I’ve dreamed of starting my own business since I was seventeen. As a senior in high school in Israel, I saw friends lose their lives fighting in the military. When the time came for me to be drafted, I devoted myself to climbing through the ranks. My persistence paid off: I attained the fastest promotion record in the history of my regiment and became a Sergeant Major in the Israeli Air Force.
Still, something was missing. I had risen to the challenge, and I learned so much about how to lead while under significant stress. But the command-and-control style of leadership in the military chafed at my soul. Thus was born my desire to build an organization based on my own values: a company founded on respect for the individual while still committed to team spirit.
My dream was finally realized when I founded Individual Inc., a service designed to deliver personalized newspapers to each client. But, in all my excitement, I let my identity and self-esteem become entangled with the success of the venture. I started micro-managing, overworking myself, and expecting my employees to be similarly caught up in my vision.
Trapped on an emotional roller coaster of my own making, I found myself unable to properly manage my relationship with Individual’s board. Though my ideas for a rapid acquisition strategy at the start of the Internet boom were right-on, I did not communicate them effectively and, in my fervor, I alienated a lot of the people who might have agreed with me. Eventually, I was pushed out of my own company. The stock price collapsed upon the announcement of my leave of absence, resulting in a tremendous personal and financial loss for me, my employees, and our investors.
It might seem odd to highlight such a disaster in one’s bio, but to me, this crisis served as a tremendous learning opportunity. I see it now as a blessing in disguise. The experience was obviously quite painful, but it led to three critical revelations for me. First, I gained rare insight into board dynamics and effective approaches to CEO succession. Second, I learned of the importance of separating my own identity and self-esteem from the success of my business ventures, finding ways to maintain balance in my life. And third, I recognized the importance of building a network of resources that can offer me perspective and support. As a result of these three changes, my second major tenure as a CEO (at Valicert) looked quite different. I was more effective in managing relationships and in making decisions and, as a result, had more fun personally.
During my CEO years, I also helped form and build several other companies, as a co-founder or sometimes as a founding investor. I counseled several entrepreneurs on building their management teams and provided CEO coaching (sometimes on a daily basis). In a few cases, I worked with entrepreneurs to find their successor, helping recruit outside CEO talent. As I mentored each CEO, I again witnessed the importance of perspective and balance in one’s approach to just about everything.
In 2002, after over fourteen years in my CEO role, I decided to pursue an entirely new line of work. As a confidant, coach, and counselor for CEOs, my job is to exist in the background as a support, working exclusively for their benefit. To do so more effectively, I also pursued and completed a PhD in clinical psychology. There, I developed the first research-grounded theory and validated measure of Spiritual Intelligence (SI) with an associated model for Inspired Leadership. This research has received over a thousand citations to date.
My hope for my life is that I may awaken greater Spiritual Intelligence in myself (a lifelong journey) and in the world. My hope for my work is that it may make a difference in the lives of the few, who, as leaders, will have a positive impact on the many.