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The Official Baldrige Blog

Leadership Enlightenment as a Baldrige Executive Fellow

A man standing on top of a mountain with his arms out.
Credit: red mango/Shutterstock

Following is my abbreviated version of a Chinese parable called “The Wisdom of the Mountain.” For me, it gives leadership development a whole new perspective:

In ancient China, an enlightened master dwelled in a mountain temple. His disciple, Lao-li, studied and meditated for years but decided to retreat down the mountain when he could not find enlightenment. The master joined Lao-li for the descent, but before they left, the master asked his disciple to look out at the mountain peak. “Tell me, Lao-li, what do you see?” “Master, I see the sun beginning to wake just below the horizon, meandering hills and mountains that go on for miles.”

When they approached the foot of the mountain, the master again asked Lao-li what he saw. “Great wise one, in the distance, I see roosters as they run around barns, cows asleep in sprouting meadows, and children romping by a brook.”

The master replied, “The road to enlightenment is like the journey down the mountain. It comes only to those who realize that what one sees at the top of the mountain is not what one sees at the bottom. Without this wisdom, we close our minds to all that we cannot view from our position and so limit our capacity to grow and improve. But with this wisdom, Lao-li, there comes an awakening. We recognize that alone one sees only so much—which, in truth, is not much at all. This is the wisdom that opens our minds to improvement, knocks down prejudices, and teaches us to respect what at first we cannot view. Never forget this last lesson, Lao-li: what you cannot see can be seen from a different part of the mountain."

Enlightened Views on Leadership, and the Baldrige Executive Fellows

I’ve written many times about the benefits of the executive leadership development program, the Baldrige Executive Fellows, but this parable helps me see the program in a new light. The Fellows program is not just about bringing senior leaders together to discuss all aspects of leadership through the lens of the Baldrige Excellence Framework, but it’s the peer network of senior leaders that allows more enlightened views on leadership—including its challenges and opportunities. The Fellows together create a network of peer leaders who continue to network and be a sounding board for each other well after the year-long fellowship ends.

Another great benefit of the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program is the capstone project, where each Fellow tackles an issue of strategic significance at his or her own organization to innovate or improve. Some Fellows have addressed the issues of expansions or mergers and acquisitions, and used the Fellows program as a way to seek inspiration and ideas about the considerations and challenges ahead, including how to meld together various organizational cultures and values. Some Fellows have done capstone projects on the launch of new products or services, or a new communications and engagement plan for their workforce, or strategic planning, or scorebooks to capture key data, or simply ideas on how to innovate—the sky is the limit. The capstone project each Fellow chooses is personal to him or her and the organization; thoughtful feedback from the Baldrige Fellows staff members, including an executive-in-residence, and peer Fellows is unique to this fellowship.

Program Details

The Baldrige Executive Fellows Program includes five meetings on-site with Baldrige Award recipient organizations and their senior leaders, seeing best practices in real-time through tours and on-site discussions. There are also four one-hour conference calls after each session to talk about what was learned and implemented, as well as to answer a leadership challenge question. The kick-off and capstone/graduation sessions take place in conjunction with the annual Quest for Excellence® Conference, where Fellows can attend sessions of interest to them.

The application package for the Fellows Program can be submitted any time by December 14, 2018. Learn more about key information including dates and how to submit an application.

Contact jacqueline.calhoun [at] (subject: Baldrige%20Executive%20Fellows%20Program) (Jacqueline Calhoun) or jamie.ambrosi [at] (subject: Baldrige%20Executive%20Fellows%20Program) (Jamie Ambrosi) with questions about the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program.

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Become a Baldrige Executive Fellow

The Baldrige Executive Fellows Program is a hands-on leadership development program that will propel your organization to higher levels of performance. Learn from a cohort of senior decision makers and Baldrige Award recipients and emerge with a broader perspective on how to achieve performance excellence for your organization, stimulate innovation, and build the knowledge and capabilities necessary for organizational sustainability.

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About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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