Category: Leaders on Leadership

LQ Partner Beth McNamee named to Nasdaq’s Top 48 Women to Watch

LQ Partner Beth McNamee named to Nasdaq’s Top 48 Women to Watch

Nasdaq named Beth McNamee, a Leaders’ Quest Partner based in Los Angeles, to its list of 48 women to watch on what they’re doing differently to ensure success in 2023.

“Not only did they think critically about what worked last year, but they also took the time to apply those strategies to have an even larger impact,” the article reads. “From launching new offerings and hiring the right people to intentionally slowing down, these women are embracing the change and ready to take new, fresh approaches in 2023.”

McNamee will join LQ’s newly-formed executive committee this year, working on setting strategic and operational direction for the organization in addition to serving her clients.

A personal message from LQ Founder and CEO Lindsay Levin

A personal message from LQ Founder and CEO Lindsay Levin

Dear friends,

I hope you and your families are well. 

I’m writing with significant news. 

Strategic alliance between Leaders’ Quest and TED

For the last three years LQ has had a very successful climate partnership with TED through Countdown. It’s been exceptionally impactful, reaching tens of millions of people with solutions to the climate crisis and building cross-sector collaboration to solve tough dilemmas. 

We’re thrilled now to build on this partnership and deepen our shared work through a Strategic Alliance between LQ and TED. We have complementary skills, great alignment in terms of vision, values and purpose – and we see powerful opportunities to do more together in the future. 

A change in my role

As part of this, I will be shifting my role at the end of the year. After 21 years at the helm, I will stand down as CEO of Leaders’ Quest, though I will continue as an advisor, board member and, above all, friend.

I will take up a new role at TED, commencing January 3, as Head of Impact and Partnerships. TED is an amazing platform and this is a wonderful mandate to partner with businesses and philanthropists to address big global themes and to bring an ‘impact-first’ mentality to TED’s work with all partners. 

Leadership at LQ

After consultation with the Partners, our Board and external advisors, I am thrilled to share the news that Jayma Pau and Melanie Jamieson have accepted roles as co-CEOs of Leaders’ Quest, commencing January 3.

Jayma has been with us for 15 years. She joined as a Program Coordinator, spent two years in Mumbai setting up our India office, time seconded in NY, and became one of three Managing Partners in 2016. She knows the team incredibly well, is a brilliant, intuitive creator of programs, and is highly trusted by clients and hosts. 

Melanie joined us in 2010 as Communication Manager. She became a Partner in 2014 and a Managing Partner at the start of this year. Most recently she has led our relationship with the Climate Champions for COP 26 and 27 and earned huge respect for the leadership, collaboration and optimism she has brought to the climate world. 

Together, they are excited to lead LQ into a wonderful next chapter and look forward to reconnecting with you.

LQ has been at the heart of my life for more than two decades. I am deeply grateful and beyond proud of what we’ve achieved together. Extraordinary friends and colleagues from all corners have shaped how I see the world and — I hope — made me a better person along the way. I look forward to continuing to support the work, and to building new opportunities together with many of you. This is not a goodbye, but rather the next step of LQ’s (and my own) journey.  

Warm regards,


Leaders’ Quest taps Regenerative business leader Kim Coupounas to join as core Partner

Leaders’ Quest taps Regenerative business leader Kim Coupounas to join as core Partner

Leaders’ Quest, a global social enterprise known for its pioneering collaborations such as TED Countdown and Count Us In, has appointed Kim Coupounas to its senior leadership team. During its 21 years of existence, LQ has built an engaged global network of exceptional people committed to cultivating wise leaders for a regenerative future for humanity and the planet. 

A seasoned business leader in both the private and public sector, Coupounas brings deep knowledge and understanding of global impact work and systems change and a profound commitment to mobilizing the power of business to shape a regenerative future.

“LQ’s work to cultivate courageous business leaders and foster game-changing collaborations to address today’s complex global social and environmental challenges is needed like no other time in our history,” said Coupounas. “LQ’s work is centered in both reality and optimism, and it is literally changing the course of the future. What an honor to be able to join this incredible global team to help forward their vision and work while leveraging my own deep passion for amplifying the power of business to advance an equitable and regenerative future for humanity and our planet. ”

“We’re absolutely thrilled that Kim has chosen to bring her exceptional experience, wisdom, passion, and reach to our global team,” said Lindsay Levin, Founder and CEO of Leaders’ Quest. “Kim is a powerhouse leader who will bring courageous, out of the box systems-thinking mixed with an entrepreneur’s spirit to our work of growing wise leaders for a regenerative future and tackling big global challenges. Kim is a highly respected leader within the global sustainable business community, and we can’t wait to see the magic she weaves as part of the Leaders’ Quest team.”

Coupounas is joining Leaders’ Quest at a moment of tremendous growth and opportunity for the organization. In her role on the senior leadership team, Coupounas will be a highly visible LQ Partner focused on furthering the organization’s game-changing collaborations and partnerships, design and delivery of LQ’s trademark leadership programs, client engagement, public advocacy, organizational leadership, and business development. 

Prior to Leaders’ Quest, Coupounas was an instrumental leader in the growth of the B Corp movement. She served as a senior executive at B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corps, for over 8 years and focused on advancing stakeholder-based capitalism while activating business leaders and companies to operationalize sustainable and regenerative principles and to use their collective power and voice for systemic change. 

At B Lab, she co-led the largest mobilization of companies in history committed to Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Prior to B Lab, Coupounas served as co-founder and CEO of GoLite, a purpose-driven outdoor products brand that was one of the earliest Certified B Corps. Coupounas is also past Board Chair of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), the trade association representing the $887 billion+ active outdoor recreation industry, during which she helped launch and lead that industry’s groundbreaking sustainability efforts. 

Coupounas earned MBA and MPA degrees from Harvard University, an AB with honors in Philosophy from Princeton, and attended Oxford University as a Rotary Foundation Graduate Scholar. She has received many awards, including being named Conscious Company’s “2020 World-Changing Woman.”

The inner game of leadership: Why it’s key to unleashing action for a healthy, sustainable world

The inner game of leadership: Why it’s key to unleashing action for a healthy, sustainable world

By Melanie Jamieson

In May, I attended ChangeNOW, the world’s largest conference for the planet aimed at spotlighting 1,000 innovative solutions over three days. It was a hive of activity. A glimpse into a fast-growing ecosystem of initiatives with the aim to reach a healthy, sustainable world with speed, scale and justice.

I was asked to share my thoughts on what’s needed to turn these creative solutions — alongside myriad commitments, pathways, and partnerships that are announced every day — into collective action at scale. 

I think we need an upgrade in our human software — in the way we lead, and how we collaborate. 

For millennia, human beings have evolved at a slow and steady rate that’s served us well. We’ve become good at working with people who look like us and think like us; on local issues that we can see, touch, and experience.

But this pace of evolution is out of sync with the rapid change we’re now grappling with in the Anthropocene — the period in which human activity is the dominant force of change on Earth’s ecosystems.

To limit global warming to 1.5°C, we need an unprecedented level of collaboration across countries, citizens, corporations, industries, and civil society. This kind of radical collaboration is hard because it involves working across divides — borders, sectors and communities — with people who see and experience the world very differently from each other.

This ability to work effectively with difference is a leadership muscle that human beings need to evolve — and fast. So how can we speed up our own evolution?

At Leaders’ Quest, we’ve learned over the last 21 years that the fastest way to grow as adults is through experiential learning. Based on this philosophy, we take leaders on ‘Quests’ to immerse them in unfamiliar environments, and spend time engaging with inspiring changemakers driving impact across business and society.

We think of a Quest as a window to the world, and a mirror for oneself. Exposure to the forces shaping the future, coupled with time for deep reflection, opens the doorway to personal insight. It creates the chance to reflect on our ‘inner game of leadership’, as Bill Adams and Bob Anderson describe it.

Our ‘inner game’ is what we hold in our consciousness. In other words, it is our interior operating system — what drives us, how we define ourselves, what we believe. It’s what we use to make sense of the world. It informs how we act, and how we shape life around us. 

“Great leadership transcends skill, capability, and competence. It includes integrity, honesty, passion, vision, risk-taking, compassion, courage, authenticity, collaboration, self-awareness, selflessness, endurance, humility, intuition, and wisdom. These are qualities of the inner game.” Bill Adams & Bob Anderson

However, in a fast-changing world, there are fierce demands on our ‘outer game’ — our knowledge, skills and technical expertise. It’s the dimension that we spend much of our lives honing in education, training and leadership development. It’s also the one that leaders in sustainability typically focus on as they come to grips with how to transform their companies, cities and communities.

Yet our inner game RUNS our outer game. What’s happening on the inside shapes how we experience the world, and the actions we choose to take. This means that innovative technical solutions won’t solve the climate crisis alone. We must put equal focus on how we lead and collaborate (our ‘inner game’), so we can turn powerful ideas into implementation at scale.

For me, this means evolving our inner game in two key ways:

Firstly, we need to shift our mindsets to a regenerative worldview that puts life at the centre of all decision-making. Becoming regenerative is about asking ourselves how we can leave things better than we found them. It means “reimagining a world where the human economy and the natural economy work in harmony with each other”, as Futures Practitioner Bill Sharpe says. In practical terms, it means leading from a mindset of ‘doing more good’ (instead of ‘doing less bad’) in our companies, cities and communities.

Secondly, we need to develop inner qualities to work more effectively across divides. Adam Kahane, in his book ‘Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree With or Like or Trust’ says effective collaboration alternates between the polarities of engaging and asserting. 

Through this lens, I see radical collaboration as a dance between building human connection and driving bold action. In practice, this means flexing our inner game across a spectrum of qualities that build empathy (respect, humility, generosity) and propel action (courage, purpose, resilience) to help people move forward together. It’s these ‘inner game’ qualities that we need to scale if we are going to step up to the challenges humanity is facing. 

So, as I looked out across the ChangeNOW conference, I was asked what small (or big) action everyone should take. The 1% change that scales if we all do it. 

My invitation is that we each build a bridge with someone who sees the world differently — perhaps even someone we don’t agree with, like or trust. Take the time to listen deeply, build empathy by sharing stories, and spend time seeing life through their eyes. Build a foundation of respect and connection — even if you don’t agree with everything you hear.

Climate action at scale requires wise leadership… and only by maturing our inner game can we build the radical collaboration skills to get us to a healthy, sustainable future for all.

Founding Leaders’ Quest and co-creating TED Countdown

Founding Leaders’ Quest and co-creating TED Countdown

Lindsay Levin joined the Money Espresso Podcast for a wide-ranging interview on leadership, founding Leaders’​ Quest, and co-creating Countdown with TED to find solutions to the climate crisis.

Listen to the interview.

Lindsay Levin on leadership, climate, and the invisible thread that connects us

Lindsay Levin on leadership, climate, and the invisible thread that connects us

Leaders’ Quest CEO Lindsay Levin joins the Morning Espresso Podcast.


Lindsay shares how she combined her fascination with people, leadership and travel, with a burning desire to use her business skills to help businesses do and be better. Lindsay has sat with prisoners on death row, worked with community leaders in the slums of Mumbai and brokered talks between Israelis and Palestinians. She eloquently describes our shared humanity.

She has seen at first hand the impact of climate change inspiring her to co-lead the launch of Future Stewards and spearheaded the launch of TED Countdown, a global partnership to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. If you are looking to be inspired, this is the episode for you.

Finally, Lindsay shares her best non-money purchases for around £30, and her Climate Pearls of Wisdom.

‘The Way Out Is In’: Leaders’ Quest CEO Lindsay Levin featured

‘The Way Out Is In’: Leaders’ Quest CEO Lindsay Levin featured

The Way Out Is In: The Zen Art of Living is a podcast series mirroring Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s deep teachings of Buddhist philosophy: a simple yet profound methodology for dealing with our suffering, and for creating more happiness and joy in our lives. It is co-hosted by Zen Buddhist monk Brother Phap Huu and LQ Partner Jo Confino, a lay practitioner and journalist.

Leaders’ Quest CEO Lindsay Levin joins the podcast to discuss wise leadership and new ways of creating change and harmony in turbulent times. 

Listen to the episode and Subscribe to the Podcast

Together, all three also talk about: the balance between urgency and patience; purpose; polarisation; and becoming agents of change. And: at a planetary level, how do we know when to slow down and when to speed up? 

Lindsay further shares her relationship with the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village community, and about: working with leaders; dealing with competing interests and egos; spiritual values in the business world; self-awareness; tolerance in the climate movement; listening to others’ lives and widening circles of compassion; responsibility; the gap between cleverness and wisdom; ‘quests’; collective and individual development; planetary well-being; and honoring anger and grief. 

5 ways to accelerate your action on climate

5 ways to accelerate your action on climate

Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Action Champion COP26, joins Lindsay Levin, CEO and Founder of Leaders’ Quest, to chat about the top 5 ways in which businesses can accelerate their action on climate, in the build up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), happening this November in Glasgow, Scotland.

At Leaders’ Quest, we’re very well placed to offer advice and guidance in this crucial year.

Watch the interview.

To find out more, get in touch with us on

Leading with wisdom through the global pandemic

Leading with wisdom through the global pandemic

One year ago, almost exactly, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Just like that, our lives changed. Lockdowns, isolation, collapsing global markets, overburdened health systems, and uncertainty like nothing we’ve faced before.

For many of us, life as we knew it seemed to stop. Time moved both fast and slow. There was palpable urgency and profound stillness at the same time. Yet, amidst the chaos and disruption, we saw heroes rise. So-called “invisible giants” working on the frontlines to serve the most vulnerable communities, demonstrated the power of compassion, innovation and collaboration.

The Leaders’ Quest global community is made up of many such giants. The following are the stories of how some of our global partners have stepped up during the global pandemic. Their work has protected the dignity of the many women who have fallen victims of increased domestic abuse, the homeless facing even more precarity, the casual workers who have lost their only source of income, and the many communities risking segregation in the face of lacking communication infrastructure.

Their wise leadership is proof that, especially in the most challenging times, when we act from the core of our values, we’re able to pave the way for healing and, eventually, thriving.

Patient Ambition: Grassroots Innovation in India

For three decades, CORO has worked with India’s most marginalized, politically and socio-economically disadvantaged communities. Taking a bottom-up approach, their programs and campaigns empower India’s “unseen” communities to articulate and voice their rights, to a government who otherwise treat them with neglect. CORO focuses on community involvement and sustained engagement, equipping these populations with the tools and leadership skills they need to enable social movement in the long run.

CORO has built a robust grassroots infrastructure of more than 1,268 community leaders and 250 CBOs/NGOs. Through various times of crisis in India – from the Bombay Riots in 1992-1993 to the coronavirus pandemic today – CORO collaborative networks have developed a deep capacity for rapid, nuanced and impactful action.

When the pandemic first struck India, the strategy conceived by municipal and national governments failed to consider the country’s most vulnerable – daily wage and migrant workers, single women, victims of domestic violence, the urban poor, small vendors, the undocumented, Dalits (who belong to the lowest caste in India), and Tribal communities in rural areas. CORO moved into rapid action, providing aid packages of food, sanitary products and essential goods to more than 10,168 families, in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. But as the lockdown continued, it became clear that the consequences were nuanced, multifaceted, and called for multiple, simultaneous initiatives.

With the money raised through online campaigns, generous donations from philanthropic partners and collaborations with several vendors, charities and NPOs, CORO were able to work on five interventions to alleviate hunger and livelihood insecurity, reduce exposure to coronavirus, assess and mitigate levels of gender-based violence and increase access to clean public toilets.

To date, CORO has equipped 6,500 frontline workers with PPE they would otherwise have had no access to. Direct beneficiaries from this effort include sanitation workers, and those manning public toilets – whom a huge proportion of India’s population relies on.

One of CORO’s most inspiring efforts was in response to the uptick in domestic violence, afflicting women in India’s most vulnerable communities. In the urgent requirement for PPE, the organization saw an opportunity for these women to revive their livelihoods and have economic autonomy. In partnership with local grassroots, they employed groups of women to manufacture reusable cotton masks at home, which have been sold locally at affordable prices to those in need. Through this initiative, which has expansion plans, over 7,000 masks have been manufactured, and a vast network of vulnerable women are seeing the financial and mental rewards of occupying themselves with mask masking.

CORO’s connectedness and relationships with India’s local communities has been key in the distribution of aid and emergency services through the pandemic. Working closely with their grassroots network has enabled them to access communities that, particularly given the challenges posed by lockdown, they would otherwise have struggled to reach. Importantly, CORO’s unparalleled approach to collaborative work has helped India’s most vulnerable populations to organise their own relief systems and become self-sufficient.

Learn more about CORO’s initiatives here and, if you wish to donate, you can do so here.

Relentless Generosity: Safeguarding Dignity in Detroit

Detroit is an incredibly diverse city, buzzing with innovation, an exploding startup scene, and local communities injecting a strong sense of collaboration into its growth and development. All the while, its population is one of unique vulnerability. With a third of its inhabitants living in poverty, and an estimated 14,000 individuals being homeless, Detroit has become a fertile breeding ground for COVID-19 – and one of the cities worst hit by the pandemic in America.

But whilst the majority of charities and support centres have closed their doors to the pandemic, the team at The Pope Francis Center (TPFC) has been working harder than ever to support and protect Detroit’s homeless community.

30 years ago, the pastors of Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church opened their doors to those in need of refuge from a harsh winter storm. This spontaneous act of kindness gradually evolved into TPFC – a day centre providing nutritious meals, showers, laundry, hygiene, clothing, food, medical help and essential services, six days a week, to those in need. TPFC is committed to eradicating chronic homelessness in Detroit by 2030, and is seen as a real “beacon of help and hope” for the city.

“When we come together in a spirit of compassion and generosity, we can defy expectations and find innovative solutions to complicated problems.”

– Fr. Tim McCabe SJ, Executive Director

With the pandemic rendering more of Detroit’s population homeless, and sparking widespread food insecurity, TPFC saw a great surge in the demand for support. Seemingly overnight, they adapted and modified their services. They shifted all of their operations outdoors, installing heated tents, portable bathrooms, mobile showers and hand-washing facilities, they also continued to provide hot meals, but did so in take-away containers – with the number of meals served per day rising from 200 to over 500 as a result of the crisis.

In March 2020, they launched a drop-in COVID screening clinic, allowing individuals to be checked for signs of infection and, if necessary, transporting them to a location for testing and quarantining – all free of charge. Meanwhile, with most of the city’s other clinics remaining shut or inaccessible, TPFC offer a general medical clinic, where guests can receive treatment for other ailments and guidance on how to stay safe around the virus – helping reduce the probability of outbreak within homeless communities.

To help fund their invaluable work, TPFC launched the campaign ‘Sanctuary For The Season’, which raised $250,000. They have also been receiving support from local businesses such as Buddy’s Pizza, who donated 400 meals to the centre, and clothing label Carhartt, who donated 400 coats and pairs of gloves.

Whilst all of us are at risk of the virus, TPFC recognise that the lack of access to hygiene facilities, medical care, good nutrition and shelter, and the predisposition to poor health, put homeless people at an unquestionable disadvantage. But, the compassion, dedication and resourcefulness of this team of less than 10, has driven an army of volunteers and generous local businesses to make sure that this is not the case.

To make a donation for The Pope Francis Centre, follow this link.

Diverse Communities are Resilient Communities: Building Bridges in Bradford

The city of Bradford, in the UK, is a district of real ethnic and cultural diversity – a third of its population is of non-white origins. Amid post-industrial decline, social unrest has simmered, exacerbating issues around prejudice and discrimination. But, with characteristic Bradfordian grit, the communities that form this cultural melting pot are driving regeneration.

The Bradford Council is determined to push these efforts. Instead of being defeated by the physical isolation brought about by the pandemic, the Council has identified the opportunity to define and address the needs of the people of Bradford. Bradford Council’s vision has come to fruition in a wealth of initiatives to help cultivate compassion and build stronger relationships between the city’s various communities.

Citizen Coin is an innovative mobile app, unique to Bradford, which recognizes and rewards people for acts of social-good. It is a virtual monetary system which “inspires acts of kindness”. The app grants users “digital coins”, earned from time volunteering in the local community, which can then be exchanged for discounted products and services in the area.

Whilst encouraging voluntary work and creating opportunities for individuals to learn new skills, the scheme also drives flow to small businesses. With local trade and retail feeling the pressures of the pandemic, the Citizen Coin has been a real source of support.

Bradford have also got involved with the nationwide project Creative People & Places (CPP) (supported by Arts Council England), establishing their own, local strand of the initiative called THE LEAP. The mission of CPP is to cultivate creative experiences “for, by and with” local communities, in areas where there is lack of engagement with arts and culture. THE LEAP is focussed on inspiring young people between the ages of 16-25 to use art and creativity to tackle prominent social issues in the Bradford district.

Over a 12-month span, it offers successful applicants financial support, one-to-one mentoring, training and access to a wide range of tools and resources to help bring young creatives’ ideas to reality. From documentary film-making to activist theatre, THE LEAP is helping carve the futures of Bradford’s promising artists, whilst advocating the influence and impact that art can have on society.

So far, through the Bradford For Everyone initiative, Bradford Council has developed and commissioned over 40 projects – providing a range of meeting places for people of all different religious, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Through these opportunities for community engagement and involvement, they hope to slowly unite Bradford’s various social divisions and sculpt a brighter future for the city.

Learn more about Bradford for Everyone on the Bradford People Library and find out how to get involved following this link 

Radical Collaboration: Collective Action to Combat Food Insecurity in New York

West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH)’s work is founded on their three principles of ‘Dignity. Community. Choice’. They work in partnership with their customers, with many volunteering their services or acting on the board of directors. This model provides direct insight into the communities that they cater to, and ensures people’s needs are heard. Striving to challenge the perceptions around hungry people, the WSCAH community is built on foundations of respect and autonomy, providing “access with dignity”. The organization places a strong emphasis on healthy food, with fresh produce constituting 47% of the food distributed in 2020.

For over forty years, WSCAH has worked to alleviate hunger across New York City. A true pioneer in the field, it was the first ‘customer-choice supermarket style pantry’ in the US, developing a unique model that promotes empowerment and self-sufficiency within the communities it serves.

The organization operates across all five boroughs of New York, giving low-income residents access to healthy food, support services, culinary training, nutrition workshops and cooking demonstrations.

Before the pandemic, WSCAH operated several open pantries across the city where residents were given points to spend on their own selection of groceries, allowing customers to shop to their preferences and specific requirements. But, with the mobility restrictions brought about by the pandemic, the model needed adapting. The organization responded to this by developing its ‘Mobile Market Program’, which serves the needs of those unable to reach the other locations. The ultimate purpose: to ensure no-one in New York is left unaccounted for.

Last year, as coronavirus cases in New York rose exponentially, so did the levels of food insecurity. April saw a threefold increase in WSCAH customers, compared to their usual average rate. It became clear that their help, throughout the pandemic, would be more crucial than ever.

Since the onset of the virus, WSCAH has been joined by over 1,300 new volunteers. The teams delivered food directly to New York’s most vulnerable citizens, moving their pantry locations outdoors and distributing healthy food parcels to recovering COVID-19 patients upon their discharge from hospital.

Over the winter of 2020, they collaborated with 32 different organizations across the 5 boroughs of New York, such as Uber and Lyft – who helped with distribution and delivery of food boxes to peoples’ homes. Meanwhile, they have been working virtually to connect customers to over $1.3 million worth of food stamps (SNAP benefits), ensuring that they have the additional resources necessary to provide food for themselves and their families.

As the pressure on WSCAH has increased, they have responded by expanding and adapting their services, reaching staggering new numbers. In 2020 alone, they reached 12,727 new families and distributed 2.2 million pounds of food; the number of individuals they served increased by 178% and the number of household visits by 93%.

WSCAH have used this crisis as an opportunity to grow and consolidate their services, proving they are a truly reliable resource for the residents of New York. They have worked tirelessly to remove any shame or obstacles around seeking help, making sure nobody has to face the pandemic malnourished or on an empty stomach.

Leading through uncertainty:  Bending towards wholeness

Leading through uncertainty: Bending towards wholeness

Beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep! The sound of the kitchen smoke alarm pierces through the house. I sit bolt upright in my bed. It’s 12.15 am. The lights are on in the hallway. I hear mumbling, “It’s bad, it’s really bad.” I venture into the kitchen and find one of the kids standing in front of the oven. Smoke is pouring out, toxic fumes billowing through the air and out of the window. I carefully open the oven door. Through the smoke I can see a half-baked pizza on a melting chopping board, a growing pool of molten plastic on the oven floor. I cough as the stench fills my lungs. I shut the door quickly. 

California’s shelter-in-place order means our two college kids have returned to complete their semester from home and our high schooler has shifted to distance learning. We’re back to being a full, noisy household. The dining table is a shared office/learning environment during the day, and returns to its usual function in the evening. The fridge is stocked to the brim with food to feed three hungry teenagers, appliances are working overtime, and there’s a stream of family members in and out of the kitchen, all day, seven days a week. Together, we are re-experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly of family life. From lively conversation around the dinner table, to a midnight feast on a melted chopping board – and everything in between.

It’s only 12 months since I was preparing for our second child to head off to college, following in her brother’s footsteps (he’d left the previous year). Our family was dwindling, an empty nest on the horizon. After 20 years of a house bursting with energy, I was dreading the shift to a different kind of reality. I wasn’t sure that I was ready for this new phase and I could see it was going to happen whether I liked it or not. Change is hard; anticipating it is even harder. 

But when the day came to drop our daughter at college, I discovered the emotional work of separation had already been done. I felt at peace. I was happy for her and had a sense of ease about letting go, letting her go off to build a future. Our family was transitioning to a new chapter, a new way of being in a relationship, a new way of being – individually and collectively. 

My husband and I settled into a newly configured life at home with our youngest son. We enjoyed the quieter house and simpler day-to-day routine. I challenged myself to take up a new hobby – ballroom dancing – to tame the inner gremlin that has always told me I don’t know how to dance. I delighted in the rediscovery of things forgotten and the discovery of things I never knew.

It’s now just six months later, and we have reversed gear. The house is full again. Some of our family dysfunction has returned.The kids have grown up in so many ways, but old behaviors show up in moments of stress. Deep-seated father-son dynamics resurface. There are arguments over nothing. The kitchen is on fire. I fall back into my default role: imperfect mediator. Yet new bonds form. The boys exercise together. Big sister tutors younger brother in trigonometry. Our main outing of the week is to the supermarket. We try out new recipes; cook dinner together. Make banana bread. Dust off the board games. 

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. Perhaps it also bends towards wholeness. These past weeks have reminded me that life is not linear; it is complex and unpredictable, full of stops and starts. It is utterly imperfect, and still it moves towards wholeness. Our role is to focus on what we can influence, and nudge things in the right direction.

Coronavirus has brought about a change to our existence that we didn’t anticipate. It arrived suddenly and forced us to adjust in unimaginable ways. Collectively, we’ve had to do an about-turn. It is easy to feel anxious and disempowered when so much is beyond our control. Yet we are more empowered than we sometimes think. Each of us has the chance to make even small changes, so that we emerge from this crisis stronger than before.

Take a moment to consider your sphere of influence. Are there pockets of dissonance, or places where you feel stuck? What might you do to nudge towards wholeness? Are there conversations you’ve been putting off? People you’ve been avoiding? Is it time to re-envision your leadership? Reimagine your future? Pause for a moment to reflect.

I mean really pause.

Beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep! The alarm awakens us and we respond to an urgent family situation. A spontaneous reaction, subconscious and immediate. Comforting in its familiarity. By contrast, our global predicament feels uncertain, alarming and at times painful. It’s hard going through this, not knowing our direction, or even what awaits us on the other side. Yet just as we have shown willing to adapt over the last few weeks, so can we emerge from this crisis with new ways of living and leading. And, most importantly, with a deeper understanding of what it means to inhabit – humanely and sustainably – this place we call home. Our collective future depends on it. 

Leaders’ Quest offer a wide range of leadership workshops to help leaders and companies navigate uncertainty. To learn more, get in touch with us at

This blog is part of a series on leading through uncertainty.

Part I: Leading self

Part II: Making conscious choices