Keynote at Pebble Beach – The Inner Game of Executive Leadership

This past November I gave a keynote to 40 CEOs of some of the largest credit unions in the United States. The #1 and #2 “Best Places to work” in the entire nation were among them. The event was a part of my US firm Syntrina Leadership and it was held at the beautiful, world-class Pebble Beach. What I shared with my audience, I will now share with you.

You are a success.

You have reached the pinnacle of success. You are a highly successful CEO of a value-based organization that serves tens of thousands, no doubt positively impacting so many more in the communities and businesses in which you operate. Well done! It is extremely important to your future leadership impact and success that you really accept this acknowledgement. Why?

  • Because what you do inside of yourself you will do with others out there.
  • If we cannot acknowledge, validate, and champion ourselves, we simply can never do this well for others. In your role, it is imperative that you easily and frequently acknowledge, validate, and champion those in your care.

Nothing could matter more than you feeling good.

And by good, I mean whole, loved, enough; valued, seen, recognized; alive, excited, inspired…


  • Simply because your life matters to me.
  • And, because you feeling good will make you a significantly better leader because how you think and how you feel affects everything you do and how you do it. And you impact and touch so many! You are kind of a big deal!!
  • Your ability to focus your thoughts on all the beauty, success, and joy that exists today will make life wonderful for you. When you feel that life is wonderful, you will be great with other people—present, available, encouraging and inspiring!
  • Because everything, EVERYTHING, gets done through human relationships, it really does matter that you learn how to feel good and wonderful daily.

The most important thing you will ever do is to learn to think thoughts that make you feel good.

  • Do you feel good most of the time – excited, inspired, energized? Can you easily focus your attention on what you want, when you want? Or, do you find that your mind tends to bother you and results in you feeling less than ideal too often?
  • Your ability to focus your mind on good-feeling thoughts is necessary to ensure that you have the inner resources to not only handle the numerous challenges that are your day job, but to do so with greater presence, humanity, grace, and compassion.
  • Do you feed your mind a diet of good-feeling thoughts daily, such that it is a natural way for you to think and experience the world? If not, keep reading for how you can begin this today.
  • As per Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz’ research in The Mind & The Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force (and countless other credible sources), we now know that neurons grow and recede according to use throughout our entire lives, such that the more we think a thought, the more we will continue to think it. And, it is by repeating a thought, that we strengthen the neural connection and shape, in a very real way, the physical structure of our brain and what we experience as reality.

What research tells us about the impact of this to the bottom line.

  • Over the last 18 years, the Leadership Circle Organization has surveyed more than 155,000 C-suite and senior-level leaders in more than 25,000 organisations, 246 countries, and more than 85 industries.
  • What they found was that 70–75 percent of these people lead with a Reactive Level of Mind or Quality of Thought: one that is largely critical, distant, arrogant, passive, complying, autocratic, and overly driven.
  • This Reactive Level of Mind is strongly correlated with leadership ineffectiveness and diminished business results. In addition, it is simply a much less enjoyable way of life.
  • Only 20-25 percent of C-suite and executive leaders are moving towards or currently lead from a Creative Level of Mind or Quality of Thought: a teacher, coach, and mentor orientation focused on caring human connections, emotional and interpersonal intelligence, composure, integrity, courageous authenticity, self- and systems awareness, one that is visionary and purposeful. Not to mention, this is simply a much more enjoyable way of life!

What needs to be my daily inner dialogue?

Truly effective leadership requires an inner identity and dialogue that sounds something like this:

  • I like who I am.
  • I am proud of all I have accomplished and achieved. I know I am a success.
  • I am pretty great at the couple of things I do exceptionally well. I am also pretty bad at most everything else. And that is just fine.
  • There are so many talented people around me; I don’t need to look smart, be right, know all the answers, or go it alone.
  • I love leading, learning, and investing in the talent and success of others.
  • I love the camaraderie I feel and foster among my executive team, senior leadership team, board. I know we are all in this together.
  • Because I know I am a success, I no longer need to look for evidence of this or external validation in its many forms. I am finally free. I can now fully focus on making interactions that advance the success of others.

It is an inner identity that says “I am good. I’ve got enough inside,” and is therefore able to focus on these daily questions:

  • Who needs me today?
  • What do they need most? What are the human beings behind those powerful titles really hungry for?
  • How can I best assist?
  • And, because I am still a human being, what do I need today to ensure that I can be my best and highest self for others?

If this is to be an exceptional year—your most rewarding year yet—you need a daily practice. Here is one I recommend:

Do this daily.

This one exercise alone has the potential to improve virtually every aspect of your leadership and life. Each morning set five minutes on a clock and do the following:

  1. On a blank piece of paper, write down your intention for the day: the top two or three things you want or need to accomplish and who you want to be as you accomplish them. On the latter, you might write a single sentence like “I want to be present, encouraging, and inspiring.” Or “My intention today is to be open, curious, and approachable.” Or “I want to have fun and make the day fun for those I work with and through.”
  2. Then write down as many good, exciting, inspiring thoughts as the day ahead could hold for you if you let it. Capture what you are most grateful for and what you could be excited about if you wanted to be. The purpose is to ensure you are in the best emotional state to handle the events of your day with the intention you set above.
  3. Fold this paper and carry it with you. Schedule a time to take it out at least once during the day to remind and refocus yourself and to give you one moment of pause in your hectic schedule.

Love and lead yourself.

The world is changing faster than ever before and in order to thrive, we each need to acknowledge and champion ourselves in ways most leaders are not yet skilled at doing. What I know is that if you can champion yourself well internally, you will easily be able to do so with others and do it well under pressure. You will then be a magnet for talent, as others will love working in your presence, thriving under your leadership and gladly giving you their best and all their discretionary efforts. Then together, you just might find yourselves having the time of your lives serving others, as it is the only real purpose of leadership!

May this year be your best, most rewarding year yet!

About the Author

Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.

For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.

Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at


Our world has changed, rapidly and in unexpected ways. As the crisis hit, I offered and held pro bono sessions with leaders from around the world. And I want to continue to do what I can to help. As a result, I now offer hourly sessions to ensure leaders everywhere can quickly get the perspective, clarity and focus they need to lead themselves, and therefore others, well during these challenging and uncertain times.

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