“Pilgrim, there is no path. We make the path by walking.”
~ Antonio Machado
Resumés strive to present one’s work history as a clean, linear path. The most interesting careers — and lives — don’t happen that way. Or at least mine hasn’t. On this site I’m going to explore the twists and turns, ups and downs, and unexpected detours that have brought me to where I am today…and where I hope to be tomorrow.
I work to increase the leadership capacity and capability in individuals, organizations, and communities to advance positive change. I am an author, speaker, and educator. I draw inspiration from nature, the complex environments of cities, and the seemingly endless creativity of my fellow humans. My goal — and satisfaction — is tangible impact.
I have a passion to draw (and push if I have to) people into meaningful dialogue. I have an appointment as Director of Research and Professional Programs at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, a joint program of the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where I have helped develop the meta-leadership framework and practice method. I do independent work for a number of leading global organizations.
What do I actually do? I write books, articles, white papers, and blog posts. I speak, teach, moderate, and facilitate in-person and on-line events. I serve as the “loyal opposition” giving voice to questions being left unasked in senior management meetings. I shape the editorial content for conference programs. I stimulate the thinking of leaders to consider how the larger context in which they operate affects what they do and the outcomes they achieve.
I am the co-author of the forthcoming book, You’re It! Mastering High Stakes Leadership and Renegotiating Health Care: Resolving Conflict to Build Collaboration, a leadership text for the medical, nursing, public health and related fields. I have also written several articles and blog posts for Harvard Business Review as well as for the Boston Business Journal, Marketwatch, Strategy & Innovation, and other popular and academic journals. I am a contributing editor at Business Review (China).
I consult with organizations as diverse as the Environmental Defense Fund, The Executive Council of New York, Coca-Cola, and Premier Farnell.
But, back to the beginning.
I was graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1981. I had earned a degree in Economics but had no firm (or even squishy) idea of what I wanted to do. I launched my job search in the teeth of a recession and, a few months later, I moved to New York with a suitcase, a box of books, and a hope that there would be more there than I had found in Boston.
After a brief stint as a temp at Citibank (retyping W2 forms — a real thrill), I landed a job at Bloomingdale’s and soon wound up in the public relations department. I was the first man ever hired in that group, the closest I’ll get to a Jackie Robinson moment. In subsequent years I moved from the client side of marketing to an agency (with a great stop in between at European Travel & Life, a NewsCorp magazine, my introduction to magazine publishing — a crush from which I’ve never recovered). Not happy with account work, I migrated from the business side to creative becoming copy chief at a small agency and later creative director at Trans National Group and then Harvard Business School Publishing. These are not borders easily or often crossed but, to me, it felt like the right path.
About fifteen years ago I realized that marketing was not my life’s ambition and so I transformed again, this time to the editorial side of publishing. I’ve always written as part of my professional life but as director of Harvard Business Publishing Conferences I had my own editorial agenda. I was free to tackle compelling topics, push people to engage in thoughtful discussion, and hang out with some of the smartest people in on the planet in the process. That part of my career ended when the company shut down the unit in the face of a recession.
Through the work at Harvard Business School Publishing and independent consulting I have worked with leading organizations such as Accenture, Coca-Cola, The Executive Council of New York, IBM, Nuance, Premier Farnell, UPS, and others.
Today, I focus on issues of leadership, resilience, and social innovation. I work hard to stay in what Eddie Erlandson calls “the genius zone” — not just what I’m good at but the activities that are so energizing that I’d do them for free. For me, the genius zone comprises writing, learning, catalyzing conversations, and connecting people. The trick, of course, is making a living in “the zone.”
Most recently, I have completed a Masters Degree in Leadership of Meta-Systems (e.g. leadership in the context the Pillar Trends of climate change, urbanization, etc.). I believe that leadership is the missing ingredient in meeting these challenges as technical knowledge about them abounds.
This site will always be a work in progress. I welcome your comments, thoughts, and suggestions. Oh, and if you want the more straight-forward version of my background, check out my LinkedIn profile. Follow me on Twitter @RicherEarth.