Regaining the Lightness of Leadership


This weekend we were in need of a little flight of fancy, so Jen and the girls and I went to see Jim Carrey in Yes Man.  It wholly fulfilled our needs.

I wouldn’t make too much of a movie that lampoons the power of positive thought, but one thing I took away.

Creative leadership flows from a lightness of being. 

I’ve seen such lightness at Google and at Quicken.  I’ve seen imagination and chance-taking at – of all places, hospitals.  I’ve seen an enlivening flairfulness in some moves of Pistons President Joe Dumars.  Even though Joe can be serious as a heart attack, he’s out there looking and leaping (and even laughing a little about the leap off the cliff called Darko Milicic).

By this time of this year – with the pounding that so many have taken – even before the minus -10 degree wind chills blew in – the whole thing could get you tired, worn out, ossified, calcified, oxidized, rigidified, concretized, and otherwise heavy, slow, dark and cautious.

 So my hope for you and me as we head into this break is that we come back lighter in our step, our outlook, and demeanor.  Give freely.  Breathe deeply.  Laugh heartily.  Jews lit the first light of Chanukah yesterday.  Today the nights begin getting shorter.  Christians welcome a new life and light.  Let in the light.  Get light.

And come back ready to lead

With your best self,



  • Dear Dan:
    I am not nitpicking, but in this age of “inclusivity”, you should have made a mention of “kwanza” (sic). Your references covered the christians and jews,and our largest minority, Hispanic christians, but the next largest minority, African-Americans was left out.

    More seriously, in keeping with your theme, I think the Kwanza celebration has some candle lighting observance also. If so,it would have made your point even “lighter”.

    Enjoy your writings and often recommend them, to others. Tell the “GOV” to persevere—she was left a mess (including the house and senate) from that idiot gov.

    Dave Zaffina

      • Dan,

        Thanks for your article. I viewed the references in your article to religions and not to ethnic groups. As an African-American Christian rest assured I did not feel left out in your reference. Although I do celebrate Kwanzaa, it is not a religion. Christianity is!

        Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

        Milton Eric Fletcher

  • Thanks for your consistent, and beautiful, inspiration, Dan.
    I have forwarded this one on to a “small army” of contacts —- many of whom, I am sure, will benefit from (and enjoy) your thoughts.

    Much light of the holidays (ALL of them…LOL) to you and your family, too,

    Kathleen Norton-Schock

  • Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your great newsletter. It served as an inspiration to many people this year, and provided readers with an outlet for sharing and even debating their opinions. As we all work together in 2009, I’ll remember what Mother Teresa once said, “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”

    Happy Holidays,
    Tony Ettwein, Kalamazoo

    • Thanks Tony – and Rob, Liz, Muriel, Cindy, and Kathleen,
      Writing RFL has been less of a labor and more of a love over the years. The discussions – which you have really enriched this year, Tony – and mutual encouragement have been wonderful to watch and participate in.
      We will all have our work cut out for us in 2009, so it’s nice to have this virtual space to build a lighter yet more effective leadership!
      —Dan Mulhern

  • Dan,

    Thanks for the uplifting and timely message. You are so right that we often let ourselves get beaten down by the news and to some degree by the season’s busyness. Thanks for the dose of perspective. Merry Christmas!

  • you are so right! we need some lightness, the daily news can be depressing, Merry Christmas to you family, looking forward to your perspectives in the coming new year

  • Dan,
    Once again you came through with a timely message to lift our spirits during this recession. Thank you for bringing more light to this holiday season. Merry Christams and Happy New Year to you and your family.

  • Your column is always a delight to read, filled with positive energy for home or work. You are wise beyond measure and always an ispiration. Thanks for sharing. I will go see that movie!

  • Merry Christmas, Dan:

    Dan M., with the “Gov” as his wife –
    Who sees and hears plenty of strife,
    Knows the time is right,
    To write about light,
    And brings holiday cheer to my life!

    The holidays are an island of light in the long winter’s night. Thanks for reminding us to celebrate the light instead of cursing the darkness…

  • Mr. Mulhern,

    You have the desire to inspire. I am one of your recruits; I am learning to lead, slowly and surely. 2009 will be filled with many more recruits. The role of a leader will magnify and capture it’s target.

    Thomas K. Burke – Mentor

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