University of Minnesota
Driven to Discover

2017 Summer Institute Intensive Session

Minnesota Early Intervention Summer Institute

Session 8

Transforming Leadership: Leading Change Authentically in a World of Complexity

Back by request!

“This was BY FAR the best session that I have ever attended. I appreciate that the session was presented through experience, self-directed awareness and learning and that the instructors were motivating, provided great teachable moments and were very easy to work with. I also really appreciate the singular focus over the two days.”

“I was a little concerned about spending two days in the session but it was fantastic - the instructors were very knowledgeable, it was an interactive group, and I learned a great deal.”

How do you show up for leading change in your community? It does matter. Collectively, with more than a dozen foundational theories about effectively leading people and organizations, most theories focus on execution of leadership strategy. Thousands of books about leadership have been written and many touted as best new strategy for leaders. Today, we can say with some certainty that there is limited evidence to support one best theory for leading people and organizations. Fewer theories offer depth of study regarding the manner in which leaders show up to do the work at hand. In this session, you will learn both theories in action and the basics of leadership presence and how these skills may add a positive influence to your life experiences.

Some theories in action serve us better than others. As Michael Fullan says so eloquently, “Good theories travel well.” For our work together, we will explore good theories of action that travel well for leaders. This two-day session is a guided introductory experience for learning about yourself and the way you wish to show up as a leader.

We do know that most people follow whom they trust and respect. When there is little trust or respect of the leader or leaders, followers become indignant and see the leader as a person more harmful them helpful. Typically, under these circumstances, followers find ways to resist change, needed or not. Today, we know that most people do not leave their jobs; they tend to leave their boss if culture does not fit their personal values and beliefs. So what are the foundations for trust and respect? Might we consider those attributes of leaders whom we trust and respect and gain knowledge and understanding from this?

How you show up is more important than managing and executing tasks. Your greatest opportunity is the authentic presentation of self in the work you love to do. Your sphere of influence begins with you. Leaders who show up as a real person are more likely to be successful than those that show up fulfilling a perceived role. Why? Because we trust real people first as they present themselves and the title and status given second. So, how do you show up each day, really?

These are the ideas we will explore over the two-day session:

  • Begin with mindfulness, which bring gratitude and wisdom. Gratitude provides the gifts of optimism, opportunity, vision, openness, vulnerability and creativity.
  • Connect to your true self and allow yourself to be vulnerable with others.
  • Show your compassion and bring courage to face difficult challenges.
  • Learn several theories to help you with barriers to change.
  • Develop a few of your own theories in action and refine your leadership practice.

Intended Audience: Leaders


Gary CohenMr. Gary Cohen is famous for asking; he wrote the book on it. He probes his clients with the only kind of questions that can produce change: unexpected ones. From the client’s answers, this dedicated Minneapolis leadership coach offers not just insights but alternative courses of action.

“There always are several good roads to Rome,” he says. “The key is to identify the one that best fits both your head and heart.” And he focuses on Rome–and not the possible curves in the road–for a simple reason: most obstacles are artificial, and the rest are in our heads. “Clear your head,” he has said, “and the obstacles disappear.” This may explain why Gary’s clients call him “eccentric in exactly the right way.” He knows that unusual success comes from unusual approaches, and–as Gary often has said, “I never have met a client who wanted to be ordinary.”

CEO experience: Managing Partner and Co-founder of CO2 Partners, LLC in 2004 an Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Firm. Founded ACI in 1989 with $4,000 and two employees, then grew 48 percent compounded annually for 12 years to over 2,200 employees and went public on the NASDAQ; Venture Magazine’s Top 10 Best Performing Businesses; and Business Journal’s 25 Fastest Growing Small Public Companies and Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.

Author: Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions (McGraw Hill 2009); articles for Business Week, Leader to Leader, and Forbes.

Clients: Unilever, Intel, Genentech, MetLife, Thermo-Fisher, and 100 -plus entrepreneur-led businesses.

Education: University of Minnesota (B.A); Harvard Business School; Covey Leadership Center; Disney Leadership Institute; and Aspen Institute Crown Fellow. Want to know more about Gary’s approach to leadership and life? Read his blog, Elements of Leadership.

Dr. Mark WolakDr. Mark Wolak serves as CEO of TIES, a 49 school district collaborative providing technology, data, software and professional development solutions for teachers, principals and district office staff.

Dr. Wolak has a successful history in Minnesota public schools beginning his career as a special education paraprofessional, then teacher, supervisor, and director of special education. He also served as a school principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent of schools. He served as a national consultant in education from 2010 to 2014.

Mark is passionate about providing meaningful professional development experiences for public sector leaders. In 2011, he formed a company with Gary Cohen, Board of School Superintendents (BOSS), to provide cohort learning and executive coaching for assistant superintendents, superintendents and executive directors.

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Last modified on February 21, 2013.