What sustains you in your practice of leadership and your commitment to change?
It ”recharges my batteries” when a person in a leadership class that I am offering in a rural community has an ”aha” moment about some leadership theory or practice, or about their own style and capacity. Sometimes this new awareness is a small step forward for them; other times it is life changing. For me it renews my commitment to my practice as a rural community leadership trainer. It more than makes up for the long drives and late hours.
What do you consciously say to yourself or do that helps you stay on track with your
Never underestimate the capacity of ordinary citizens to lead in their communities. Leadership is always about people and always about relationships building bridges across individual, professional, and cultural diversity.
What is your passion?
Understanding! As a professor-type, I look for the systems and models, the nodes and
connections that create the context for effective leadership. When I die, I want, first, to
understand people and leadership.
How do you practice good self-care?
I don’t do as well as I should, but what works for me is physical work on our small farm — cutting
wood, building fences, remodeling. While I work, I think and ideas flow. After physical work I
sleep well at night. I also entertain dreams, i.e. to buy another boat and take it up the coast from
Oregon to Alaska.
How do you measure success?
One person, one conversation at a time. I must admit that for all of the courses I’ve taught,
papers I’ve published, programs I’ve developed and managed, what matters is when someone I
contacted, perhaps years ago, tells me that I made a difference.
If you had to give an aspiring leader one piece of advice, what would it be?
Build relationships. It is not possible to lead someone unless you have built a relationship that
How are you different or what do you do differently as a result of your experience as
a Kellogg Fellow? Why?
Without doubt the Kellogg Fellowship permitted me to move from my career in natural resource
management to one in leadership training. Although I continue to teach NR courses, they are
now much different, I now look much more broadly at issues and opportunities. I strive to
embed leadership training in my classes, so that graduates are leaders as well as professionals.
Why? Because Kellogg’s leadership experience can be ”taken home” and applied in one’s daily life
Are you a better leader than you were five years ago? How do you know?
I think I am, I am more aware of how I serve as a leader, and I am more aware when my
expression of leadership causes problems for others, particularly when it annoys organizations.
Certainly I can teach the modules of knowledge and skills needed to be a leader, but I now know
much more about my own leadership style preference and how to use it, subtly, in service to
Can leadership be invisible? How and why have you practiced invisible leadership?
I think leadership is much like an iceberg, 10 percent of leadership is visible and 90 percent is
invisible. In a community, leadership, which I define as influence through relationship, is very
widely distributed. I practice this form almost entirely. In MBTI-speak I am an INTJ, introverted
intuitive thinker. I am not particularly social, at least not in large groups. I am not drawn toward
the extraverted, gregarious leader and/or simple solutions with catchy slogans. As much as the
world needs public leaders, there is a greater need for private leaders. The Kellogg experience
has helped me to work to my strengths and manage my weaknesses (or at least some of them).
Tom Gallagher was interviewed on 1/6/2003