We are unabashed in telling groups, especially in working with organizations, that the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ work is all about the “soft stuff.”  By that we mean how we relate, listen and support one another – and work together.

Many years ago, David came across an interview of Roger Enrico, who was the chairman and chief executive officer of Pepsico, that he likes to share with groups.  In the article, Enrico was asked why, as a very busy multinational executive, he took a week of his valuable time to serve on the teaching faculty of Pepsico’s capstone Executive Leadership Program.  The interviewer referred to leadership development as “soft stuff.”

Enrico’s response was wise and inspiring.  While the article itself is long lost, the message is not: when it comes to business (in any kind of organization), he said, give me a reasonably intelligent woman or man and we can teach them the “hard stuff,” like budgeting, planning, etc.

When it comes to leadership, it is the soft stuff that is hard. 

He went on to say that the most common cause of a leader’s derailment, demotion, or dismissal is usually the soft stuff of relationship building, considering alternative perspectives and forming a strong, effective and resourceful team.

TED* is all about that soft stuff.  The three roles in the TED* triangle provide a framework for effective leading – be that in one’s organization, family, or community (to name a few places where relationships are paramount).

  • A Creator envisions outcomes, which requires a form of strategic thinking about future possibilities.  In addition, a Creator also chooses their response to the people, conditions and circumstances they face.
  • A Challenger develops the capacity to challenge assumptions and the status quo, while doing so from what we call a “learning intention” in ways that do not convey blame and judgment.
  • The role of Coach is at the heart of a serving leader who sees his or her associates as ultimately creative and resourceful and supports them by asking questions that help them learn, grow and determine what actions they are going to take.

While on the surface these roles seem simple, or soft, they are anything but easy (or, as Enrico might say, they are hard).  They take practice and time to fully develop.