My core interest lies in systemic change. I am encouraged by crises, system collapses and other difficulties, as I perceive them as exciting opportunities for profound growth, creativity and transformation.
During the first 20 years of my career, I worked in infrastructure sectors: mobile communications, developmental banking and strategy consulting industries, working with organizations such as Orange Business Services, The World Bank, Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton and Fairchild Space Company. Among a variety of roles held in the US and Europe, I spent most of my time in corporate strategy and business development groups in a variety of roles such as leading strategic partnership and acquisition projects in the BRICs and emerging markets. I have an MBA from the George Washington University and BS degrees in finance, marketing and economics from the University of Maryland at College Park. I studied coaching with Coachville and completed executive education courses at the Harvard Business School, Stanford Institute of Design and John Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS). I am certified with the International Coach Federation.
In 2008, I shifted from corporate to entrepreneurial life to focus on leadership and team development. I thrive on finding new ways of seeing problems, collaborating and questioning the status quo to create better strategies and solutions. After several years of perusing research, working with clients, teaching at UC Berkeley and experimenting with different approaches, I had an “Eureka!” moment. I realized that we’re all caught by a subconscious assumption about what it means to be human that’s rarely questioned — that humans are cogs in a wheel, only as good as our latest achievements. When we’re treated like cogs, we feel certain ways that lead to certain behaviors — and those behaviors are reactions to the feelings, not the situations at hand. So, my focus went to the emotional aspect of organizational and societal success.
I founded Leaders for Good, a leadership design boutique, naming it that way to remind me to design instead of cookie-cut and tap into what’s “good” about leaders rather than try to “fix” what’s not-so-good. My work fills a void in the existing leadership and team development industry — the how of leading. Most programs focus on what leaders must do to succeed, yet what’s also needed is to learn how to self-change to feel in-control, ready to lead in new ways the very next day. Leaders for Good programs look at the thought-feeling-behavior formulas essential to lead successfully across contexts, especially useful amidst fast-paced change and uncertainty. I have become especially skilled at helping leaders remain confident and steady during growth and/or tumultuous transitions (M&As, business model changes, economic shifts), as well as transforming divisive teams into cohesive, game-changing pods. My most well-known clients include Cartier, Ashoka, UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business, SF State University, Whole Foods and Mercer.
During my corporate life, I traveled extensively across diverse cultures and countries such as the BRICs, eastern Europe and Asia. I noticed similar patterns of symptoms and problems in organizations and societies, which perplexed me at the time, as I had been taught that different cultures generate specific outcomes of their own.
In the winter of 2004, I was involved in a car accident in Novosibirsk that shattered my life and world view as I knew it. One minute I was en route to a business meeting, the next in a hospital bed with limited movement. The resulting injuries and lengthy healing process prompted an immense intellectual, emotional and spiritual opening that allowed for intense and conscientious soul searching. The outcome was an inner-outer congruence that prompted me to go out on my own and move to San Francisco (from Paris) for new energy.
Within my coaching work with leaders and teams, I dive diving deeply into observing thought, emotional and behavioral layers and patterns. Everywhere I went, from large, bureaucratic organizations to smaller entrepreneurial ventures, I noticed that the same issues absorbed people’s time and energy, deflecting attention and creativity from intended goals. These issues are well-known — miscommunication, silos, conflict, reactive decision making, fear of failure, lower-than-desired work quality, low creativity/innovation rates, stress, burnout and talent turnover. Through my work, a clear story fell into place as I discovered the basis of most, if not all of today’s organizational and societal challenges — what’s called the legacy industrial model (also referred to as the cog in the wheel mentality). Although we think we’ve moved onto a new age — the Technology Age or Information Age or Energy Age, the subconscious assumptions still used beneath our individual experiences and political, economic and social systems remain fixed in the industrial model. It is this fundamental issue that generates the problems we face today, yet most leaders still use the subconscious cog in a wheel mentality, without even realizing it.
Many people wonder why there are so few leaders worth following amidst so many leadership development programs. As noted above, most programs tend to focus on what leaders must do — new outcomes, new leadership behaviors or new tools, without assessing core assumptions about what it means to be human. Yet, without uprooting specific subconscious assumptions, leaders cannot make sustainable change because subconscious beliefs play tug-of-war with conscious goals — and the subconscious mind always wins. You, yourself, might have tried changing a habit with only brief success. You may have blamed this on willpower or lack thereof, yet willpower can only gets you so far. To create transformative change, leaders must use willpower and inspiration rooted in empowering core assumptions.
The solution to our challenges, on individual and collective levels, is human-centric leading. It is the emerging leadership paradigm — already in use in many organizations today in bits and pieces. It solves today’s problems quite naturally because it helps us see people as people (vs cogs in a wheel); it puts people at the center of decisions. It solves new and persistent problems at the root level for lasting benefits. As a result, leaders and teams have time, energy and creativity to focus on fun and engaging opportunities such as designing products and services that people need, sustainable economic models or positive team cultures that create outcomes everyone wants.
For play, I spend my energy connecting dots across fields. I nurture my creativity through enriching relationships, artistic dates á la Julia Cameron, music á la SFJazz and dream interpretation á la Jeremy Taylor. I shy away from sparkle, drama and spectacle, so as to stay humble and keep my energy clean, powerful and focused on investing in the greater good. I have traveled extensively throughout Europe and the BRICs and lived in Athens, Paris, San Francisco and Washington, DC.
For global projects, I partner with a group of trusted, creative practitioners and researchers who are professionally masterful and personally committed to model their mastery.
As I build out the HCL Academy, the LfG container of cutting-edge modalities of leadership and team development, you will meet more and more of my colleagues who share their interesting and efficient approaches, co-contributing to an empowering emerging future.
One of the biggest things I learned while working with Eleni is to be able to see challenging work and people-oriented situations in a completely new light, turning challenges into possibilities to achieve real progress. – Devang Sachdev | RichRelevance
Eleni immediately asks the right questions to dig down and find the cause of my barriers or problems. I feel like I have a confidant who is helping me and making me better. Coaching with Eleni has been a great experience. – Daniela Papi, Founder Pepy Ride and Pepy Tours, Skoll Foundation Scholar, Unreasonable Institute Fellow
Eleni is passionate, forward-thinking, encouraging and strategic. She easily conveys the big picture, while quickly able to pivot and focus on specific cases or examples. – Participant feedback from anonymous program forms
Awesome! Eleni is very knowledgeable and engaging. Great experience and approach to leadership development. The course is thought-provoking, challenging, fun, educational. – Participant feedback from anonymous program forms
I took a course with Eleni, which was one of the best I have ever taken. She has broad, deep knowledge and first-hand experience that she applies very effectively to discussions, presentations and coaching situations. – Thomas Pettersson, Business Leader | Global Client Operations, Visa