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An Evening of Insights with Notre Dame - by Rebekah Childers

September 06, 2015 8:28 AM | Deleted user

An Evening of Insights with Notre Dame

Written by Chelsea Slaggert

Our August 27th event was something a little unique for us. We partnered with Notre Dame’s Stayer Center for Executive Education and Program Faculty Member Mel Dowdy to explore how to make purpose stick. We gathered in Notre Dame’s classroom space downtown for a night full of insights, discussions and practical applications.

Mel Dowdy opened the evening by discussing John Mackey’s book, Conscious Capitalism. He defined two key points that stood out in the book, setting Mackey apart in his concept of leadership:

  1. Mackey had the courage to deliver: he models the courage that it takes to be a conscious leader by committing to identifying his purpose, living his purpose and living out his purpose through his leadership.
  2. Mackey engaged in constant practice: he was mindful in how he translated his personal, inner purpose into purposeful outside work. This wasn’t done through one or two actions, but through consistent striving to live his purpose as a way of life, both personally and professionally.

The qualifying word in Conscious Capitalism is conscious; this is a call to wake up as leaders! It’s a call to be mindful of what we’re doing, be less reflexive and more intentional, less dependent on what we know or are taught to work conventionally. But how are we to do this in the midst of an increasingly complex business environment?

Mel introduced us to the Integral Leadership model, used in Notre Dame’s leadership programs, which is a holistic approach and methodology that can help us navigate complexity by helping us define and align our values with our actions so that we may step into conscious leadership. It takes into account interior and exterior factors that affect leadership, as well as individual and collective forces:

  Interior Exterior


What are my values?

What sacrifices am I willing to make so as to not stand in my own way of realizing my purpose?



How are my actions, skills and practices aligned to the purpose I intend?




How do you create a “we” in an organization that has a sense of a shared meaning?






How will achieving results change organizational/community capabilities?

*Graphic adapted and used with permission.

Mel challenged us to “wake up” and understand that we can be skillful but, if our actions and practices, or the culture we strive to create, or the sacrifices we make don’t align with our intentional inner purpose, we are wasting our time as leaders. He stressed that the way we add value through our leadership is through consistent practice of aligning our behaviors with our values.

Mel concluded the evening by guiding the group in a thought-provoking exercise meant to help us identify our purpose and the things in our lives that hold us back from realizing and executing on that purpose – in other words, making it stick.

For more information on Notre Dame’s Executive Education programs, visit

To learn more about our next Conscious Capitalism Chicago event visit our Web site.


  1. Lee Capps on September 14, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Here’s a little more on the “immunity to change”. The exercise from Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey had us consider what we are committed to and other – potentially hidden – commitments that might be getting in the way. For instance, if I’m committed to leading in an empowering way, but I am also committed to being in control or being right, I have competing commitments that derail my primary purpose or intention – making me “immune to change”. For each of us as leaders, where are we declaring a purpose (personal or organizational) that might be in conflict with other, deeply held intentions? For our purpose to be “sticky” or fulfilled, we need to surface those competing commitments, test them and potentially let go of them.
    Thanks, Mel. Great session.

  2. Thea Polancic on September 15, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks, Chelsea, for the great summary!

    I think it’s important to add a note about John Mackey since he’s an outspoken guy and has some controversial opinions. Representing Conscious Capitalism Chicago, I often get questions about whether his perspectives are those of the Chapter – or the movement as a whole.

    Here’s what I’d say: in the context of Conscious Capitalism, we’re not holding up John as a the model for all aspects that are ideal in a leader or human being. (None of us could aspire to that.)

    However, we are saying that John is a model to look to for these two capacities of conscious leaders that Mel highlighted in his talk: John had the courage to stand for his convictions and took action to engage his fellow peers and his organization in making a difference in the world; and he stays in the game of his own growth and development. Rand Stagen frequently says “leaders get the organizations they deserve.” John lives this and has been known to say “I know I need to have a breakthrough when there’s something about Whole Foods that’s bothering me.” And then he does the work – and the business gets the benefit.

    It takes incredible courage and commitment to start a movement – to start anything. We’re deeply grateful that he did.

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