Personal Leadership


People who live and work and raise families across cultures tend, as a general rule, to be very well intentioned. If we’ve had any training or education to prepare us for our internationally mobile lives, we know it’s important to withhold judgment, tolerate ambiguity, describe rather than evaluate, avoid misattributing meaning. When it comes right down to it, however, this is much more easily discussed in theory than practiced. Indeed, for all our training and education, for all our understanding of the theory, people who live and work across cultures all too easily slip into ways of being and of interacting that ultimately don’t serve our best—or even our good—intentions. The practices of Personal Leadership offer increasingly proven ways for learning to “walk our talk.”

What is Personal Leadership?

Personal Leadership is a state of mind and heart. Consisting of two principles and six practices, it about taking leadership of our own experience. As such, it is not about leadership in the traditional Western sense of leading others – yet it certainly has relevance in that regard.

Personal Leadership describes a way of being and of interacting with the world that begins from the “inside-out.” It asks us to be fully present in our lives, awake to habitual behaviors, and willing to look at every situation with fresh eyes. Personal Leadership offers the possibility of a creative and inspiring relationship to work, family, friends, and colleagues—to everything we do.

Personal Leadership means sustaining a commitment to deepen our personal and professional capacities. It asks us to disentangle internal experience from external circumstance, recognizing that we are the creators of the former and not the victims of the latter. Practicing Personal Leadership encourages us to recognize that every situation – every new experience, every challenging encounter, every joy and every sorrow – can serve us in both exploring and fulfilling the purpose of our lives.

Personal Leadership is based on many long-standing philosophic traditions as well as contemporary disciplines. The genesis of the ideas and practices of Personal Leadership can be found within spiritual doctrine taught throughout the ages. Most commonly, people have likened the ideas and practices of Personal Leadership with those of mystic Christianity and Buddhism.

Foremost among the contemporary disciplines which inform the framework of Personal Leadership are those of intercultural communication and leadership development. Indeed, practicing Personal Leadership returns “interculturalists” to the attentional mode by which the field began, a process of learning through self-as-instrument. It helps people who live and work across cultures “walk their talk” and turn theory into practice. Similarly, Personal Leadership helps organizational leaders cultivate the emotional intelligence and behavioral styles asserted as fundamental by today’s leadership literature. Also lending their influence to Personal Leadership are the fields of adult education, whole person self-development, and the biological sciences.

In sum, Personal Leadership offers a new and very practical integration of what might be called ageless ideas.

The History of Personal Leadership

The framework of Personal Leadership was first articulated by Drs. Sheila J. Ramsey, Barbara F. Schaetti, and Gordon C. Watanabe in the mid 1990’s. By 1998, it had become established as the core curriculum in both the Intern Program at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A., and the Masters in Teaching program at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, U.S.A. In 2002, it was introduced as a foundational curriculum in the Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations program jointly sponsored by the Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. and University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, U.S.A.

Personal Leadership has served as the central content for coaching expatriates and repatriates, in public seminars for organizational leaders and for those who live and work across difference, and has served as the organizing framework in numerous multicultural team development efforts. It has become the research focus of graduate students at the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy levels, and has been presented at numerous international conferences, including W.I.N. 2001 in Milan, Italy; Global Living 2002 in Brussels, Belgium; Families in Global Transition 2002 in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A.; and SIETAR U.S.A. 2002 in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.

Personal Leadership is now being applied in professional venues around the world, from Mexico to China.

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‘Personal Leadership’ is an abbreviation of the service mark (sm) ‘Personal Leadership: Making a World of Difference’ owned by Sheila J. Ramsey, Barbara F. Schaetti, and Gordon C. Watanabe, DBA Personal Leadership Seminars. All right reserved, 2005.