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Lead Positive profile: Kevin Cashman, senior partner at Korn Ferry (Part 2)

Emotional development and building self-trust has been a recurring theme throughout Kevin Cashman's life and career as a leadership coach. In part two of Kevin's inspiring Lead Positive profile, Kevin discusses how an unlikely business partnership fueled his emotional development and how he learned to trust in his talents and purpose.

Kevin Cashman is a best-selling author of Pause Principle and Leadership from the Inside Out, coach and senior partner at Korn Ferry, and pioneer of the “grow the whole person to grow the whole leader” approach to integrated leadership development. He was also recently named one of the top ten thought leaders by Leadership Excellence magazine.

Note: This is part two of Kevin's Lead Positive profile.Click here to read part one in which he discusses his "grow the whole person to grow the whole leader” approach to leadership development.

Who had the biggest influence on you?

Maharishi was one of the people (see part one). Another key influence was a business partner. He's passed on now: Sidney Reisberg.

I took him on as a business partner when he was 73 years old. Everyone said, "Oh my God. He should be retired," but this guy was really amazing and fit so many different needs psychologically, spiritually, and business-wise. Sidney was just the right person at the right time for my needs and development.

Sidney had one of the first PhDs in the world in mass communications. He got it in the '30s and because of it, he was one of the intelligence people brought to Northern Africa during World War II. He actually broke some of Rommel's code during that time. His life was rich with incredible stories and adventures.

When we became business partners, psychodynamically Sidney fit a father need that I didn't know I had. He was smart, strong, nurturing, crazy intelligent, and he really kind of filled that father side of my development, I didn't even know was missing. Spiritually, we were really kind of lined up. Values-wise, we were lined up. And then he had this marketing and marketing communications piece, which was really important to our business at the time and he was phenomenal there.

But our emotional complementarity was really significant. Sidney and I would conflict a lot because we were very honest with each other. He was from New York and I was Midwestern; he would be more expressive and I would be a little less direct. He was used to being in charge but I was the one in-charge and so we would naturally conflict.

We were in a business meeting and we really didn't agree. At the end of the meeting I just wanted to leave and avoid any more emotional conflict.  I was a bit fed up with him. Then he stood up and he gave me a big hug and he said, "Well, you know how much I love you, don't you?" And he was really serious.

It just disarmed me. It was like, "Oh. This is a different model. You can be really engaged and tough and have different points of view and be deeply connected." Obviously that was something I needed to learn because I separated those two things.

And so, emotionally, he really helped me develop. It was a very complex, important, transformative and fortunate relationship.

What did you say to yourself that might have held you back on your leadership journey? How did you silence the negative voice inside of your head?

The inner voice that  has limited me at times—and I'm discovering is the same thing with a lot of high-achieving people—is the deep inner belief "I'm not good enough." This is the limiting belief. I had that belief so then I would overcompensate with work and excellence, high standards and all of that, and then sometimes get out of balance. I had to learn over time to build what I would call self-trust, which is validating who you are and what you have.

This journey to authenticity involves, "What do I really have? What don't I have?"

You have to be real and see the whole picture, the whole self with compassion and positive regard.

And I think success helps, right? This probably is not the right formula to build it, but I think it helps you maybe pause and acknowledge what you do have instead of trying to strive.

Last week I was with a group and the consultants were just bombing. The group was resisting, not cooperating, and it was really tough. The consultants were spiraling and I couldn't do anything. And then I had to come up and do my thing. It was so bad that I had to ask myself, "What am I going to do? Do I try to recover the audience?"

But I just said to myself—and it proved to me that the grip of this limiting belief is diminishing—"Just do your thing. Do it the best you can and if they want to join, they want to join. If they don't want to join, what can you do, right?"

So I decided to do my best and not be too concerned with their response or acceptance of me.  What happened?  The group woke up and engaged.  Since I was not there to impress them, I guess it was impressive.

It's these unending lessons about trust yourself, trust your story, trust your capabilities, do your best.

Don't look for the validation to be the gift. Authenticity is the gift. Purpose is the gift.

The validation is fine if it happens, and if it's not, then ask yourself, "Could you have gone deeper? Could you have been more powerful?" You cannot control the outcome, but maybe you can control how you approach it.

And that self-belief about "not good enough" is just not sustainable. You can't sustain value creation with it.

Which great leader, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why?

The Dalai Lama. I've spent time in audiences with the Dalai Lama, but to be able to spend one-on-one time and sense his presence, knowledge, joy, compassion and experience his this profound simplicity that's actually very sophisticated, would be a great honor. It probably goes back to my early time with Maharishi, who's passed now, that desire to be with someone with that kind of evolved state of consciousness.

I think the Dalai Lama would be really fascinating. It's not so much about content, although I might want to pose some questions it would be more about presence. It would be more about the feeling,  the energy, the heart and to see what's possible for a human being. That's what I'd be most interested in. Content would be interesting too, but that would be secondary to the heartfelt experience. 

Kevin Cashman is senior partner at Korn Ferry, specializing in CEO & Executive Development and Keynote Speaking. He is the founder of the Executive to Leader Institute and Chief Executive Institute, referred to as the “Mayo Clinic” of executive development by Fast Company, and now offered at six locations globally. He also founded LeaderSource, recognized as one of the top three leadership development programs globally. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_cashman

Dr. Kathy Cramer has written seven best-selling books including Change The Way You See Everything, which started the ABT Global Movement. Her latest book, Lead Positive shows leaders how to increase their effectiveness through her revolutionary yet refreshing simple mindset management process, Asset-Based Thinking. Download her Speaker Kit here.

To read more of Kathy’s thought leadership, visit drkathycramer.com/blog and drkathycramer.com/press. Follow Kathy on Twitter at @drkathycramer. 

 

Kathy Cramer, Ph.D. is the author of Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do.

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