to challenge yourself and the systemic leadership behaviors within your organization? Are employees at all levels overwhelmed by your leadership’s short-sightedness? Can you survey the whole battlefield? Can you see your strategic advantages by looking at your organizational weaknesses?

Believe in something or you stand for nothing. Anything less is to live without true commitment or conviction.

Here’s a simple way to assess the state of your organizational culture. When you arrive at the next “important internal meeting” look around the room. What do you see? Is the meeting room alive with energy and ideas, or do you see a roomful of the living dead, zombies everywhere you look? Enlightenment can be frightening!

{This section is mostly intended for historical interest and reference points: As polarizing as any discussion about Napoleon can be, his bold vision and brilliant strategies are inarguable. Napoleon was hated by his enemies but respected by them at the same time. The Duke of Wellington, Sir Arthur Wellesley, when asked who he thought was the greatest general who ever lived, answered “In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.”

Born Napoleone di Buonaparte on the island of Corsica, only one year after Corsica was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa, he later adopted the more French-sounding Napoleon Bonaparte.

Introducing a plethora of innovative strategies, Napoleon’s victories were more decisive than anyone had experienced before. Exporting revolution to the rest of Europe, the movements of national unification and the rise of the nation state, Napoleon’s religious policy emancipated Protestants to an equal status with Catholics. The Concordant of 1801 contained principles that served France for the next 100 years.

The Napoleonic Code was a “revolutionary project” embraced by much of Europe, instituting several lasting reforms, including: centralized administration of the departments, higher education, a tax system, a central bank, civil and criminal law codes, road/bridge/sewer systems, breaking the back of feudalism, and remained in force long after Napoleon’s defeat. Credit Napoleon for reorganizing the Holy Roman Empire, streamlining a thousand entities into 40 nation states. In mathematics, Napoleon’s Theorem is still used today.

Many in the international community still admire the many accomplishments of the self-made emperor, and celebrate his legacy. Moreover, many probably wish Napoleon had achieved his unrealized goal: To make it a law that only those lawyers and attorneys who win their cases should receive fees. How much litigation could have been prevented by such a measure! This is a brilliant idea, wouldn’t you agree?}

Now that you know about the “Genius of Being Bold” do you have what it takes to start your own innovation revolution?  

  • Get the framework and the tools to move beyond current impasses 
  • Be prepared to get uncomfortable for awhile
  • Time to remove the handcuffs, the shackles, and the blinders
  • Get out of the state of denial
  • Confess the Machiavellian truths about “business as usual”
  • Challenge the complacency of day-to-day routines
  • Implode the cannons defending the status quo
  • Set yourself (and your organization) free
  • Deliver the core message of change as revolutionary, thoughtful, and resilient
  • Ignite the thinking revolution
  • Order a call to arms throughout your organization
  • Renounce the tranquility of repetition
  • Everyone is an innovator / Everyone is a change agent
  • Be prepared to look at yourself as you look objectively at your culture
  • Time to create the future you want for your business
  • Empower people to think critically, question relentlessly, act boldly
  • Move your business from complacent to competitive!

In partnering with our Vitalia Consulting clients, our consulting methodology is purposely designed to identify the challenges and discover the possible solutions together:

  1. We Listen and Assess. Where is the organizational culture relative to the business?
  2. We Partner and Facilitate: Strategic Vision and Strategy Process
  3. We Partner and Facilitate: Overcoming obstacles on the road to victory
  4. We Lead and Facilitate: Leadership Coaching Sessions (Group and Individual)
  5. We Lead and Facilitate: Leadership Learning Sessions
  6. We Partner and Facilitate: Individual and Organizational Behavioral Shifts
  7. We Partner and Facilitate: Creating an “immersive” sense of place, of home for everyone within your organization
  8. We Partner and Advise: Sustaining the Vision over time.

By the way, this is not done by simply having an annual PowerPoint Presentation!

Be a bold, enlightened leader. This is a better way of building organizational capability. As the speed of organizational behavioral change accelerates, critical thinking, questioning, inventing, and exploring become business priorities.

The future of high growth business belongs to those (leaders and organizations) who can adapt and grow, who lead with boldness. You’ll need the tools to move beyond your current impasses.

Understand the boldness of these assertions because without revolution nothing changes. Remember, powerful words backed by powerful actions is a catalyst for true change. Strategically placed Enlightened Leaders are vital to your organization and to your business. After all, there’s a little Napoleon in every one of us. Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite!

Marc Ortiz de Candia, Executive Partner, Vitalia Consulting

To learn more about how we can work together, go to the partnering page at and complete the contact form. Let us know how we can help you, or someone you know. Every relationship begins with a conversation.

The Sense of Purpose

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it. Albert Einstein


Hello again, Enlightened Leaders of the World. In the New Age of Enlightenment, it’s time to “Unleash and Declare your Inner Radicalness!” Incorporate this phrase into your vocabulary. Why? Nothing ventured, nothing gained – because Enlightened Leaders are radical beings with a sense of purpose. I dare say, it is the inherent responsibility of every Enlightened Leader to:

  • Unleash and Declare your Inner Radicalness!
  • Define your sense of purpose as the foundation for all decisions and actions.
  • Model pragmatic integrity.
  • Refine your Emotional Intelligence. Value High EQ in people.
  • Embrace big, revolutionary ideas.
  • Utilize radical thinking to inspire and cultivate emerging leaders.
  • Challenge traditional management and leadership concepts. 
  • Rejuvenate pluralistic organizational/cultural systems.
  • Be Different. A model and catalyst for true transformation.
  • Rid the workplace of every autocratic, bureaucratic Fascist, at every management and executive level, and do it now!
  • Measure everything you do against your sense of purpose.

It’s time to revitalize organizational cultures so that people can genuinely thrive, where brilliance is nurtured, and the magnificence of human creativity is valued, not just philosophy or policy printed on a poster.

Enlightened Leaders are fearless, not afraid to fail to succeed. There is no aversion to risk. After all, for those who might question these words, are we not the children of revolutionary patriots? Remember, the USA was founded by Radical Thinkers, based on revolution against an empire. We have far more in common with the French than we care to admit. In fact, without the French, especially the Marquis de Lafayette, there would be no chanting of “USA, USA, USA!”

I was recently moved by the film “Hugo” a serious work of art directed by Martin Scorsese. Well-crafted movies (or films if you prefer) have always had the potential power to capture dreams. Dreams come from imagination, imagination from dreams. The movie takes place in Paris circa 1931. Hugo is a boy who lives and works in the clock tower of a train station, fixing things, moving in the shadows and the shafts of the industrial age. A motherless then a fatherless child, homeless, left alone to find his way in this world. He goes mostly unnoticed except in those moments when he must come into the light of day to survive. People in ivory towers don’t know what it takes for the “have-nots” to start over, every single day, with absolutely nothing.

Hugo is harassed by the train station police, threatened to be sent away to an orphanage with all the other unfortunate ones. He has one possession, an expressionless automaton with missing parts, given to him by his father. Like the automaton, Hugo has missing parts, no sense of purpose. Befriended in a round-a-bout way by a toymaker (Georges) with a secret past, and Isabelle – the goddaughter, Hugo is forced to subsist with heart-breaking pain and suffering, far too much torment and anguish for an innocent boy who doesn’t deserve his lot in life.

Here are a few lines from the movie:

Hugo: (praying, pleading to no one) Everything and everyone has a purpose. My purpose was in being with you, my father. The entire world is a big machine. I couldn’t be just an extra part. I have to be here for some reason. (talking to the automaton) You have to be here for some reason, too.

Georges (The Toymaker) : Happy endings are only in the movies. I am broken. Once broken, I lose my purpose. I may not be fixed again. I may never have my purpose again. I have to be here for some reason. This is my only chance to work again…I am just waiting to do what I’m supposed to do, work again…the work I was always meant to do.

Hugo’s quest for purpose transforms everyone around him.

In high society (the haves) people can be accepting and understanding of the miserable unfortunates (the have-nots) for awhile, for an impatient while, because there’s a limit to how benevolent these people can be, especially the ones who live in ivory towers. And then, there comes a day when these same benevolent people wish that you never existed, and so they simply wish you away. The benevolent let go and watch you fall down, down, down. I know, because once upon a time, I was an unfortunate son, yearning for answers to unanswered pleas, prayers, and questions.

My childhood and early adulthood experiences were cold, harsh life lessons which taught me what it really means to be different in this world. Society had rejected the working class, the poor, the ethnically mixed, among many other groups.

After years filled with frustrations and disappointments, I finally discovered my purpose for being at 33 when I founded De Candia International Corporation, a multicultural consulting and learning services firm. My life experiences, street smarts, passionate intelligence, business savvy, and understanding of human issues of difference strongly influenced our business capabilities and the key concept of “Pluralistic Leadership.” I was at the right place at the right time, pleasantly surprised by my self-made success.

Suddenly, my professional and personal life became meaningful. This new-found “sense of purpose” gave me clarity. I could see the world with fresh eyes. To this day, all my decisions and actions are driven by my sense of purpose.

Now here’s where you come-in. You, The Enlightened Leader!  

Enlightened Leaders have a distinct sense of purpose and self-worth. A sense of purpose engenders a sense of commitment and conviction for those around you, and within your organization. Enlightened Leaders are not satisfied with the status-quo, determined to transform organization culture and related systems in alignment with their sense of purpose, a thoughtful purpose. It requires radical thinking. No great invention, work of art, product, concept, cultural revolution, or world-changing ideal has been achieved without radical thinking. Create workplace environments where daydreaming works for the betterment of all people, where people feel free to be human beings – innovating innovation, where business exists in a world without borders. 

Unenlightened leaders (you know who you are) can best be described in these terms…

In her new book, Leading So People Will Follow, Erika Anderson explores “31 Telltale Signs You Are A Horrible Leader” – Boiled Down to 3:

  • focus on protecting and advancing only themselves
  • are interested in people only as a means to that end
  • assume that good people are a threat

Learn to lead so that people will follow you – because they choose to follow you. Lead so that followers become willing participants in your vision and mission.

Without a sense of purpose we are lost, without direction or hope. We are all here on this planet for a reason. We are all in organizations for a reason. We are not here to replace the machines from the industrial age. When we cannot see ourselves reflected in organizations, when we do not have stock in society, we lose our sense of purpose and self-worth.

Most organizations have vision/mission statements that do not translate or resonate throughout the organization or the marketplace. Why? Because without a sense of purpose, and the role they may play in the fulfillment of the vision/mission, groups of people become aimless wanderers without commitment or conviction.

Why not permeate your organization with a simple, well-conceived “Purpose Statement?” A set of working values and beliefs, core premises demonstrated through actions, a sense of purpose that everyone can live-by.

Unenlightened leaders reject transformation and change, knowingly sending rays of light to the masses when the truth is there is no real hope, only false hopes which feed hopelessness and despair. These are the leaders who perpetuate closed organizational cultures, imprisoning people. These organizations are prisons, dark places where dreams and imaginations are sentenced to death.

In business as in life, it’s a huge mistake to ignore groups of people, especially people without a sense of purpose and self-worth because these are people with nothing left to lose. If this is your choice, then prepare for the inmates to storm the asylum that you’ve built. It won’t be a riot, it’ll be a revolt.

All my life, I have been surrounded by machines, machines of heavy metal and moving parts, machines of plastic and silicon chips, even human leadership machines, but I’ve never understood machines, especially machines without real people running them.

Enlightened Leaders open a portal to the world of dreams and possibilities, leadership development that delivers brilliance by design.

Remember, as a leader positively impacting others, it’s essential to remain open to learning and growing yourself. Being a great leader is a balancing act, always a balancing act. Be a life-long learner. Use 30% of your learning time to develop knowledge, skills and behaviors. Use the remaining 70% on real-world practice time. The tools for developing Enlightened Leaders is distinct from other learning solutions. Simulations give emerging leaders the opportunity to practice new knowledge, skills, and behavioral insights. Stimulating discussion and sincere reflection are keys to everlasting learning.

Remember, Enlightened Leaders shift individual, organizational, and business behavior. You may not change the world, but you can transform organizational/cultural systems so that your business can adapt in the global economy, in the pluralistic marketplace.

Ask yourself: Which leadership path am I choosing to take? Am I an Enlightened Leader or Unenlightened Fascist Autocratic Bureaucrat or something in-between? Who am I?  Where do I stand?

Now, let’s go back to the beginning. Ask yourself: Am I an Enlightened Leader? If so, to what extent am I willing to:

  • Unleash and Declare my Inner Radicalness!
  • Define my sense of purpose as the basis for all my decisions and actions.
  • Model pragmatic integrity.
  • Refine your Emotional Intelligence. Value High EQ in people.
  • Embrace big, revolutionary ideas.
  • Utilize radical thinking to inspire and cultivate emerging leaders.
  • Challenge traditional management and leadership concepts.
  • Rejuvenate pluralistic organizational/cultural systems.
  • Be Different. A model and catalyst for true transformation.
  • Rid the workplace of every autocratic, bureaucratic Fascist, at every management and executive level, and do it now!
  • Measure everything I do against my sense of purpose.

It’s time to fly your true colors.

Let’s continue the conversation with a sense of purpose.

Marc Ortiz de Candia, Visionary Thought Leader, Vitalia Consulting

What Do You Say and Do?

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962 in Houston, Texas USA

When I was a small boy (believe me, when I tell you that I was a very small boy) I saw President John F. Kennedy’s “Moon Speech” on TV. It was an awe-inspiring moment for me, for most Americans. Few people remember how unpopular and unsupported “space travel” was at that time. Most people didn’t believe it was even possible. It was something you could only imagine, or experience in science-fiction books and movies. Most politicians thought it was too ambitious, and unrealistic. JFK had an ace up his sleeve: A tenacious vision backed with passionate intelligence and conviction. The “Moon Speech” shifted American perception of space travel, and in turn, our sense of other endless possibilities.

As a working-class boy, I wasn’t permitted to be a free-thinker. I was imprisoned by the limitations dictated by class and ethno-centric discrimination: Hell on earth! I was constantly bombarded by messages from those who brandished absolute power, telling me/showing us, that nothing I dreamt would ever come true for me, or for any one of us.

JFK moved me to see, for the first time in my embryonic life, that anything is possible if you believe in the vision, if you are genuinely committed to making the vision come alive. You must commit without hesitation or doubt or excuse to retreat, to fallback. No matter what others say and do to destroy your dreams, JFK showed how vital it is to move forward and execute your vision with confidence. Defiance in the face of overwhelming odds.

We sometimes tend to romanticize great leaders like JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi. We focus on their vision and charisma, forgetting that these enlightened leaders are best remembered for getting things done. Getting things done is the real legacy of these enlightened leaders. We’ve all experienced managers, executives, and politicians with vision and charisma (who may even look the part) but do absolutely nothing. Vision and charisma are not enough, enlightened leaders possess a High EQ (emotional quotient) for getting things done with emotional intelligence.

Being an enlightened leader is not about espousing new rhetoric or reciting recycled jargon. Enlightened Leaders execute their strategic vision. Words and actions are consistently in alignment.

Contrary to the same old tune we’ve all heard before: Silence is not golden.

In the multicultural management consulting and learning services firm that I founded and led, De Candia International Corporation (1987-2007) we uncovered the “conspiracy of silence” in Corporate America whereby no one says anything to challenge or confront systemic deception and collusion, to keep the status quo intact. A conspiracy of silence engenders collusion, and collusion is the arch-enemy of change.

The message: Lead sans silence. Speaking-up makes a difference. Execute your vision with conviction. Lead with determination while remaining open to pluralistic perspectives.  

Understand the value of speaking-up, taking a stand, with conviction. While no one else may believe in your dreams, it doesn’t matter what other people think, even when you feel the whole world is against you. If you feel that you can’t speak-up: ask yourself, “What messages am I receiving from within my organizational culture, telling me it’s not safe to speak-up.” The answer always lies within how the organizational culture is set-up. Change the set-up of the culture and you’ll see the behavioral change. Try this in small ways: participating in a meeting, working with a team on a project. You know that you believe in your vision, and you are willing to take the calculated risks to see that it happens, by whatever means necessary (without becoming the new Prince Machiavelli).

What matters most is what happens in the long run. JFK didn’t live to see his moon dream realized. Others, who were inspired by his vision, fulfilled his dream in 1969. No one accomplishes anything alone. Understand this: “Resilient conviction” is part of every enlightened leader’s behavioral profile.

Believe me when I tell you, I was rejected by everyone under the moon and sun, ridiculed as a politically incorrect ranting and raving lunatic (even by many of the people closest to me – my colleagues in other firms and practices). I was excluded, an out-cast by some organizations, who was said that I was conceptually and literally wrong about everything I conceived to be true. Yet my firm thrived for more than 20 years with impressive Fortune, Global, and Inc. 500 clients. Other management consulting firms interpreted my professional life as a contradiction (or just dismissed me for being a crazed, conflicted, Spanish-French Pisces).

Despite what fascist, authoritarian textbooks may have taught you, listen to your inner voice, see with your mind’s eye. Think about it: Are you flying your true colors? Are you saying what you believe? Or, are you just repeating what you been told is the proper company line. Great leaders are revolutionary not evolutionary, executing their visions with precision. Enlightened Leaders use their voice as a catalyst for action and change.

Come what may, when is the wrong decision, the right decision? When no one around you believes in doing the right thing, but you. Learn how to speak-up effectively. Challenge the powers that be. Storm the Bastille!

According to recent research from VitalSmarts: Silence Fails. Leaders can substantially improve their organizations ability to execute on high stakes projects and initiatives. Yes, you can break the code of silence on five astoundingly common yet mostly unspoken, undisclosed, and ignored problems that contribute significantly to almost all project and initiative failures.

Based on the VitalSmarts research, when an enlightened leader skillfully creates even a moderately safe environment, the likelihood of a project or initiative failing is reduced by 50%. When enlightened leaders effectively step-up, hitting schedule is 40% more likely, quality improves 60%, and the potential for project or initiative ending with strong morale and intact stakeholder relationships is 70% greater.

Based on the VitalSmarts study, the five crucial conversations most prevalent and most costly to lasting success are:

  1. Fact-free Planning: A project or initiative is set-up to fail when deadlines or resource limits are set with no consideration for reality.
  2. AWOL Senior Executives: Senior Executives (sponsors) provide no leadership, political clout, time, or energy to see a project through.
  3. Skirting: People work around the priority setting process. (You know, there’s one in every crowd, on every team, and more than one in every organization and family.)
  4. Project Chicken: Team leaders and members don’t admit when there are problems with the project, but instead wait for someone else to speak-up.
  5. Team failures: Team members are unwilling or unable to support the project.

Each brings with it a myriad of misses, cost over-runs which plague projects, initiatives, teams, organizations (and yes, dysfunctional co-dependent family relationships). The VitalSmarts key findings show that these problems are most likely caused by a high degree of interdependence among levels and functions. The organizational culture tends to be closed rather than open. Challenging norms, especially within a hierarchy, is the kiss of death. When these problems are not openly and skillfully discussed, projects and relationships fail miserably, significantly impacting what leaders, teams, and organizations can achieve.

Enlightened Leaders influence lasting success and achievements, the way we see ourselves and each other, causing us to re-think what we thought we knew, shifting our perceptions of things, the way we feel and act. Enlightened leaders shoot for the moon, and beyond.

So, what do you say and do? Let’s continue the conversation.

Marc Ortiz de Candia, Executive Partner, Vitalia Consulting

What Do You See? What Do You Hear?

“You see what you want to see. You hear what you want to hear.” -Harry Nilsson

Have you ever noticed how some things we learned long ago and far away, things that were once upon a time valued in business/life, and our pluralistic culture, have been pushed to the wayside, and mostly forgotten like yesterday’s news?

It can evoke questions: What was the point of learning these things in the first place? What was the purpose of the lessons taught to us, the life lessons learned? To what end? Were these just mad theories espoused by respectable gurus of the day? A backwards tape with forward thinking, not meaningful in the long run? Some things change for the better, some things remain the same. Were you just living in an eighties daze? Still have classic business suits with classic concepts in your pockets? Are you no longer the youngest one in the room? You know, the one with all the answers. Ah well, and so it goes.

I am most concerned here about the under-valued skills of listening and observing. Is it possible that we’ve lost the importance of listening and observing in business/life? When was the last time you sincerely listened to understand, quietly observed to perceive – without thinking about what you wanted to say next?

When I was a small boy (maybe 9 or maybe 6) I was sitting with my Father on the east riverbank across from our metropolitan city, our cosmopolitan city.

Being among the working-class poor, we could only own parts of the city in our torn and tattered daydreams. In our shared reality, we didn’t own much of anything, except in imagination. In our mind’s eye, we could be anything, anywhere.

It was twilight. Even though we could feel the world changing rapidly all around us, there was no sense of urgency in my Father’s voice, only gentleness. My Father asked me, “What do you see, what do you hear as you look at the city from this distance?” I didn’t understand what he meant in the moment, or what he was really asking me, but I answered anyway (because that’s what children do). I knew so little about the ways of the world. Even as mature human beings, we tend to tout and lean on only the things we do know. We’re taught to make sure the world knows what we know. And, may the Gods help us if we don’t know the answer. After all, you’re suppose to be the expert, aren’t you?

So even then, in the moment, I thought, “What difference will my answers make to these questions, to our lot in life – surrounded on three sides by factories, and a flood plain on the fourth side? After all, wasn’t everything glorious built from greed and gold? With the victors come the spoils. The steeples are dwarfed by financial towers. Architectural brilliance replaced by concrete boxes in neat little rows. Woe to the man who is different. He shall be mocked, he shall be scourged.”

Still, I remember seeing towering blue glass and silvery steel structures which outlined the skyline darkening our city like a scene from a Batman Movie, complete with a massive power plant down river from us. There were the thickest and tallest smokestacks I had ever seen, filling me with trepidation (despite the fact that I grew-up in the waning days of the industrial age, surrounded by hulking, dilapidated factories that would spew filth, scum particles raining down on us, night and day). I remember walking with my younger sister to our Catholic School, pausing on the street corner, and laughing out-loud because we could feel the pollution tickling our faces like a snow scene from the movie “White Christmas.”

In a few brief years, these same factories would be silenced by the death of industrial manufacturing. I could see aged, arched train bridges with coal black engines steaming in the shadows. Surveying our city more closely I saw a few dimly-lit windows, must have been the men my Father had warned me about: the men with white shirts and ties, smiling with bullet teeth, killing with their smiles, burning the midnight oil (these same men who I’d be competing with in a few years) and fragmented lights glimmering off the water from after business hour offices. There were the bright neon nightclubs along the old gaslight district. Streaming taillights on the outer expressway circled and strangled our city like a noose. Hearing the white noise of traffic and exhaust pipes, I could see the silhouettes of men moving, long trucks resting on the riverfront cobblestones. Remembering routine front page photographs of bodies washed onto the waterfront, could these be the same mafioso guys from our neighborhood?”

My Father then told me about what he had seen and heard looking at his village from across his childhood river. “We dreamers are not alone in this world. I saw dreamers, like you and me, dreamers who do, dreamers who built great church steeples rising to the heavens, grand works of timeless architecture, beautiful bridges that would stand the test of Fascist and Nazi attacks, the sounds of simple conversations and endless laughter streaming from the bistros, vitriolic words exchanged amidst uncontrollable political, social, and cultural differences. The marching of what appeared to be toy soldiers from so far away, the heavy movement of tanks on stone roads, a rumbling blur in a smokey haze, flags unfurled identifying friend or foe. The romantic, shimmering splendor of an empire’s last days.”

He went on to tell me, “Someday, everything you now know, you see and hear, will live only in your memories.” It’s becoming true, you know. Sitting on the same riverbank today, I’d see and hear things differently.

When you look at the world around you, what do you see? What do you hear? Listening and Observation require a quiet inner calm. Do you have what it takes? Remember this: What you’ve been told are the “soft skills” are actually the hard skills that you must master to be a truly successful leader in a global society.

We’ve explored what role “feelings” plays in Thought Leadership writings focused more on Emotional Intelligence, and the importance of developing High EQ: “What Do You Feel?”

Give me a team of learners, not know-it-alls, any day. The first step to enlightened leadership is becoming genuinely open-minded and self-aware, to admit our ignorance. Then, fling open the doors of perception to the importance of listening and observing.

The beginning is always today. Let’s continue the conversation.

Marc Ortiz de Candia, Executive Partner, Vitalia Consulting

Tangerine Tango: Let’s Dance!

Learn the steps of the dance, the art of conversation and build powerful, lasting business relationships that work for you.

Every lasting relationship begins with a conversation, even business relationships, even partnering for mutual benefit. Yet, sometimes we forget the easy way to connect with the new people we meet, on something we have in common, other than business, a simple generous gift of conversation.

The nice thing is that conversation can be about anything, almost anywhere. Natural humor stimulated by life and living in this world, an affinity we share, it may be something complimentary or complementary.

Build powerful, lasting business relationships, especially Advocate Relationships, without breathlessly pontificating about what you do and how you do it, without talking about business, without selling anything at all. No matter what business you are in, the relationship business is key to your business growth.

To illustrate: Did you know that the newest Pantone Color released in 2012 is called “Tangerine Tango.” For our purposes, Tangerine Tango is simply “starting that initial conversation.” The fun part is that you can initiate conversations anywhere, anytime (not exclusively at business events). The potential for human interaction is all around us. You know you’ve got to face the music sometime, somewhere.

Best described as “warm, uplifting, and energizing” Tangerine Tango is the perfect color for increasing business relationships.

Think, act, be Tangerine Tango! Learn the basic steps, the art of engaging in simple conversation is just like a dance. Learn the dance. Practice each step with your newest partner. You will remember where to step with every beat of the music. One caveat, unfortunately if you are not genuinely committed to Tangerine Tango (reflecting the behavioral ways you cultivate relationships) it will be transparent to everyone around you.

You can use Tangerine Tango in networking, in expanding your business relationships, your sphere of influence, again without selling anything. (We can call it, “The No Pitch.”) Learn the dance. Establish rapport, trust, and value creation with people.

Give the gift of value in your conversations to create “Advocate Relationships.” Advocates are people who will make a case to recommend you to others, without you ever asking. Advocate relationships are the most important relationships. These are people who will give you unsolicted referrals because they like and trust you.

Try Tangerine Tango just once. Try it, and decide later. Is it right for you? It’s a simple choice. Work it. You’ll feel Tangerine Tango working for you without you even having to be here, there, and everywhere. Build powerful, lasting relationships that work for you, and you’ll want to do the dance over and over again. There are two other basic steps essential to expanding your business, branding and building your image. We will explore these dance movements another time.

Can you really think outside-the-box? Here it is: Tangerine Tango!

Every lasting relationship begins with a conversation. After all, when’s the last time you really danced in your business life? Remember what they say, “It takes two to Tangerine Tango.” Let’s Dance!

The beginning is always today. Let’s continue the conversation.

Marc Ortiz de Candia, Executive Partner, Vitalia Consulting

Leadership is About Love

"And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give." Lennon-McCartney

Our client focus groups are telling us that the purpose of leadership vital to “building organizational capability” is not just about achieving business aspirations. In fact, talking with diverse groups of professionals, managers, and executives, people are saying in essence, “leadership is about love.”

There is a strong correlation between how leadership is perceived and given definition, and how people experience the state and ways of being in love. Traditional leadership tends to be authoritarian (some might say fascist) based on title and position within the hierarchy. Have ever you met anyone who was coerced into a loving relationship?

When you think about it, leadership and love are mutually inclusive. Creating mutual trust, value, respect, and acceptance, a shared vision and mission with another human being, a sincere commitment that doesn’t fade away when the sky isn’t blue. There is no absence of clarity, no ambivalence.

Think deeper, no time for hesitation, immerse yourself in the love pool. Leaders who have high emotional intelligence (EQ) are accessible, followers are believing with eyes wide open. Leadership is About Love. Here is a list our findings, and related notations:

  • Enlightened (seeing what others can’t see)
  • Emotional Intelligence (High EQ)
  • Caring (giving of themselves)
  • Willingness to partner (and collaborate)
  • Willingness to change behavior
  • Nurturing Relationship(s)
  • Genuinely committed to relationship(s)
  • Resilient
  • Pluralistic (and inclusive)
  • Thought-provoking
  • Inspire Action
  • Coach for optimum performance
  • Mutually Adaptive
  • Open Minded: Receptive to Multiple Pluralistic Perspectives
  • Open Hearted (Actually Give a Damn)
  • Being Generous (without expectations)
  • Admirable
  • Trustworthy
  • Ethically Driven
  • Thoughtful Listener and Observer
  • Creatively and Strategically Balanced
  • Do as they say (follow-through)
  • Authentic
  • Lead by Example
  • High Self-Awareness
  • Appreciative
  • Empathic

Why is this important? Consider this, “Enlightened Leaders” (who possess High EQ) are directly linked to individual, team, organizational, and business success.

Yet, research has shown that emotional intelligence is not valued in mainstream business, and EQ dramatically declines within more senior management and executive groups. Despite EQ being introduced years ago, the problem remains: how to increase Emotional Intelligence (we can call it “the love factor”) within the highest organizational levels.

The vast rejection of Emotional Intelligence by most of Corporate America is even more astounding when considering that organizations are comprised of human beings (with emotions!). It’s as if the soft skills have been purposely devalued to divert attention away from this fact: developing High EQ is hard for most “leaders” because of cultural, societal, and business-orientation.

Remember, Enlightened Leadership with High EQ can create new waves of understanding, and  innovative organizational solutions.

The beginning is always today. Let’s continue the conversation.

  • What do you think the correlation is between love and leadership? Why do you think it matters?
  • What is your definition of love?
  • What is your definition of leadership?
  • Are you an enlightened leader?
  • What do you think the correlation is between emotional intelligence and success? Why do you think it matters?

Marc Ortiz de Candia, Executive Partner, Vitalia Consulting