Inspiration and Integrity from the 2018 CHURCHILLS

Every year, Churchill Club presents the CHURCHILLS — an extraordinary event which is designed to inspire us to advance innovation, leadership, collaboration, and social benefit. The Churchill Club Academy, a group of more than 700 innovation community members, name honorees for their contributions in four areas of excellence: Legendary Leader, Game-changing Company, Global Benefactor, and Magical Team. The honorees appear at the CHURCHILLS in the spirit of “giving back” —sharing their perspectives about what is needed to lead, collaborate, and contribute to the greater good.

I was honored to be Master of Ceremonies for this year’s event, held on September 20, 2018. I opened the evening by asking the audience to consider what inspires them, anchored by this quote from Prussian philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder:

Without inspiration, the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.

One of my favorite questions to ask when I meet someone new is “What inspires you?” Over the years, I’ve heard many wonderful answers:

  1. learning something new every day
  2. solving complex problems in simple ways
  3. educating the future generation to avoid the mistakes of the current generation.

But my favorite answer was “making others better.” Perhaps surprisingly, this answer came from a professional hockey player. His answer wasn’t winning a championship or getting an award, but improving the team. That’s truly inspiring.

Here are the four award-winners and what I took away from their remarks:

Legendary Leader – Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn
The spirit of this honor is, “Couldn’t have done it without you.” Jeff showed us compassionate leadership and phenomenal growth are not mutually exclusive.

Game Changer – NVIDIA
The spirit of this honor is, “You changed how things are done or viewed, and there’s no going back.” Colette Kress and Mark Stevens shared the philosophy that, no matter how successful you are, you should always think like you’re 30 days from going out of business.

Global Benefactor – Jennifer Pahlka of Code For America
The spirit of this honor is, “Thanks for thinking big.” Jennifer inspired us to help others, reminding us that we get the government we deserve.

Magical Team – Khan Academy
The spirit of this award is, “Your team nailed it.” Sal Khan, Ginny Lee, and Shantanu Sinha showed us that a one-size fits all learning approach doesn’t fit anyone at all.

I closed the evening by observing that all four honorees share something in common; a deep understanding that pursuit of their vision cannot and will not compromise their values. I urged the audience to focus on integrity, sharing with them a sign that I keep in my office:

Always do the Right Thing, even when no one is watching.

My parting thought was to take inspiration from each of the honorees. To follow their passion, overcome setbacks, and stay true to their values. We humans can and will continue to make the world a better place.

It starts with each of us.


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