The Message

This book is a call to adventure, an opportunity to live life to the fullest and a guide to discovering your own path towards transformational leadership.When Mahatma Gandhi was asked by a reporter to sum up his life’s work, he responded simply, ‘My life is my message’. This book invites you on a journey to illuminate your life’s message to empower and align it with the legacy you want to leave behind.

This journey will mentor you through the experiences of the CEOs of Starbucks and Southwest Airlines who developed their leadership messages early in life, and community catalysts in Kenya and India whose sense of purpose propelled them to enhance the lives of those in poverty. Based on over 100 interviews with leaders from around the world who found their way to mission-driven lives, you are led on a path to determine your life’s meaning along with the influence you hope to achieve.

Beyond insights from the inspirational figures, this book provides a model and practical tools to prompt introspection and greater clarity about your desired life trajectory. While intended for emerging and accomplished leaders of businesses, organizations and communities, it rings true for anyone who is interested in finding the authentic and impactful leader within. Enter with curiosity and be inspired by the extraordinary stories of others. It’s a journey not to be taken lightly, but rather one that demands your full attention. You, and those you seek to influence, deserve no less.


This book skillfully pulls together important lessons from diverse exemplars who remind us that to lead effectively, we must be willing to listen, learn, value people and be open to challenging our mindsets so that ultimately we can transform local and global systems for a more sustainable future. To be a true leader, one must stay curious and always be learning.

Mehmood Khan, PhD

Life Biosciences CEO and PepsiCo Former Vice Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer

Managers manage, leaders lead and inspirational leaders inspire. It’s a journey all leaders take, some reach the final stage, but why some and not others? Becoming that leader who inspires means that people follow because they believe in something bigger than themselves, the company that they work for and the product or service that they provide. Fulfillment comes in many forms, but finding it in work can be one of life’s greatest pleasures and this book will help many find such fulfillment.

Jeff Hembrock

Former President, Miller Brewing Company

Here is an inspirational examination of a wide range of highly effective leaders—of how their individual growth was shaped by determination, focus, courage and life experience. This instructive, thought-provoking analysis has universal and multigenerational appeal to readers at various stages of their career path. It encourages you to be authentic, embrace your uniqueness with pride and dare to reach beyond your comfort zone.

Brenda Schoonover

US Ambassador (Retired)

In today’s hypercompetitive business environment, regardless of industry, culture or geography, defining effective leadership through a lens of bottom line outcomes is misguided and limiting relative to achieving real impact. Blair and Gesner capture what is critically missing by demonstrating the importance of mission-driven leadership, providing a new value proposition in our thinking of what it means to lead inspirationally and intentionally by institutionalizing one’s life mission in our work.

Matthew Wagner, PhD

Vice President of Revitalization Programs, Main Street America, Former SC Johnson Global Community Affairs Director and India Fulbright Specialist

Humility. Respect. Reflection. These are among the principles critically important for meaningful public service; but how do they inform a person’s capacity to be a transformational leader? What this book accomplishes in compelling fashion is to demonstrate that if our leadership isn’t grounded in core values that embrace dignity for ourselves and others, then we not only diminish our influence, we diminish humanity as a whole. Lift up yourself, lift up others, read this book.

Thomas Schaunbelt, PhD

Executive Director and Associate Vice Provost, Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University

In an eloquent, yet conversational style, this volume inspires the ordinary to cross over into the extraordinary space of ‘power-with’ leadership. Interspersing hypothetical conversations of the world’s greatest leaders of all time with the narratives of living leaders who inspire, the authors provoke the readers into making impactful meaning from their own lives. The volume spurs us to live to touch lives, to walk the talk and to leave a footprint.

Nalini Bikkina, PhD

Director-in-Charge, Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management (GITAM) School of Gandhian Studies, and Former Fulbright Academic Excellence Fellow, the University of Nebraska, Omaha

Achieving the changes our world needs will take leadership. But many of us who care about the common good do not see ourselves as leaders. Blair and Gesner invite us to step back, look at our lives and values, and write ourselves a new story in which we rise to the challenges that matter to us. We have never needed this invitation— and their guidance—more than right now. 

Andrew J. Seligsohn, PhD

President, Campus Compact (USA)

Young entrepreneurs like the ones we support want their work to contribute to society, but they also want to make enough money to create wealth for themselves and their communities. There’s a new generation of leaders like us working to mobilize people, information, resources and capital for the greater good. Applying the lessons in this book can help us achieve the positive influence and impact that we seek.

Que El-Amin

Co-Founder and CEO, Young Enterprising Society

A thoughtfully crafted resource for personal and professional growth. The authors nailed it in that being a successful leader begins with leading self, first. This book offers relevant examples and stories from real-world leaders and would be a strong supplement to university leadership courses at all levels. Readers will be invited to reflect on their values and behaviors as a means to be in alignment with their authentic self. The book is a reminder that to be successful, we must stay open to learning and unlearning!

Lisa Gies, EdD

Dean, College of Education and Leadership, Cardinal Stritch University

Leadership may take different forms around the world, but at its core, transformational leadership is fundamentally the same and can be implemented effectively across geographic regions, disciplines and cultures. Become inspired, as I was, by the insights offered by this diverse mix of industry leaders; examine their common threads and uncover the positive influence that will encourage healthy growth for yourself and the organizations you serve.

Abdulrhman F. Almotery, ME-PD, PhD

Director of Academic and Training Affairs, Royal Commission Health Services Program, Saudi Arabia

Go on this inspirational journey to find your best self and the legacy you want to leave behind. Every leader struggles with challenges, and Blair and Gesner provide practical, reflective strategies that call upon us to look inside ourselves to deepen our leadership. This is a life-changing must-read for anyone looking to find their sense of purpose and particularly valuable for those aspiring to create educational systems that will inspire a new generation of mission-driven teachers and students.

Courtney Orzel, PhD

Superintendent of Schools, Lemont SD113A

Delivered at just the right time, this book inspires leaders to move intentionally towards the clarity of mission-driven lives. Nancy Stanford Blair has generously shared her expertise guiding several generations of leaders in occupational therapy as a part of the AOTA Leadership Development Programs. Together, Blair and Gesner extend the wisdom of 100+ leaders across business, education, health care, non-profits and military who are successfully engaged in building sustainable leadership. Give yourself the gift of time to read this book and enrich your own leadership development. 

Ginny Stoffel, PhD

Former President, American Occupational Therapy Association

Great Content, Numerous Personalities being Quoted, Very Apt Anecdotes, Easy to Understand Principles and Universal Application is how I would describe what the book ‘Your Life Is Your Message’ is all about…‘Your Life Is Your Message’ is a tremendous book. The book is highly readable, practical and encouraging. The broad research base that is utilized in the book add to its credibility. Click here to read more.

The Bookshelf Elf