Dan Schwab is a Certified Master and 30-year veteran working with The Leadership Challenge®. An independent leadership educator and coach, he focuses on guiding holistic transformation—leader by leader. Formerly Director of Staff Development for the Trust for Public Land (TPL), he continues to work with clients from the private, non-profit and governmental sectors. These include the University of California, Salt Lake Community College, the Sacramento Area Sewage District, the Washington Department of Ecology, SoCal Gas, TaxAudit.com, Comcast Corporation, and a wide variety of environmental and public service organizations.
The following excerpt is part of Certified Master Graham Moore’s interview project with Certified Masters of The Leadership Challenge®, 2015 – 2017. To read the full text of Dan Schwab’s interview, click here.
Graham: Dan, as I typically do, I want to ask you what drew you to The Leadership Challenge®. What brought you to this?
Dan: My story is pretty unusual. I got started while working with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in 1987. I was their ropes courses instructor. When they first started doing the research and before it was even called The Leadership Challenge, they were teaching workshops mostly in Northern California around leadership as a skillset. The workshops were 4 days in length and we had 3 two-hour blocks during those 4 days to do experiential activities with their clients. I was one of the folks doing that. I designed the ropes course experience and then ran it. I probably did about 50 of those over the first few years.
I and my fellow instructors followed Jim and Barry around the country. We particularly worked in the American Midwest and other places where we would go and set up temporary ropes courses so leaders participating in the workshops could use that learning modality, as well as the classroom. What was interesting was listening to Jim and Barry talk about The Five Practices even then. The whole topic just really captivated me. I was in my thirties. I hadn’t really declared myself professionally. In some ways, I still had a lot in front of me. I got so interested in the field of learning and development that I chose that as a career. At that point, it was a career change. That lead me to where I am now.
Graham: And you’ve been doing it ever since. Why is leadership important?
Dan: The way I look at it is that the world is going through a massive change. In fact, we all are. It’s a cliché to talk about the pace and intensity of change in our world but, of course, if we step back and look at anything, it’s going faster all the time. It seems like the world is getting more complex and more confounding. The future is less clear than it has ever been. There are now over 7 billion people on this planet. We are heading towards something. Things are accelerating. I think that the future is happening to us. I would rather see us have some more influence on where it takes us. One way to look at it would be this: in terms of influencing what we get in the future, the skillset we need for that is called leadership. We need to have a vision of what we want and where we want our world or our piece of it to go. People must be influenced to make it that way. Those are all different ways of saying that we need to lead.