The following is a conversation between Kevin Cashman, Global Leader of CEO & Executive Development at Korn Ferry, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Kevin Cashman, Global Leader of  CEO & Executive Development at Korn Ferry

Denver: Has leadership ever been more important to the overall health of a nation, of a company, or a nonprofit organization than it has over the past year? There certainly is a case to be made that the difference between those who have thrived and those who have struggled, or in some cases failed to make it all together, was indeed due to the quality of leadership. To fully understand the role that leaders play and will need to play in the future, it’d be hard to find a better authority than my next guest. He is Kevin Cashman, Global Leader of  CEO & Executive Development at Korn Ferry, and author of six books, including Leadership From the Inside Out, Awakening the Leader Within, and The Pause Principle

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Kevin! 

Kevin: Great to be here, Denver. I look forward to the conversation. 

Denver: Likewise. Kevin, you have always been fascinated by human development. Where did that come from?  

Kevin: Well, you know, it comes from a fascination with how human beings grow. And I can’t say exactly where it came from. All I know is that from an early age, I was fascinated by leaders in the world and how they were functioning… and: How did they get there?  And: Who is the person behind the leader?  Because, obviously, they’ve learned a lot through their experience and roles – but: Who are they? So I was always fascinated with that, fascinated with the news, fascinated with world leaders. 

But I was also interested early on in psychology and human development. And not only how did somebody become a leader, but: How did that person grow as they were growing as a leader? So that’s why I studied psychology. And I studied business too, but I was much more interested in psychology and philosophy. And I got involved in meditation and my own personal transformation, and so on. 

So, all of those things built to then studying it, getting degrees. And I’ve been really fortunate that I organized myself around that fascination, not just with the degrees but with the business and with the clients, and so on. So, I feel very, very fortunate that the fascination actually had some value to other people. 

Denver: I love when fascination leads to livelihoods. That’s always a good mix. And you are a bit ahead of your time with all those things, even talking about meditation. That must’ve been pretty far out. 

I had Jeff Walker on recently, and Jeff was saying he used to do it at JP Morgan, and people were looking at him like, “What are you doing?” But he said, “I was bringing in the numbers, so they kind of let me do what I wanted to do.” But you seem to be very much cut from the same cloth — two-, three-, four decades ahead of where we all are now.

Kevin: I don’t know if I was ahead or behind, but I was clearly interested in being a student of all of this. But I remember when one of my first books, Leadership From the Inside Out was about to be published. And I remember having a moment in our house where I was laying in bed in the middle of the day, thinking about this book launch and going, “Oh, my God! What if these principles don’t hold up?”

And because many of the things that we take to be common knowledge in practice and leadership, like self-awareness or emotional intelligence or purpose-driven leadership that now just are part of our experience and lexicon, at the time, there wasn’t much research on. So on one level, we were really taking a risk. 

The benefit that I and our group had is we had our own laboratory where we were assessing and coaching CEOs and senior leaders at that time for 10- or 15 years. Now, it’s 30-plus, 40 years, whatever. So we had that laboratory, but we had no other research or very little. Some of the work of Bennis, some of the work of Covey and others, some of the early… but not enough to stand on it like you can now. So there were moments but, again, thank goodness we focused on principles, and they held up. 

Denver: Well, you had to have a degree of self-awareness to be laying in bed before the book comes out saying, “Will anybody like this?” Because I think that is about as human as you get.

Kevin, talk about the bell curve distribution of what you’ve been seeing from CEOs in the way they have handled this past year and these crises.

Kevin: We all have our story of the past year. And it’s been such a challenge for people – health-wise, energy-wise, lack of human contact. Starting to normalize being on calls like this and so on. Working from home. All of these things, the downsizing that happened in the beginning of things and all of the uncertainty, when you think of a year ago, it was like you would envision into a bit of a dark hole. And that was tough on everybody. 

But what was really amazing is– and we work on Fortune 500. We work from Fortune 1 all the way down, so we get a glimpse of what’s happening within major companies. And the amount of innovation that happened and how the digitization of things skyrocketed, and most of our clients say that they’ve achieved 5 or 10 years of innovation in a year. And now, it’s been stressful, too. The tenure for CEOs is a hell of a lot less now. It used to be five- or six years. Now, it’s three or four. 

Denver: Why is that, Kevin? Do you think it’s because they’re maybe getting pushed out, that the results are not coming fast enough? Or are they just getting exhausted? 

Kevin: It’s just exhausting. The job of being the CEO is exhausting in itself. And most people, when they move into becoming CEO, they think that they’re making a career advancement where really, they’re making a career change. And then suddenly, they have all the upward and outward constituency pressure, and all the inward and downward, and it’s 24/7. 

So, the job is relentless. But then you add crises, and multiple crises– from the pandemic to financial, to the innovation, and everything… it was overwhelming. Now, some people would– it’s really amazing. It just shows how subjective stress is. You stress one person, and they go, “Oh my God. Isn’t this exciting?”

Denver: Never felt more alive. 

Kevin: Exactly. And you stress another person, and life is coming down on them. So it really, like all good crises, it brings out character. It was quite amazing to see. 

This reconciliation of deep connection with others and deep courage to stand alone, you’ve got to have both or the job’s no fun.

Denver: Yes. It does. I had the head of the New York Philharmonic on the other day, and she was saying something about this crisis. And she said that one of the things that was so hard about it is that you are always making someone unhappy. And that’s really true as a CEO. You can’t– you’re always making someone unhappy, and you have so many hard things to do. And I would imagine that takes just an emotional toll.

Kevin: It does. And it’s kind of a reconciliation of a paradox that a lot of senior leaders have to do. Like on the one hand, you have to be connected enough with people to really engage them – all the different constituencies, inside and outside. So you have to have this connectedness to engage. But then you have to have the courage to stand alone and take the hits when what you’re trying to do is not popular, or we stumble, and then we get that immediate feedback. 

So this reconciliation of deep connection with others and deep courage to stand alone, you’ve got to have both or the job’s no fun.  

Denver: That’s really a great point because there does seem to be this trend that you have to be able to hold these competing ideas in your head at the same time. You’ve talked about: you have to be empathic, but you have to execute. Others talk about: you have to be a global-minded/ localist or a techno/humanist. And we’ve always been sort of like one or the other, but now you have to be able to balance the two, and that’s a real challenge.

Kevin: We’ve just finished a three-year research study on what’s the new leadership that’s emerging, and thank God we didn’t complete this research a year ago. 

Denver: It’d be obsolete already. 

Kevin: Exactly. Thank God, as difficult as the pandemic was, that we were able to leverage the learning there, too, and go: How is leadership changing?

And everybody knows that leadership, if you imagine a pyramid, leadership has to have an impact, whether it’s for social benefit or economic benefit or both; it has to have a purpose-driven impact. And then there have to be competencies or capabilities that support that impact. What our research showed that really relates to what you just said about this thinking competency is that there’s five mindsets that tend to open or close the expression of our competencies to have an impact. 

And one of these–we can cover all five if you want. 

Denver: I’d love to hear what they are. Sure. 

Kevin: But one of these is integrative thinking. That’s what you were talking about. This ability to see the different dots in the system that we’re dealing with or trying to serve. So we have to have this incisive ability to discern and differentiate the dots. But then integrative thinking is: Do you synthesize them into a new whole, into a kind of gestalt that really serves who you’re focused on? And in a competitive environment, which most of us are in, if you can synthesize those dots that are really in service of your constituents before your competition does, you have tremendous value.

So that’s one of five things that really has to open up in order to really make a difference. 

Denver: That’s really so interesting at this time, too, because we’re living more than ever in a black or white culture. We’re living in a sense of blue states and red states, and this and that. Everything we see in the media is very binary. And these guys are not doing– I think that Jim Collins once said it’s “the genius of the AND.” It isn’t a choice of either this or that. There can be an “and,” that you somehow can meld and merge them together. I always thought– 

Kevin: Most of us are in the “and.” 

Denver: Yes. About 70% of us are probably in the middle. You know, I always thought the prime minister of New Zealand got the “and” where every other leader said it’s either safety and health or the economy. She said, “No. It’s ‘and.’ We can do both.” And I think that’s a little bit, if I heard you, right, what this synthesis and this integrative thinking is all about. 

Kevin: Oh, it is. It is. And watching how great leaders reconcile paradox to come up with these seemingly disconnected things, and then watch the bigger, deeper reality that goes beyond them but reconciles them. When I hear– and it’s really difficult having this dualistic society with not working together. It’s really, really tough. But I think that we are craving the “and.” We are craving both candidates and maybe a party that sees that and serves that. So, I think instead of complaining, we need to find the “and.” 

Denver: Say just a word about the other four that you did research on. 

Kevin: The other four– these are the five mindsets that tend to open up what we call enterprise leadership. You could call it systems leadership as well. But these mindsets take us from being an executive leader to an enterprise leader, and eventually to an ecosystem leader that is very relevant to the intersection of nonprofit and for-profit. 

So to move from an executive leader where we come up with certain expertise in a silo, in a geography, in a certain business, and we come up the hierarchy, either in competition or within an organization, that’s executive leadership, and we tend to execute. 

Enterprise leadership is a different athletic event. It’s like we’ve been playing a certain sport with muscles that go up and down, but enterprise leadership, the muscles go across. We think across and synthesize – integrative thinking that innovates and differentiates us. So we also collaborate across and we include across, which is a pressure, a very appropriate pressure in our society now. How do we include humans across to involve them and really apply human potential as best we can? 

So there’s integrative thinking. There’s inclusion that multiplies impact. There’s courage across, which… it’s hard to find any leadership without courage because leadership is a courageous act. We’re going to step off of the known and go to the unknown. 

Denver: Absolutely. It all starts there. 

Kevin: And then purpose is another one. Because it’s great to be courageous, but courageous for what? Something that really serves others. So, they complement each other a lot. And awareness of self and others. So these are the five mindsets. 

They’re not the only mindsets. We probably as humans have an infinite number of mindsets. Belief systems that either open or close our behavior in certain ways. But these five –purpose, courage, awareness of self and others, inclusion that multiplies impact, and integrative thinking — those are the ones that if opened, move us from executive leadership to enterprise, and eventually, to ecosystem leadership the most. 

Denver: Good piece of research. I’m going to pick up on something you said, and I just want to run it by you and see what you think. Because you said initially that the game we played was a vertical game – up and down. And this game we’re playing is a horizontal game – across. And I was just wondering, for a leader, does it now become more important to have a breadth of knowledge, which is across, as opposed to the vertical depth of knowledge in terms of being an expert in one area? Would that be a fair statement or not?

Kevin: The answer would be yes and yes. Ideally, we have both. But we tend to come up in the vertical, in the expertise. And then at some point, we start to transcend that and go across. But there are moments where that deep expertise, if it’s not in us and in our experience, we have to be experienced enough to know that somebody’s got that that I can rely on.

So, ultimately, the vertical and horizontal are both needed, but what’s underdeveloped is the horizontal. In fact, our research says only– if you take any executive group, a big enough sample– only about a little under 14% will have this enterprise leadership capability developed. So it does mean some people naturally get there, but not enough to do the strategy and change that we’re really trying to do. 

Denver: That’s good. Again, it brings up Peter Drucker, who I think once said that “good leaders have the answers–” 

Kevin: Peter Drucker said everything. 

Denver: He said it all. And even if he didn’t. It’s sort of like Yogi Berra. He gets the credit for it. 

Kevin: But your quote – sorry. 

The most innovative leaders question at a 4-to-1 ratio of having the answer. And it makes sense because they’re not stuck in their analysis of what are the factors that go into their point of view. They’re expanding the factors that could be synthesized, like integrative thinking, into a bigger whole. So the questions allow us to see and synthesize anew.

Denver: The quote was that “Good leaders have the answers and great leaders have the right questions.” And it just seems that it’s what you’re talking about is that that horizontal leadership – learning and experience – allows you to ask the right questions. 

Kevin: When somebody like Drucker keys into a principle like that, I find it really interesting then to go back in time. That was a Native American quote, almost exactly. So I find it really fascinating that the principles of human development, what works and doesn’t work throughout the ages is what the research and thought leaders like Drucker and others eventually catch up to. But it’s a great principle. 

Denver: Yes. It is. 

Kevin: Do you want to hear a little research about that? I’m like full of research today. That the most innovative leaders question at a 4-to-1 ratio of having the answer. And it makes sense because they’re not stuck in their analysis of what are the factors that go into their point of view. They’re expanding the factors that could be synthesized, like integrative thinking, into a bigger whole. So the questions allow us to see and synthesize anew.

Great leaders are high in self-confidence, but they’re a little bit higher in humility.

Denver: It seems like they have the discipline to withhold their intuition – not to eliminate their intuition, but just to hold their intuition and ask those questions. 

Kevin: It’s intuition and experience because our experience is very believable to us because how can it not be? But it always sees a partial view.

So it’s the characteristic of great leaders are high in self-confidence, but they’re a little bit higher in humility. And that dynamic allows you to go, “I think I know, but it’s probably part of it.” And then the humility kicks in and then they’re curious, and they question more, and then they learn. So, it’s a perfect combination. 

Denver: It sure is. Well, your wonderful book, and you have a number of them, but Leadership From the Inside Out, I think it’s in its third edition. It’s at 150 universities. And you taught at universities, and you talk about eight pathways to mastery of leadership, and they’re: personal, story, purpose, interpersonal, change, resilience, being in coaching. Maybe, we’ll have time to talk about– 

Kevin: Thanks for saying them, so I don’t have to try to remember. 

Stories have this unique human motivational ability to move our heads and our hearts, and at the same time, do something important

Denver: Let’s take one of them: story. I talk to leaders. Leaders have to be good storytellers. So what they do is they go out and they look for some great stories. But you say that the story they need to start with is their own story. Explain that. 

Kevin: We all know the power of stories and the power of telling a great story. We’ve experienced it. We’ve seen it in our lives. We’ve seen great leaders can do it. And for some reason, human beings are story beings – from cave paintings to novels, to movies, to social media… In a good sense of social media. It’s human connection and human stories, right? So, we’re fascinated by them. 

And stories have this unique human motivational ability to move our heads and our hearts, and at the same time, do something important. We’ve heard stories and we go – what’s the moral of the story? That’s the whole thing, is that this story engages our heads, our hearts. It actually engages our senses as we hear the story and we imagine it. So it has this unique elevating ability to elevate our heads and our hearts; so they’re important. 

But the problem in leadership is it’s become a technique. It’s become a technique of storytelling, and that’s actually… it’s a good thing, but it can be used inappropriately. We can use stories to manipulate people. We can tell people stories that they want to hear, so then they trust us. But maybe we don’t give a damn about the moral of that story. But we can manipulate through stories, and there’s a rich dark history about that and leadership. But stories can also be deeply authentic and deeply relevant in serving others, and then they really inspire. So then the question is: How do you do that? Well, it’s not a technique of storytelling. 

So we’ve observed this model. It’s: imagine concentric circles. And an inspiring story doesn’t start with crafting the story. The most inspiring story is really knowing our story – what have been the highs and the lows in our life, and what have been the learnings out of that? And in Leadership From the Inside Out, we take people through a whole exercise where they can craft their life story of highs and lows and what the learnings have been. So then we start to get on the journey of self-awareness – What is our story? 

So knowing our story is the core. And then the second part is being the story because there’s parts of our story that we want to be and we aspire to be, like our most admired mentors or influences. We typically want to embody them and pay that forward. But there’s parts of our story we don’t want to be, and maybe we need to let go of that. So they probably become fears or limiting beliefs. So there’s part of our story we want to be and we don’t want to be. So that’s the journey to authenticity. 

Then there’s expressing the story, and that gets into storytelling and finding that convergence or that intersection of deep authenticity and deep relevance to others. Now, the last segment is going to sound strange but it’s maybe the most powerful one. And that is: discover the plot of your story because all of our lives are like a novel. 

Denver: I like that. 

Kevin: When you’re close enough to another human being, you stop judging. Because every human being has a story of highs and lows, and crises, and health, and loss, and recovery. And it’s like a hero’s journey. It’s just unbelievable. 

But the thing that we tend not to do is objectively examine our story and go: What are the gifts that have been a theme of this story and the plot? We’re a character in our story. There’s gifts. What are the things that this character has to grow that has been there? And personally, professionally, societally – what are their gifts? What do we need to grow? And then, what do we want to really give to the world? Sometimes we’re successful. Sometimes we’re not, but we aspire to give. And those three G’s of gifts, grow, and give, if we really examine them, we get clarity of purpose. 

And then, when we tell stories– you know when somebody is telling a story and it’s deep in their gut and life experience, it makes the story powerful. They may stumble with the technique of storytelling, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the realness and authenticity, and you see that come forward. 

So that whole story mastery illustrates that, along with some research. There’s some amazing research at Harvard where they hook people up to blood chemistry, and then oxytocin is produced with pleasure and love and so on. Some people call it the love molecule. 

Denver: Paul Zak

Kevin: Exactly. And then they tell people stories, and then they measure their blood chemistry and the oxytocin spikes with these authentic and relevant stories. So, they’re irresistible. 

One of the most important and ignored parts of CEOs…is finding that infinity loop of purpose between our personal purpose and the organizational purpose. When that’s clear, and the CEO can make those personal and organizational connections, it gets really compelling to follow them and bring our personal purpose to contribute to this.

Denver: Well, I love the idea of a plot because so often, in crises like this, the CEO has to be the chief sense-maker. And if you’re going to be the chief sense-maker, the first sense-making you have to do is the story of your own life. And if you can’t get that right, it’s going to be hard to make sense out of a lot of other things. So that was a great description. 

Kevin: Sense-maker, purpose-generator – those kinds of things.

And I think one of the most important and ignored parts of CEOs, I have a sense is less in the nonprofit from what I’ve seen, is finding that infinity loop of purpose between our personal purpose and the organizational purpose. When that’s clear, and the CEO can make those personal and organizational connections, it gets really compelling to follow them and bring our personal purpose to contribute to this

And that’s one of the really fantastic things about certain industries. And the nonprofit, by definition. Purpose is important. It’s part of the origin story, and the sustainability of the organization is: How are our gifts and how are we growing to really give our constituencies something that’s really, really valuable? So if there’s any place you can find purpose, it’s got to be a nonprofit, as challenging as nonprofit leadership really is. 

Almost all significant innovation and transformation was preceded by some kind of pause.

Denver: You know, after this past year, and we’ve all been going full out, I think another principle of yours has never been more relevant, and that would be the power of pause. The Pause Principle. Tell us about that and why, in this hard-charging world, we need to find a moment to take that pause. 

Kevin: That’s a big question. And before I wrote The Pause Principle, I’d been observing a dynamic for about 10 years with clients, and that is: almost all significant innovation and transformation was preceded by some kind of pause. 

Sometimes we go through trauma, and that forces a pause, and then we see ourselves and we see our life differently. So sometimes life forces us to pause. Sometimes health crises force us to pause. Strategy is a pause, a stepping back to see the current state and desired state in a new way, and then stepping back to go forward. All coaching leadership development is a pause. We’re going to step back, see ourselves, see our colleagues. Team development is a pause. 

So we started to see that all breakthroughs happen with some kind of “pausethrough,”  but the difficulty is our lives are anything but pause. Our lives are designed to keep us hyperactive, to keep us endlessly moving, and in a sense, distracted from what’s really important. So we have to become — particularly as the complexity and level of leadership that we move into has this accelerating complexity and risk — we have to be the ones to get practiced at stepping back to grow ourselves. No one else is going to do it. They’ll help, but we have to do that. 

Stepping back to grow others in the midst of all the craziness going on. Sometimes that’s the greatest gift we can give, is to– someone comes with a problem, but we really help them think it through and own it and do coaching and development. 

And then pause to innovate, to step back from the day-to-day and go– in fact, integrative thinking that we talked about as a mindset, it doesn’t happen without pause. Sometimes we’re taking a shower and not thinking about it – and bing! We didn’t intend to do a pause, but we relaxed for a moment. 

And then the brain, when it moves from the prefrontal cortex, which is the CEO of the brain doing all of the discernment and analysis, when we take a pause, whether we’re walking, taking a shower, or having an interesting conversation, that’s when the prefrontal cortex rests and then other parts of the brain, the electrical activity goes elsewhere. And then we synthesize. 

But routines to do this have never been more important. I think burnout has never been more. It used to be that 10% of the executive population was anxious or depressed clinically. It’s 40% now. Forty percent. Four times. 

Denver: Wow. That is serious. 

Kevin: So, the need to rest, be fit, take vacations, medical visits, and all of that – it’s never been more important than now. 

Denver: What you just said reminds me of an old story I heard a long time ago. It was about this champion skier. And she went down the most treacherous hill in getting ready for a competition, and someone asked her what she’d learned going down that hill. And she said, “Absolutely nothing.” She said, “Everything I learned, I learned on the chairlift on the way back up the mountain.”

And that is really the power of pause… because when we’re running, you need that reflection to think about what just happened. 

Kevin: Well, and fortunately she lived so she could pause about it.

Denver: So, well, and unfortunately as well– 

Kevin: Sometimes we pause before the hill and after the hill. Might be better. 

Denver: Well, unfortunately, you had your own pause this past year and this one was a health pause. Tell us about it, what happened, and maybe some of the perspectives and insights that came about as a result. 

Kevin: I’ll share a short version. A year ago, just a little over a year ago, I was living the life we all live –  Zooming and reorganizing our businesses, and one day was merging into another. And we experience this now, but a year ago, it was hard to tell what day it was. It was just nonstop. 

And so, I had a particularly intense day, and I happened to be alone in our house because my spouse and son were at our place in Bogota in Colombia. We have a place there, too, and they’re from there. And so, they were not only not home, they were stranded and couldn’t get out because of COVID. So that was no fun and felt terribly risky. 

So that night I’m ready to crash. So I go into our master bedroom where usually I don’t sleep when they’re gone, I go to a cozier bedroom. But I think I went there just to kind of have a feeling of connection with them. And all I remember is looking at my phone and looking at it, and I just went out. And obviously, I went really out. And by the way, I don’t drink, so this was not that. 

Denver: It wasn’t that. OK. I’ll just scratch that off the list. 

Kevin: It sounds like a binge, right? But I was just tired. And then that’s the last I remember. And what happened, and we had to figure out after the fact with everything, and it was pretty easy to figure out. I went out of the bedroom, went through a walk-in closet, exited this closet, tripped and went over the top banister. It was about a 15-foot direct hit on my head. And if I wasn’t a little out before, I was really out then. 

And then, here’s the weird thing. Somehow–and I don’t remember this– somehow, I got up. I had 22 fractures, which, of course, I had broken both sides of my neck, multiple vertebrae, eight of 12 ribs, and my two middle fingers just to top it off.

Denver: So you couldn’t even express to people how you felt about it.

Kevin: Exactly. It’s funny now, but it was rough. But then– just to show you the potential we have that we don’t know about. Can you imagine? I’ve had one fracture before and I’m disabled, right? Twenty-two fractures, and I go up the stairs somehow. I don’t know how. I don’t know how much crawling was involved or what, but I got up, got to the right bedroom, which also shows you, you put a little intention in your head, you’re going to get there. Isn’t that wild? 

Denver: It sure is. 

Kevin: And so, I go on this other bed, and then I’m there for a couple hours. Lose more blood. Probably should die of a heart attack really at that point. So I’m really fading away. And then I get this feeling… this will sound strange, but I’m just telling you what the experience was like. It didn’t feel like a thought. It wasn’t a voice. It was a feeling, and it was not this word that I’m going to tell you. But it was a feeling – Live. Live. There was no other choice. And it was powerful. 

Denver: Very primal. 

Kevin: Primal….And it woke me up long enough to– and I had my cell phone still with me. How is that even possible, right? I don’t even understand. There are so many reasons I should have left at that point, but lived. And then I called 911. They came and got me. I don’t remember anything after that call for 13 hours. And they came to get me. They brought me to the hospital and all of that. And I was a mess in the hospital. And then I was six weeks there. 

Denver: During COVID no less, right?

Kevin: During COVID. And believe me, I had– it’s interesting. I was so conscious of COVID until I was in the hospital and I had other things to worry about. No mask and all of that, I didn’t even worry about it. It was like I think I have other issues. But then I got home in six weeks. My family got home and then they nursed me back. I’m still recovering, but it’s quite miraculous. And I’m so grateful to friends, colleagues, family. I mean, man– 

Denver: You know, a story like that– 

Kevin: You know love, but in those moments, you really know what love is. 

Denver: And I think that is such a powerful story. You don’t overanalyze that story. You kind of let it speak for itself. But with that, is there anything you take away from that in terms of a perspective or an insight that you sort of carry forward with you?

Kevin: I had six weeks basically in bed to go: What the hell was that? 

Denver: What happened? 

Kevin: What was that? Because the experience, I can’t put into words, that was… And of course, everyone gave me their interpretation. My sister said it was my mom, and other people projected their religious or spiritual beliefs. My brother said it was just, “Look at that damn biology of survival.” So, everyone had their interpretation. And in the end, I said, “No. It was an experience. I’m not going to trivialize it with any interpretation.” 

But there is, whatever we call it, this thing called life that is so precious and so valuable and just animates everything. And I came back to our work, which I always loved, but with a different appreciation of how we’re all living these lives, and it’s important. And that purpose is important. And living and serving is important. Now, those are all concepts. I knew all that before. But there’s an extra passion and appreciation and gratefulness for life.

Denver: Gratitude is what I’m hearing. We take so many of these things for granted, but you don’t take them for granted after something like that. 

Kevin: No. Now, would I ever want to go through that again? No. But am I grateful? Yes. Unbelievably grateful. It would have been hard to get, as you said, that primal level of appreciation without it. So, I’m very grateful for the experience. 

Denver: Kevin, I have a couple more questions here, but I think it’s almost best to end on that because that is hard to follow up. Look, you have so much information on leadership on your website. Tell us about that website, and maybe some of the things that people will find there.

Kevin: Yes. Now, I’m with Korn Ferry. So, I lead the practice, as you mentioned, around CEO and enterprise leadership, so you can find me on Korn Ferry. But then I have my own website called Definitely connected to Korn Ferry, but it’s a place where I deposit articles, videos, thought leadership, and so on. 

And I’m just revamping it now. So in three months– it works great now, but in three months, I’m shooting for a place that…. now you want to go, you get articles and videos. I want it to be kind of a development experience, that website. So that’ll be out in September, but you can go there now. or you can find me at Korn Ferry, although Korn Ferry has 9,000 people now.

Denver: It’s gotten big and stuff like that. Well, you go now or wait for the facelift. You know what I mean? One or the other. Or look at it now and see how much better it looks come Labor Day.

Kevin: Yes. It’ll get a facelift, but it’ll be my face. I always get a kick out of how people do their bios. And it’s a picture of them 20 years ago. It will not be that. 

Denver: Yes. You know, I used to be– this is a horrible story. I shouldn’t even tell it. But I used to be the executive director of a cancer organization, headed up by Armand Hammer. And on our board–this is horrible for me to say–but on our board, we had Ann Landers and Dear Abby. And back then I would see them in the funny papers–I know you know–and I looked at that picture. And I remember our first board meeting. I said, “Oh my God. When was that picture taken?” I didn’t even know they had cameras back then. 

Kevin: I know. Like nobody’s going to notice, right? I think it’s better to have really bad pictures. And then they say, “Oh, you look so much better.” 

Denver: Absolutely. You’re doing better. That’s right. Under-photograph and overdeliver when they see you in person. That makes a lot of sense.

Kevin: It’s been a real pleasure, Denver. I really, really enjoyed the conversation. 

Denver: Likewise, Kevin. What a wonderful guest! And thank you so much for doing this. 

Kevin: My pleasure. Take care.

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