Forget Career Planning Vision – Leadership Lessons from the Girl Scouts

I love David Epstein’s book Range.  Read it.  Listen to it.  And then make time for reflection as to how the many lessons you read could be applied to your responsibility.

Or, let me save you some time.

In ch 7 Epstein tells us about the phenomenal leader that Francis Hesselbein became, eventually culminating in the position of CEO of the Girl Scouts.  Of the many fascinating facts about Hesselbein, was one that we don’t hear today when career planning is discussed – don’t plan for where your career will take you.  Just let it happen baby!  This is what Hesselbein trusted and followed.

Here are a few nuggets from the chapter and her professional life.

  1. Seize the moment you have in front of you.  Hesselbein had 4 professional positions, all CEOs, and never applied for any of them.  She kept getting asked to take on a responsibility, and sometimes reluctantly and eventually she agreed.  She always suggested that she wouldn’t stay in the post for long, until the organization found a “proper” replacement.  But she did stay much longer because she poured herself into the needs of the people.
  2. Be open to the possibilities.  As a planner I fight this.  I think my plan is well thought out and what I need to stick to.  Yet, some of my most spectacular experiences occurred outside of my plans.  I wouldn’t have ventured into sales training and coaching had I not been downsized.  If one of the couple of interviews I had had turned into a job I most likely would have taken it.  I had two kids under four and a new mortgage.  That doesn’t mean I no longer plan.  I’m getting better at being open to the possibilities.
  3. Carry a big basket to bring something home.  This Hesselbein heard a woman say  after Hesselbein attended a Girl Scouts training event and heard someone complain that she wasn’t learning anything.  Hesselbein chose a different view – there’s lots to learn, I need to keep looking for it, it’s there.  It’s tempting to rush through the day or the week and not leave room for learning.  That takes energy and vulnerability.
  4. Have the courage to be disruptive.  I might add, this isn’t a vote to be impulsive.  If you’ve given something critical thinking and you think you know which option would benefit the team or company or both, then have the courage to choose that disruptive option.  It’s often what organizations and teams need their leaders to do.


Epstein says that Hesselbein’s most popular preamble is the phrase “I never envisioned”. She had no long term professional plan.  She did what was interesting and needed at the moment. Her professional career which begun in her fifties, did not follow a straight line.  Thank goodness for that.  Think of what she would have missed.


Good selling,

Mark Sellers

Author, Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching Buy the book Blindspots here

and The Funnel Principle: What Every Salesperson Must Know About Selling Buy The Funnel Principle book here

Creator of the BuyCycle Funnel customer buying journey sales model, the most time tested, proven customer buying journey model on the market

Learn more about coaching and leading with short videos like this one on our website

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