How Thomas Leonard Inspired Me

Andrea tagged me for this post about the impact of Thomas Leonard – the guy that really helped bring the world of life coaching to the mainstream (or at least help it happen a bit faster). I never met him in person but have been deeply acquainted with many of the people he’s had a huge impact on.
For me what I always liked about Thomas was his complete embrace of technology. I’m sure I could have convinced him to start blogging and I know he’d love Twitter. His use of technology to scale his impact and increase his volume are what really affected me. He saw a world where technology was bringing us closer together from all over the world and where geography would dissolve as groups of interested folks would meet online to discuss damn near anything. He was taking the cue from the academics and trying to accelerate the adoption of the tech we take for granted today (distance learning, teleseminar, web site, listserv, forum, online memberships). I remember the first time I’d gone to (it looked something like this) and saw that massive list of classes and events and thought: this is exactly what I want to be doing. That quote from a client of ‘when do you sleep?’ was something I wanted people to say about me (and finally a year or so ago I got that in a testimonial).
Another thing I admire him for is ‘speaking it into existence.’ He would think out loud about what might not fully be real yet but by gathering people around an idea, it would gain traction. He managed to motivate a ton of people to move together towards a new idea – a new model – a new way of thinking about business.
There was a lot of canonization of Thomas after his death and I am always skeptical of that theme of ‘They walked among us.’ (it is very prevalent in acting training). I wanted to hear about his flaws as well (and always suspected he could be a demanding boss at times).
I think ultimately the heartbreaker of Thomas’s death was the disarray of the estate and the many dynamics that shaped those years after his passing and the splintering that resulted with the organizations and services he’d helped to build. Some of the ugliness of business and egos was exposed that I think stunted the growth of coaching as a profession and an industry.
On a personal note it was fantastic to see a successful gay man having such a massive impact on an industry and profession and his sexuality a complete a non-issue to his being a respected, valued, thought-leader.






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