YPO-WPO Global Leadership Summit

Earlier this week, Debbie and I attended the YPO-WPO Global Leadership Summit in Denver, Colorado. The Summit was two amazing days of inspiring education and idea exchange. I have been a member of YPO since 2003 and have met accomplished people from all over the world. I have given back to the organization in many ways. One of those positions I served in was chair of the YPO-WPO Family Business Network, a subset of more than 1,400 members who have a passion for family business education. Business is at the core of YPO, but the organization offers much more in terms of leadership development and networking. The 18,000 members and their families are making a difference in countries all over the world. The Summit brought together more than 1,000 members.

YPO has raised its profile in recent years through the YPO Global Pulse and other efforts that highlight the significance of the network. This week’s Summit created quite a buzz. On Friday, WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, spoke via satellite. Assange’s participation prompted U.S. President George W. Bush to cancel his scheduled keynote address on Saturday. The late cancellation was a disappointment for many. The aim ofΒ the Summit was to present resources from diverse backgrounds and offer contrasting opinions. YPO-WPO education thrives on diverse ideas, though when I learned that Assange was going to speak, I sensed that combination was going to be a risky move. The two perspectives would have been like oil and water, which as we know, don’t mix very well. To the outside world, the controversy was the big news at the event, but for those of us at the Summit, there was an incredible lineup of great speakers to hear from.

On Saturday, Tom Brokaw joined the Summit at the last-minute to speak in the slot that had been vacated by President Bush. This provided an interesting twist and allowed the attendees to explore the controversy as it was happening. Brokaw, who has wonderful journalistic credibility, stated that he was a strong supporter of free speech and journalism, but he said that what WikiLeaks does is not journalism. He said it was, “leaking.” Brokaw spoke about social media and how it is changing the way that journalism is done. He was gracious and answered many questions from the audience.

When you look at Julian Assange and President George W. Bush as resources in the context of the other resources, you see that they were part of a larger mix. Certainly, WikiLeaks and Assange are big news right now. The issues surrounding Assange’s personal life were avoided and the focus was on his organization. As a student of journalism, I have followed the WikiLeaks story for some time. I believe in free speech and I believe in journalistic integrity. I’m particularly interested in foreign affairs and the need for the media to investigate the truth. Foreign desks have been shuttered and the press has struggled to gain access in many parts of the world. The role of government, the perception of the United States, the role of the media, democracy, and many other topics swirled throughout this Summit.

I am not an expert on any of these subjects, but I watch, listen, and learn.

The resources were fabulous. I’ll share some of the highlights. Renee Mauborgne presented an overview of Blue Ocean Strategy, which was thought-provoking for me because of my interested in business. I read her book several months ago, but it was nice to hear the co-author present the key learnings in her own words. J. Craig Venter gave a technical and interesting explanation of how genetic research is changing what we know about evolution. Anthony Atala explained how tissue engineering and regenerative medicine will transform how we treat patients. Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey explained how wayfinding works and did a beautiful hula. Rwandan President Paul Kagame described how developing leadership was and is the key to his country’s transformation from genocide.

John McCall MacBain spoke about how social investing and philanthropy are impacting African poverty. The subject of global education was taken on by a three person panel that included John Legend, Naif Al-Mutawa, and Wes Moore. Each man has an amazing story and their incredible talents shined through. Each was articulate and entertaining. John Legend continues to thrill me. I saw him at the Connecticut Forum last year and he was even more impressive this time. It is one thing to be able to make music the way he does, but he is even better when he steps to a podium and explains the intricacies of the U.S. education system. His desire to make a difference by improving the lives of children is commendable. Naif Al-Mutawa is a social entrepreneur who created THE99, who are superheroes based on Islamic culture and society. Wes Moore is the total package: he rose up from the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, became a star football player, paratrooper, Rhodes Scholar, author, and expert on education reform.

Irshad Manji spoke about her activism as a Muslim woman. Her take on Islam has raised eyebrows all over the world. One of the most amazing segments of the YPO-WPO Global Leadership Summit was when 16-year-old Talia Leman and 9-year-old Joshua Williams spoke. Leman is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of RandomKid, an organization that sprung from the destructive wake of Hurricane Katrina. This young woman was a formidable speaker who I’m sure we will be hearing more from in the future. Williams founded Joshua’s Heart Foundation when he was five! His organization has helped feed poor people in Florida and elsewhere. He has a plan to take the organization global in an attempt to vanquish poverty. This was fantastic stuff.

It is all about context. When Julian Assange and President George W. Bush make news at a conference, you have to see the bigger picture. The Summit had tons of controversial ideas and thought provoking exchanges. I’m not a big fan of video games, but when I listened to Riot Games Chief Executive Officer, Brandon Beck, speak, I was drawn into the talk. I never thought how big video games really were until he noted that SAP, the huge ERP software maker anticipates a complete shift in the coming generation when interactive video game type technology may dominate all software applications.

One of the most moving talks was given by Rose Mapendo, a peace activist who survived the Congolese genocide. Her moving speech may have been the most riveting on the schedule. The horrific details of her life were almost too much to bear, but in the end, I was inspired by her courage.Β Forbes publisher, Rich Karlgaard, was the moderator for the YPO-WPO Global Leadership Summit.

The Summit was a success from my perspective. People laughed and people cried, but the best part was that people learned.

1 Response to “YPO-WPO Global Leadership Summit”


  1. 1 sarapci 17 March 2011 at 10:13 am

    You forgot to add that you met some of your readers @the Summit πŸ™‚ – Emin


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