Now in my 10th year of teaching entrepreneurship, I am still learning how to do it better. This is especially true when it comes to the difficult and evasive topic of what leadership is all about. After a lifetime of business leadership, shouldn’t I know? But there is a difference between “knowing” and possessing the clarity required to convey this knowledge to students. For me, gaining this clarity requires persistent introspection: an examination of my most vivid recollections of the instances when my leadership capacity was tested, along with an understanding of what was happening inside me — both when I did it right and when I did it wrong. 

I feel very fortunate to have a friend and mentor who has witnessed my struggles with an open heart, listened with a fresh ear, and offered feedback from an incredibly insightful mind. I have known Bob Quinn for almost 25 years and always admired his keen intellect. I have also been fascinated with his many writings on organizational transformation (18 books and innumerable articles). His emphasis on positive thinking and purpose-driven action has resonated with me and helped me recognize some of what I did right and some of what I did wrong as I built my businesses. For some time now I have particularly been seeking his wisdom on the “essence” of leadership. So, I should not have been surprised, a few days ago, when I found my journey incorporated into the most recent entry in Bob’s blog: “Looking Ahead into the Past.” With Bob’s permission, I share it at the end of this post, in its entirety.

One of my other treasured mentors, John O’Neil, has been discussing friendship and leadership with me and a few other interested associates. We are considering how friendship helps leaders gain perspective, achieve balance, and enjoy what John is well known for referring to as “the good life.” One truth stands out: A good friend is an honest mirror, often reflecting our thoughts with a clarity we may not be able to reach by ourselves or may not recognize even when we have achieved it. This is what Bob Quinn has done for me.

At the core of Bob’s reflections of my leadership journey is the importance of expanding our consciousness. This capacity is pivotal in all we do in life. It applies to far more than building our leadership skills. It encompasses our awareness of our own life purpose as well as the drive underlying each of our everyday actions. The value of increasing our conscious awareness has been expressed in many ways by many important thinkers throughout history, Bob Quinn not the least among them. 

I am honored that Bob shared some of my musings in his post, including the observation that when we are successful in our efforts to expand our consciousness, “We discover that we are knocking on the door of a building to get in, while we are already inside.” However, I cannot take credit for this metaphor, which actually comes from a wonderful Rumi verse I have carried with me for many years: 

I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
Knocking on a door. It opens.
I’ve been knocking from the inside!
          The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks, p 281

Bob complements this reference by culminating his post with, “When we go deep within, you can see the outside with new eyes.” Continuous reflection is especially important in this world of pervasive stimuli and non-stop news. When our limited sight and mind are being overwhelmed with inputs and demands, constantly striving to gain perspective is critical. It requires an expansion of our thinking, which stimulates a transformation of the paradigms that have governed our behaviors and our attitudes. In turn, this transformation allows us to transcend the past, expand our consciousness, and look ahead with fresh vision. 

Below is Bob Quinn’s post. Please enjoy or, as we say in Spanish, “Que aproveche!” (“Enjoy your meal!”) Ponder especially Bob’s “Reflections” at the end. And I encourage you to see “Looking Ahead into the Past” in the context of the wealth of Bob Quinn’s wisdom, which can be found – and followed – on his website at:

by Robert E Quinn

I love to listen to experienced people when they go to the edge of their understanding and peer out. Ricardo is a retired entrepreneur. He is a student of technology, a practical man who pays attention to detail. He now teaches leadership at a prestigious university, and it is a calling, a labor of love. Continually, he ponders how to do it more effectively. In doing so, this practical man of technology puts together his insights and speaks like a mystic. Here are some of the things he told me.

“When I was a young professional, I was smart and capable, but I was not mature. After decades of ups and downs, my cognitive structure has been cracked open. Today, I more frequently transcend ego. I see the reality of spiritual consciousness. Today, I find myself teaching young people who are just like the young me. They live in a fast-paced world, they are constantly pressured to move forward without deep reflection. There is no focus on the nonphysical.”

“Leadership takes root in the nonphysical. What goes on at our core is crucial to what happens outside of us. To become a leader, you must learn to examine your daily journey. You must reflect and draw out the lessons in the richness of what is transpiring. You must bring your logical mind and your intuitive mind together. You must look backward as you look forward. You must stand in the present as a dynamic integrator of the past and future. If you deeply reflect on past and future, you become more conscious, you see what others do not see — reality is a whole that is moving. You can see your place inside the whole and you can influence the movement.”

“As you expand in consciousness of the dynamic whole, you see both the past and the future in a new light. The past and the future both change because you are seeing them. When you recall the power of purpose and faith in your past, your faith increases, and you approach the future with optimism. You act in new ways.”

“As you orient to the future, it is as if you are discovering what is already there. Your vision is awareness of reality. The future that you see is real, it is inside your intuitive mind, if you believe in it, you act, and the future begins to emerge into the material world.”

“Each of us has the potential for increased consciousness. Yet each of us carries injuries. Each injury causes the ego to put out another layer of crust. Like the earth, we have a molten core covered by layers of crust. When we engage in deep reflection, we go to the core. Our light increases and we see what we could not previously see. We discover that we are knocking on the door of a building to get in, while we are already inside. When you go deep within, you can see the outside with new eyes.”


  • What does it mean to have one’s “cognitive structure cracked open,” and to more frequently “transcend ego?” Do you have an example?
  • What does it meant to “engage in deep reflection,” “go to the core,” and “see what we could not previously see?” Do you have an example?
  • What does it mean to “stand in the present as a dynamic integrator of the past and future?” Do you have an example?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?