"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult." ~ Warren Bennis
Building leaders from the inside out.
Today I’m honored to share with you Dr. Holly Latty-Mann, president and co-founder of The Leadership Trust®. The Leadership Trust is a training organization based in Durham, North Carolina. Holly, along with the late Dr. Jim Farr, created this unique training organization in 1998. Of special note, is that Dr. Farr was the initial founding director of the Center for Creative Leadership, back in the late 1960s and sold his previous firm, Farr Associates, making The Leadership Trust his last leadership initiative.
The basis behind the training that Holly and her group offer is that leadership is built from the inside out through a highly psychologically driven process. Regarded as life-changing, nearly all past participants have called this the best training they’ve ever had – both personally and professionally. And this is evidenced in the many video and written testimonials of their graduates, found at The Leadership Trust website. I encourage you to check these out, even just for the inspiration they offer, given they do not fit the norm. It is so worth reading/viewing some of these – just take a couple of minutes to really let this all soak in.
Holly has created a learning environment that truly promotes fundamental change, in a safe and caring environment. With a rich history of alliances that include Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, their Coach K Center for Leadership and Ethics (COLE) as well as Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management, The Leadership Trust currently enjoys an informal partnership with NC State’s Organizational Behavior program where their collaboration has produced research findings on leadership behaviors that work and don’t work.
Please join me in welcoming Holly here today.
1. Tell us a little bit about who "you" are (family, career, any special life experiences you’d like to share, etc.)
Lance, I notice you ask about family first before career in your question, and I say you have your priorities right!
While most people tend to offer positive spins when asked about specifics of who they are (family, special life experiences, etc.), I’ve found those sensational life events, including the ones where I made mistakes, have turned out to be wonderful training grounds for not only helping me become my best, but also helping others do the same. So here are some special life experiences that molded and shaped me because of my responses to them: I lost my brother Michael when I was almost 3, and he was almost 9. Michael was my everything. My father was an alcoholic, albeit a successful business executive. That’s because his drinking started when he came home in the evenings. I went steady with Billy Graham’s son for two years in high school, but he broke up with me because I was a “goody two-shoes,” and he had discovered “wild” girls during his prep school years at Stony Brook. Years following my divorce at the age of 30, I saved myself from a second marriage. Don’t laugh when you hear my doctoral dissertation was on mate selection. After years of being married to my company, I’m now finally ready again. Continuing to speak to special life experiences, I’ve had one supernatural experience that has nurtured a metaphysical orientation to my faith. Another “supernatural” experience was my losing half of my hearing overnight in 1992 due to a virus. But most importantly as a result of working steadily on myself over time, I can say with gratitude in my heart that I am a happy, secure person who loves life and believes the best in humankind! No, I am not naïve. I have watched thousands of people go from anger, despair, insecurity, arrogance, and selfishness to happy and peaceful. I am a true believer that people change, and my passion is playing a role in supporting meaningful, lasting change in others.
You’ll learn from this link about my career, educational background, and what I do in the name of showing leaders how to inspire and motivate. It was only this past year that I asked all faculty members to add what they do for fun in the last paragraph. As for me, that includes foreign travel (52 foreign countries so far), playing the piano, playing tennis, hiking, and most fun of all, biking! I feel like a free child as soon as I start to peddle!
Lance’s Commentary: Holly, I love the approach you took with this question. Life has bumps for all of us, and those bumps along our journey really can lead to lasting change. You are doing wonderful things on all levels, and I’m sure that’s in part to what your past experiences have taught you.
2. You are the president and co-founder of a pretty innovative organization. Tell us briefly about “The Leadership Trust” and what it is?
How about our mission statement for starters? The Leadership Trust® is an organization dedicated to support on a global basis the creation, development and implementation of highly effective, high integrity leadership serving the ultimate well-being of all persons everywhere.
3. What is the deeper purpose of your organization?
Our deeper purpose is to support the growth of the human spirit in order to contribute toward a kinder, gentler world.
Lance’s Commentary: The human spirit – what a deeply meaningful purpose. Holly, I think this answer alone speaks to just how "right" what you are doing is. The more connected with our deeper self, the more we see life through the lens of humanity and what is possible! What a great place to work toward, and you get to help others do this every day – how awesome!
4. Who is your typical student in these programs? Who can this apply to?
A typical program has a diversity of students, so it’s difficult to say we have a typical student. We do have more male participants except during the summer months. And it’s funny you should ask this question. We are awaiting results from an independent research firm who gathered data over several weeks to offer us a profile of the “typical student,” so that we can target that audience. Truthfully, our most robust workshops have people playing different roles (CEO, IT, HR, CFO, technician, project manager, etc.) from different industries (seriously, you name it) of any size (anything from a Mom/Pop enterprise of one person to huge global corporations). We also have on occasion someone in school, between jobs, or facing retirement. Because these programs are personalized, meaning one size does not fit all, we encourage this diversity because effective leadership involves relating to people representing various tiers and roles within any organization.
Lances’ Commentary: Holly, I know your class sizes are very small – and I’m sure this facilitates a very highly personalized experience for everyone going through your programs. That’s what I think is so unique about this, is that it’s something we can all get something from. It’s leadership. And yet it’s so much more than that, on a personal level, and how really so many of your participants have realized a myriad of life-changing benefits both professionally and personally. And I think that really speaks to the importance you place on making this truly a life-changing experience for everyone.
5. You do one thing (or a subset of that one thing) and do it very well. Leadership training is your sole focus. What makes your training unique?
Our unique self-awareness workshop (SAW) that is subsumed within our hallmark 5-day program offers processes on the emotional intelligence aspects of leadership that explains our highly unusual testimonials. Our graduates on video also talk about how we’re different. Secondly, our unique 360 feedback process has everyone primed to give their best to the Self-Awareness Workshop that starts the evening of the first day. The attention to group culture, keeping it safe with each person’s dignity held intact, is key to how a group of strangers bond into a tight team within 28 hours from onset.
Lance’s Commentary: The testimonials are so affirming to read and listen to. And this idea of bringing together a group of strangers and creating an environment that builds real and strong bonds – I just really sense how this adds so much to this experience!
6. Self-awareness is a big part of the learning development that goes on with participants attending your programs. Tell us more about the importance of this.
Well, if you don’t know, you can’t fix. And if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, then you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. Root cause to whatever is holding us back tends to be housed in the subconscious (your unawareness). It’s a matter of bringing crucial material from your unawareness into your conscious awareness so that you can make choices regarding what to do about it. It’s a rare person who doesn’t want to change that which is holding him or her back. The biggest outcome in terms of emotion is joy along with a profound sense of relief.
Lance’s Commentary: Or peace, maybe… This whole idea of being more self-aware, I believe is hugely important. In getting to know ourselves better, we become more open to the world around us.
7. I am fascinated by the many testimonials you have. Specifically, how program participants draw such deep meaning out of your program. Is there something specific that’s a real eye opener for these people?
Yes, there is. I once playfully told an interviewer who asked the same question, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” A better response is this: If I were to tell you, it would contaminate an otherwise optimal experience. This is akin to the notion if we humans would just get ourselves out of the way of divine intervention, we may stand a greater chance to grow and prosper.
Lance’s Commentary: Ha! I’m glad you’re not going to kill me, Holly!! This reminds me of a retreat I attended a few years ago, where there were several things that occurred which I was unaware of, and that just made the whole experience that much more meaningful. So, the bottom line is: sign up, right!
8. Tell us one unexpected thing that has happened to you, from going down this path of starting the “Leadership Trust”?
My co-founding partner died just days before our second workshop. This was during the time we were in partnership with Wake Forest Babcock Graduate School of Management. So the dean asked if I would do both Jim’s part and my own. Not only did I take on that challenge, but during the 3rd day of the workshop, they sent a limo to take me to the church to deliver my eulogy on my co-founding partner and friend, only to turn around and finish the workshop. The evaluations were unusually favorable and strong, and I later learned WFU had wondered if it was because of the emotion of the interruption. Months and months passed with the same level of testimonial intensity which inspired talks of franchising this program to offer nationally, even globally.
Lance’s Commentary: An emotional response can definitely trigger bringing out the greater good in everyone. This reminds me of former Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre a few years back – playing before a national audience only a couple of days after unexpectedly losing his father, and having one of his greatest games ever. Yet, the truth is, you’ve maintained this same deep connection with your participants, and I really believe that speaks to the quality of this program, and the dedication of you and your staff to make this as meaningful as it has been for everyone.
9. If you had to pick one thing as your greatest achievement, what would it be (and why)?
I am involved in animal welfare and have been since the early 1980s, and while I’m sure my donations and letters (including letters to the editor) have made a difference, I once was instrumental in saving literally hundreds of dogs from inhumane treatment/death.
Why did I choose this as my greatest achievement? I value all life, and I guess it was the enormity of this project and the nature of the pain these animals were subjected to suffering. It’s important to add that this achievement would not have happened at all had it not been for the power of prayer, and how the solution could not have been attributed to coincidence.
Lance’s Commentary: Holly, I love this achievement you’ve listed. It can be easy to look at accolades we’ve recieved, or prestige we’ve achieved. Deep down, though, what really matters is humanity, dignity, caring…basic principles within us all. Your helping to save so many animals from a life of misery – what a gift not only to those animals, but also to humankind. Through your actions, others have been lifted up in what our core values are. And that’s pretty wonderful!
10. Going back several years, I know that you co-founded this organization with Dr. James Farr. And then he suddenly passed away after your opening. Were these difficult days, for you to continue on? Or were you inspired by what Dr. Farr had helped to create?
These were very difficult days, mainly in light of it how Jim died a little more than a year before 9/11 hit, and people were not traveling, and contracts for Graylyn International Conference Center had been signed with painful penalties attached for cancellations. Furthermore, Dr. Farr had made arrangements with WFU to bring to a close our partnership after 18 months had gone by – and wouldn’t you know this was only days before 9/11! So here I am on my own not sure how to run a company, much less make one grow. Interestingly, I had an advisory board telling me to bring in an Executive Director to run things for me, but the Trust didn’t have the monies for any of their suggestions, and I was so naïve at the time I didn’t even know the right questions to ask of this board. I had no family nearby to help me, and my hearing impairment made it next to impossible to network at social gatherings. It was a low point in my career, and it lasted for several years.
So what pulled me through? I felt a calling to do this work – it was that strong. And indeed what Jim and I had created together was all the inspiration I needed to never give up.
Lance’s Commentary: The human spirit at work! Holly, thank you for sharing about these difficult days. What you have today is a sure sign of your perseverance, your dedication to making our world a better place, and your real belief in the message your organization is delivering.
11. Deep-down, Holly, what makes you, "you"? And what does a typical day away from the “Leadership Trust” involve?
My passion for life, a joie de vivre is a big part of who I am. Perhaps what makes me “Holly” is like a recipe, and all of us humans can boast a unique recipe. My ingredients would include compassion, courage, ethics, gentleness, stamina, service, intuition, humility, industry, playfulness, and adventure. I believe I am as accepting and nonjudgmental with myself as I am with others. I see the best in myself no differently than how I see the best in others.
Typical day away from The Leadership Trust® usually involves both the mundane and the fun side of life. Mundane is maintaining house and yard and all the errands that are a part of that. I have wonderful friends, top quality friends, authentic “no airs about them” friends, friends with great depth who love to poke fun at life so as not to take ourselves too seriously. I am an avid reader and love word games, and work my crossword puzzles in ink. I love staying fit while I enjoy the great out-of-doors. I am blessed being able to spend ample time with my spirited 91-year-old mother, an amazing woman who is extremely active to this day. I have an unshakeable faith and am fortunate to have found a church that is not elitist in its outlook on the human race. I enjoy supporting my church in a number of different ways. I love my cat “Romeow” whom I rescued (despite greater appreciation for dogs’ personalities…sorry, Romeow!). Oh, and I’m writing to complete my first book this summer, "Leaders Stripped Naked: The Power of Exposure" (I hope this doesn’t scare anyone away!)!
Lance’s Commentary: What a wonderful prescription for life! Life is about living. In all the ways that are meaningful to each one of us. Holly, your "recipe" for life is what really draws me to you, and what you offer. And I love the name of your cat – Romeow – how creative!
And you have a book coming out, that’s very exciting. And that name, no – we won’t let it scare anyone away!
Closing Thoughts: Holly, thank you for sharing so openly here today. You have created something very special in The Leadership Trust. Helping people to become more aware of themselves, and really let out that leader within is such a great thing for our world. And you seem so balanced at where you are in your life right now, which I believe is an important part to overall personal health on so many levels.
And I’m tempted to pack up my bike and come for a visit! I love to get out and ride the trails!
For anyone interested in learning more about the Leadership Trust, check out the very information-packed website they have. If you have any further questions, or would like more information, Holly and her team can be reached at:
The Leadership Trust
Email: info [at] leadershiptrust.org
NOTE: There is a current special Holly is offering, with 50% off the tuition for the first attendee per company. Hard costs still apply. To take advantage of this savings, you can download from their blog their discount scholarship coupon using this link.
Holly, thank you for joining us here today, and sharing a bit about you and your approach toward leadership and life!