I recently joined over 120 leaders from around the world on the campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio to practice and learn a new model of leadership – one that invites and inquires, rather than commands and controls. This approach, created by Jon Berghoff of the Flourishing Leadership Institute (FLI), is called LEAF, which stands for Leading with Experiential and Appreciative Facilitation.

Throughout our five days together we learned by doing, using an approach that allowed each of us to reflect, connect, discuss, collaborate and add value to one another and our overall LEAF community.

Instead of passively seeing and hearing information, we leveraged the power of an active learning model by participating in discussions, written exercises, rapid brainstorming, design sessions, action planning and coaching one another, all of which helped deepen the impact.

External wisdom, what we typically call “insight”, was introduced throughout the week in the form of thought provoking interviews with inspiring leaders, industry experts and practitioners. Our community was gifted exclusive access to globally recognized top talent in the design, development and deployment of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). There were countless times when the words spoken by our guests created a massive shift in mindset or opened up a whole new reality for those in the audience on how to apply this work.

Below, I share some of the words spoken by our guests, which had the most impact on me personally and my relationship with this work… enjoy these words of wisdom!


If you’re interested in learning more about the LEAF approach and how it can help drive powerful outcomes, quickly for your organization, consider attending one of our public monthly webinars or the XChange Leadership Summit December 16-17 in San Diego. 

Jon Berghoff, Co-founder and President of Flourishing Leadership Institute (FLI) and creator of the LEAF approach, has designed and facilitated whole-system change efforts through large group collaborative summits for organizations that include BMW, Fathom, Boeing Corporation, Vitamix Corporation, Fortec Medical, and Fairmount Santrol.

“The wisdom that emerges from the group is often more than enough.”


Ronald Fry, PhD, is a co-creator of the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) theory and method, who works with groups, organizations and institutions around the world to increase their cooperative capacity in order to engage the whole system in strategic thinking, planning and change.

  • “We will each imagine new possibilities if we first find common ground through sharing stories… stories create connections that are different than other connections”
  • “If you want good… if you want great… if you want flourishing… whatever you want – study that!”
  • “Stories create connections that are different than other connections.”
  • “The meaning of our gestures are only known in and through the response.”
  • “We control nothing, we only influence.”


Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace wellbeing teacher and playful change activator. With more than a decade of senior leadership experience in large organizations around the world, she’s passionate about translating cutting-edge research from positive psychology and neuroscience, into practical strategies for health, happiness, and business success.

“Every action we take is preceded by a question.”  (attributed to Dr. David Cooperrider)


Cheri Torres brings the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, design thinking and an ecological worldview to communities and organizations striving for sustainable growth. Her work facilitates learning, innovation and dynamic interpersonal relationships capable of achieving remarkable outcomes.

“What percent of our lives are spent in conversation?”

Jackie Stavros
author of six books, integrates strengths-based, whole system concepts such as Appreciative Inquiry and SOAR into her research, teaching, training and consulting.

“You must learn about the human side of business!”

Jodi Berg
is President and CEO of Vitamix Corporation, a fourth-generation family-owned company whose high-performance blending equipment enjoys a passionate and loyal following among professional chefs and home cooks alike. Jodi is a high energy leader with a passion for creating a purpose-driven workplace.

  • “For everything you do in life, you will either give energy or you will get energy.” Jodi Berg
  • “You may not be able to manage it well, but you can lead it well.”


Loree Connors, CFO of Vitamix Corporation, a fourth generation member of the Vitamix family business, a middle-market manufacturer of high performance blending products sold into the consumer and foodservice commercial markets in more than 100 countries

  • “Appreciative Inquiry is a tool that can be used to solve any business problem.”
  • “Have I ever seen an Appreciative Inquiry project fail… [pause]… I can’t say that I have.”


Beau Daane, is the Director of Sustainable Development at Covia and helps to embed sustainability in his organization through the use of Appreciative Inquiry by advancing the work of 10 corporate sustainable development teams and has responsibility for the company’s annual Corporate Responsibility report.

“Your competitive advantage in the world is your attention.”


Kevin Shaw serves as Chairman and a Board Member for several influential, Cleveland-based businesses and a principal with Thunder Bay Enterprises, a firm which invests in private companies. Previously, Kevin served as president and CEO of NCS Healthcare.

“Great careers are achieved by people who look deeply into the mirror and then follow their strengths.”

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