Courage at the C-level

Recently returned from camping atop WorldChanging Mountain with a small group of career executives.

Most of us have known each other for 15+ years, “growing up” in the tech sector together. We drank coffee with the bugs and talked around the fire past sunrise – the conversation summarized as…

Exec 1: “I want out. I am done. I can’t keep doing this.”

Ian: “What about the work ahead? How can you leave responsibly?”

Exec 2: “My purpose has been stripped down to serving them profits and I can’t sell culture honestly anymore.”

Ian: “What about all that “authentic change” you were just giving a talk on?”

Exec 1: “I still believe all that, but INSERT REASONING TO GO.”

Exec 2: “I didn’t understand the system I was dealing with. I can’t deliver.”

Most C level executives I’ve ever worked with were really, really, really good souls. Most got to the top through a combination of forces that are hard for the rest to understand. Their power usually comes from overcoming trauma, which gives them remarkable capacity for presence and connection. From there, a diabolical corruption takes place, generating an invisible yet duplicitous personality system.

My last CEO wanted me to do something I simply could not. I really liked him, and I frankly would have followed him anywhere. He was at the end of his own “authentic,” “values-driven” bridge to nowhere that “fosters innovation through inclusion…” mid-hijack by the investment bankers.

The refusal to reconcile framework (the investors don’t, won’t and usually can’t give a damn) with personal integrity (you know it, and you hate leading young idealists to slaughter) makes good people sick. It destroys hearts, bodies and minds.

If you’re in this sort of moment, it may be because you are asking the cosmos for the courage to be who you are in these times.

Courage is becoming.