Leadership Development

Based on research, literature and a decade of experience working with people, PEARL identifies relevant domains of leadership, which are psychologically and philosophically challenging yet largely unaddressed (outside of psychotherapy or philosophical coaching) and in fact often avoided until they become problems in need of intervention. The damage is often done at that point and restorative action needs to be initiated (which may mean time taken off work or periods of not being fully focused).

The aim of the programme, which consists of workshops, coaching and follow up support) is to develop resilience against future adversities (as to bounce back quickly after disaster or crisis) by helping participants to develop a robust and personalized leadership philosophy and provide a method for dealing with dilemmas and psychological discomfort as they emerge. Results have been reported as being more resilient, feeling more authentic and aligned with the organisation, an increased sense of meaning attached to the job or generally in life (even or particularly when times are tough), being more comfortable with taking risks and better able to act in times of crisis and generally embracing the whole spectrum of what they are experiencing. More rounded and effective leaders emerge when they come out of the PEARL programme.


Existential Leadership Dimensions

The problem with leadership from an existential perspective is that many of those going up the ranks in their organisation (or taking charge of something they care about) do leadership but often fail to make the transition into being a leader. This is often the case for first-time leaders and managers but also not a rare phenomenon in experienced leaders. The result is that they have the managerial skills and are well able to deal with the pragmatic issues of their job but often struggle to manage and address the more deep-seated psychological questions and challenges that come with embodying such a position: anxiety, stress, uncertainty & self-doubt, having to make difficult and at times impossible decisions, dealing with organisational absurdity and questions of meaning, managing inner conflict and the “hell” that Sartre calls other people to name but a few. “It’s lonely at the top” and expectations are high. Asking for help can feel inappropriate. Many leaders therefore at times feel moments of intense panic and existential doubt. The higher up the ladder and the more responsibility they have taken on (for themselves or others), the more intense these moments can be.

“Organizations suffer considerable human and financial costs when a person who has been promoted because of strong individual performance and qualifications fails to adjust successfully to management responsibilities. […] The shelves are lined with books describing effective and successful leaders. But very few address the challenges of learning to lead, especially for the first-time manager.” (Linda Hill, Harvard Professor and Leadership Expert)


There is no “magic pill” one-off workshop or training that will make you a great leader. Therefore, PEARL works on 4 levels:

  1. Foundations
    An initial, tailor-made workshop will invite participants’ to re-think the traditional understanding of leadership, human nature and the challenges they will face in such positions. The goal is to lay the foundations for developing a robust and personal leadership philosophy that will allow participants to emerge as positive, authentic, resilient, efficient and successful leaders.
  2. Skills Training
    NARVEGATE is a process model that can be applied in particularly challenging situations. It was designed to work alongside the PEARL model in order to support leaders when they face a challenging situation.
  3. Coaching
    In order to follow up, internalize and/or modify what has been learned, participants will receive regular bespoke 1-on-1 coaching sessions on an ongoing basis for as long as participants wish to engage in it.
  4. Peer Support Groups
    Being a PEARL takes continuous engagement and reflection. While NARVEGATE can be self-administered, it is always better to have an extra pair of eyes and ears. As a powerful and cost-effective alternative to coaching, regular contact with other PEARLs will help maintain and grow the success of the programme, create a strong support system and build an invaluable network of strong leaders.

“The only answer, the only balm against the inevitable existential pain of becoming the leader we were born to be is to see the lessons implicit in the practice of becoming. […] Develop a philosophy of management and live it.” (Jerry Colonna, Early Silicone Valley Venture Capitalist & Executive Coach)


The NARVEGATION model works two-fold:

  1. As a conversation starter that will help participants to re-think traditional leadership attitudes and as such helps to build robust leadership foundations and a strong leadership philosophy.
  2. As a step by step model to be applied in times of crisis or adversity as a way to work through challenging situations and remain effective and whole.

The model works as a 9 stage process and requires ongoing conscious awareness and regular space for mindful reflection. The assumption is that anything left unattended will eventually fail to be relevant. It is hence depicted as a spinning gyro.

Gyro Model
  • N otice themes that impact on performance and wellbeing.
  • A ccept that these themes exist and impossible to eliminate.
  • R elate experiences to the individual context, environment and worldview.
  • V alue the anxiety/discomfort that comes with them as a growth opportunity.
  • E mbrace and explore which existential leadership dimensions they address.
  • G row with the experience and process.
  • A chieve It’s a process, not a result.
  • T rust & Choose. Learn to trust your instincts and make difficult decisions
  • E njoy and engage. PEARLs are able to embrace emotional challenge, value and enjoy the discomfort and as a result are more engaged in their leadership, which in turn reflects on their followers.


While anybody who wants to be in charge of something will benefit from the programme, PEARL was designed with the following people in mind:

  • First-time leaders and managers with an appetite for being ahead and the foresight to build skills and resilience early. Leaders will benefit from developing a robust leadership philosophy before they move into senior leadership positions.
  • Experienced leaders who want to develop stronger resilience and defences against e.g. burn-out, depression, existential crises, etc.
  • Leaders who are or will be working in particularly challenging, risky or dangerous environments.
  • Leaders facing challenging relationships and particularly difficult demands from clients, colleagues or shareholders.
  • Leaders working in particularly fast-paced industries that involve constant change and high amounts of uncertainty due to constant innovation (e.g. IT).

“Executives are shaped irrevocably by their first management positions.” (Linda Hill, Harvard Business Review, Jan 2007)


PEARL has been designed to complete leaders, not teach them everything they need to know about leadership. It therefore complements traditional skills training in order to close the gaps in existing training and prepare those who move into leadership and management positions with the skills and attitude to succeed in the face of what they will be facing. Building on the successes of Authentic Leadership models, PEARL completed the list of philosophically and psychologically relevant elements and is hence unique in its offering.

PEARL draws on the whole range of existential themes as much as on robust research findings from the science of Positive Psychology (such as resilience, meaning and wellbeing) as well as PP’s cutting edge 2nd wave development (which includes existential themes) in order to address the inevitable real-life issues that all leaders will be facing, most do not get prepared for and few ask for help about.

“Helping others find the opportunity – for joy, excitement, beauty – and growth within the wild roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship fuels my passion for this work. After all, the goal isn’t to avoid the bumps, it’s to keep our eyes open and our hands up.” (Dan Putt, 4-time Entrepreneur & CPO at


The PEARL Programme makes a number of underlying assumptions about leadership, organisations and human experience as a whole. If you agree with them and also identify with the above, then PEARL will be a great fit for your organisation and we should talk about some of the questions they infer – if you don’t, we should definitely talk!

  • Occasional crises are inevitable. Taking risks is necessary for success.
  • Nobody is perfect. Failure is part of almost every process and a human given.
  • All leaders are different. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for good leadership.
  • Anxiety is inevitable merely as a result of being alive and in the world with other people.
  • People generally like to be sure and safe (yet living means taking risk and business/making money/success inevitably involves risk à uncertainty à anxiety).
  • Leadership (and life in general, and business in particular) is uncertain.
  • Every decision excludes other possibilities à uncertainty à anxiety
  • All leadership must end (and if it’s by means of death).
  • The leader’s values and the organisation’s values are never identical.
  • All leaders (all human beings) long for meaning; yet will never be able to identify with any certainty “THE meaning OF life”.
  • The process of becoming a leader is an arduous, albeit rewarding, journey of continuous learning and self-development (Linda Hill, January 2007, HBR)
  • At some point in their career, all leaders will ask themselves some or all of the following questions (See Jopling, 2012):
    • What am I doing this for?
    • What am I bringing to this role, my team, the organisation?
    • Do I want to do this anymore and if so, then how do I do it in a way that means something to me?
    • What am I here for if not to lead?
    • What kind of leader do I want to be and what kind of meaning does that hold for me?
      And additionally:
    • What if I am not really enjoying being a Leader?
    • What if I don’t believe in myself as a Leader?
    • What enables my leadership and conversely, what stops me being an effective leader?

“The best way to overcome the inevitable loneliness of life at the top may be to connect and mindfully attend to the process that’s already underway – the unconscious sharing that undergirds every relationship.” (Jerry Colonna, partner at JPMP – JP Morgan Chase Private Equity)



Read more about PEARL’s underlying philosophy, theory and application below:


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