YPO GLC: The Power of Storytelling

A true leader motivates and inspires. And each of these leaders has a story to share. During the final session of the YPO Global Leadership Conference (GLC) in Singapore, YPO members and spouses/partners took to the stage to tell their personal stories to advance Only-in-YPO peer-to-peer learning.

For the third year, YPO LAB (Leaders Across Borders) speakers captivated GLC attendees with their inspiring stories of life-changing moments.

Most people never get their breakthrough moment. The aha moment for Gretchen Phillips came while she was a university student. For Phillips, it wasn’t a fleeting thought but became a lifelong quest to help others, especially children, achieve their fullest potential. After graduating college and working in business consultancy, she put her ideas into action when she co-founded GenerationHope, a consumer products company that reinvests its profits in education and employment related ventures across the Philippines.

“We act as change agents in the business community and are building the next generation of social entrepreneurs, who demonstrate the power of business to act as a force for good in the Philippines and beyond,” explains Phillips. “My own vision of success led me to the Philippines and to Hope. Where will your path lead you? Let’s create the future we want; a better future for us, for our children and our children’s children.”

One frightening sentence changed Todd Kaplan’s life forever … “Hands in the air!” In what he thought would be a normal day in the office became a frightening, chaotic frenzy. His life went from running his business to defending himself against 137 U.S. federal criminal charges, punishable by 685 years in prison. An unimaginable eight-year journey ended in a settlement offer of pleading guilty to one charge.

“Could I live with myself if as an innocent man if I plead guilty,” asks Kaplan. “What would you do? I did plead guilty and while I didn’t have to spend a night in prison, I have the stamp ‘felon’ across my forehead which will never go away. However, I now stand here stronger than ever. After fighting the government, there are not many fights I’m afraid of. As you face your own daily battles, remember it takes courage to fight but it also takes courage to know when to remain silent.”

How many of you have put off going to the doctor, ignoring the warning signs of your body? Ignoring those nagging signals from his body became a near-death experience for Luca Mignini, President, Global Biscuits and Snacks, for Campbell Soup Company. When he finally ended up in an emergency room, diagnosis for Mignini was massive sepsis and a bone infection caused by a broken ligament that he had put off having surgery on because of work. “How in the world did I get to the edge of this cliff? How much responsibility did I have?”

Mignini’s lesson to his fellow CEOs is that you cannot manage your health as a company P&L. “Your health is a bigger responsibility than any deal, any company you are running. In business, we can take short-term hits today to build a stronger base for tomorrow. There are no short-term hits with your body, as what you do today can chip away at your life, piece by piece … until there is nothing left. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.”

For some, a childhood passion is a distant memory of an unachieved dream. For Lenny Novoselskiy, CEO of Gradient, he went from dreaming about his passion for football to making it a reality when he persuaded the owner of Football Club Lugano to give him a chance to create a completely new model of the football youth academy. “From the beginning, we needed to do something different from the big clubs, developing a new growth mindset,” explains Novoselskiy. “With much research, we found the best method for our kids was using Cogi Training, a brain-centered method. Our style of training teaches our players to see with their brains, not their eyes; to have positive reinforcement; to know that ‘talent’ is not the one who runs faster or kicks the ball stronger but the one who thinks faster and has a lot of will to work and ability to learn.”

And the results? With reinforcing leadership skills through football playing, laser-like focus on style and the way they play, the club’s abilities has skyrocketed, catching the attention of some of the largest football clubs.

“Have you ever had that sunken feeling that something really bad is going to happen?” David Seligman, Chairman and CEO of Great Doctors, asks. For Seligman and his family, that moment came on a family vacation where he and his wife found prescription bottles in his son’s bathroom for transitioning from male to female. After confronting his son and listening to his heartbreaking, terror-filled pleas, Seligman began a journey on understanding and accepting his son’s transition to being her true self as a woman.

“I felt guilty … I realized that all those years, I never provided a safe environment for my daughter to open up to her truth. She lived in fear of being herself. Why is it so hard as parents to hear the silent pleas for love and support from our children? With my daughter, I began my most important transformation … from control to compassion, from fear to faith, from idealism to authenticity. As I surrendered my ideals to love her for exactly who she is, she blossomed. And she taught me the real meaning of ‘To thine own self be true.'” Today, Seligman’s daughter is preparing to complete graduate school in social work and being her professional career, with the love and support of her family, to work with LBGTQ children and their families.

For more than 30 years, Heather has been creating innovative content for a myriad of communities including business leaders, nonprofit, energy, health care, education and aviation. She has been with YPO since 2014, currently serving as Communications Director leading the member communications team.