“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I was one of the lucky people who got to know and work with Dr. Kathy Cramer, who passed away on July 13th, 2016 due to complications from a cancer she fought with great bravery and tenacity. I reached out to her in 2014 after I read an interview she had done with the Washington Post. Her words and attitudes about great, and more human leadership, pulled me in – this passage in particular:
“Leaders do not realize how important they are in driving the change. They have a ripple effect that they often underestimate. People follow people, not just great ideas. Leaders have to put themselves into the equation – you are as important if not more so than any other strategy. People need to look at you, hear from you, and they need to know how much they matter.
I like to tell people that substance is critically important. It’s your credibility card. You have to give people details about the substance — the details about how life and this organization will be different. The second element is the sizzle. You need to weave a story that has emotional value to your employees, whether it is an elevator speech or an hour town-hall meeting. The third element, soul, is the why: why you, the leader, care and why they, the audience, should care. It’s the leader’s skin in the game.”
Soul. How many leadership mentors, consultants, writers and gurus ever talk about that, and, more importantly, why a leader needs to “put it out there” in such a bold and yet vulnerable way?
I tweeted her and asked if she would be a guest on my podcast, and she got back to me right away with a “yes”. But she even went beyond that, attesting to her great graciousness and positivity, writing to me in an email “I am excited to work with you on the podcast! I have listed to almost every podcast you have done and I love the range of your thought leaders and how generous and engaging you are!”
That 35 minute conversation was a wonderful reminder of why I love the practice of More Human Leadership so much. Kathy was passionate and eloquent about why heart and soul matters in leadership, and she presented the data and science to prove it – just like a great teacher would. I invite you to listen to it when you get a chance (just click play below, or download it here)
Right after that podcast, she talked about collaborating together again. In a lot of cases that can be just polite talk, but sure enough a few weeks later she reached out and we started talking about what we could do together. In the meantime she wrote a wonderful guest post on this blog about the “Heroic Journey” of leadership.
The specific project took several months to figure out, but in December 2015, several months after she got her cancer diagnosis, we launched a webinar series that fused together our two approaches into one: “Lead Positive The More Human Way” – and as a framework, we used the Heroic Journey as guideposts.
(Kathy published a terrific ebook on this framework and you can download it here.)
Every few weeks as the series went on, I got a chance to talk about leadership and the “mighty cause” of the Heroic Journey with my (now) friend Kathy, both privately and in presentation to our webinar audiences. It was a sheer joy to do, because of the encouraging and positive energy that Kathy would put into every single interaction. I had my doubts about actually doing something like this that put my More Human stories and philosophies “out there”, but she was always pushing me, in her nurturing way, to be brave enough to have “moon shot” ambitions and goals.
I realized that this was her calling – to help people believe in themselves and their inner ability to do something extraordinary, find their souls, take their “moon shots”, and change the world. She loved being on that Heroic Journey herself, even while battling her cancer. And I knew that anyone that entered her orbit would be truly affected by her optimism and wisdom in a wonderful and profound way.
Later in the spring and early summer of 2016, after the webinar series concluded, we talked about collaborating again, and Kathy started writing another book, but fate intervened and the cancer took her life.
The quote by Mary Oliver at the beginning of this piece was one of Kathy’s favorites – she knew deep in her heart that she had “one wild and precious life” and was going to give it all she had, with positivity and joy, to get the absolute best out of it, and inspire many, many others to do same until her last dying breath. And that she did.
And while I only knew her for an all-too-brief period of time and others could attest more fully and completely about her entire body of work and accomplishments (read this beautiful tribute on her website) I can still certainly say this – Kathy, you sure did have your soul in the game, every day. You were a great leader, a mentor, and a friend. And I’ll miss you.
Yes my friends, leadership is about love, joy, positivity and soul, and Kathy was a shining example of all those things that we should aspire to. Just remember we only get one wild and precious life. Let’s take a Heroic Journey of our own and change the world.
You know you have it in you, right?
Thank you Kathy, and rest in peace my friend.