The Child in the Heart of Every Successful Leader


Who you were between age eight to fourteen has more to do with who you are professionally today than you probably realize.

In May of 2017 I was invited to sit in on the taping of the Mid-Atlantic’s Number One business radio show, Executive Leaders Radio ( By the end of the two hour session I was hooked.  Little did I know then that after more than 100 CEO interviews and a year apprenticing I’d become one of the show’s hosts in Philadelphia.

Executive Leaders Radio is broadcast on more than 128 internet and terrestrial radio stations with an audience of 7 million weekly listeners.  ELR has interviewed more than 8,000 of America’s most successful and influential CEOs since 2004. The show is built upon the principle that what happens to someone between ages eight and fourteen lays the foundation for their adult career.

The show is taped in two locations, just outside Washington DC and also in Philadelphia, and draws leaders from across the country from both the for-profit and non-profit sectors.  ELR’s leaders include C-level executives, presidents and founders running enterprises sized $10M to $16B in revenues. 


Unlike the negative stories you hear about leaders in today’s sensation-crazed media, ELR presents its guests as positive, relatable role models because everyone can identify with the story of someone growing up. 


What Do You Remember About Yourself Age Eight to Fourteen?

Most of us grew up with a mixture of good times and bad in our lives. Remember when the last day of school never seemed to get here, and then BAM, back to school?  We took odd jobs mowing lawns in the summers, shoveling snow in the winter, and maybe delivering newspapers on our bicycles. We had sibling rivalries and neighborhood friends and junior high crushes. We broke bones and got the measles.  We were picked on in school, or were maybe in the “in crowd” that did the picking.  Our parents divorced or perhaps a family member died unexpectedly. We joined clubs or sports teams. We knew difficult times growing up. We played neighborhood games and won or lost.  We had favorite – and not-so-favorite – people who impacted our lives. Events that blessed us, scarred us, and shaped us.

That’s what the ELR host and co-hosts tap into during each CEO’s ten minute interview.


Stories to Inspire You or Bring a Tear to Your Eye

Note: the following examples are a few of the real stories told on ELR, though I’m using fictitious names for individuals and their organization.

How Grandpa inspired an 8-year-old to a career in financial services.  Josh M. grew up on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania.  The person most impactful in his life was his grandfather, who ran a small-town bank.  Josh recalls when he was eight, dad telling him to be on his best behavior because Grandpa was bringing a guest home for dinner.  That guest turned out to be the first female Secretary of the US Treasury, who had come to consult with Grandpa.  Fifty years later Josh recounted his amazement as an 8-year-old discovering who the dinner guest was.  Josh figured Grandpa must be pretty smart so he started hanging out with him after school. By 14 he was helping Grandpa at the annual stockholders meetings. One day Grandpa wrote Josh a letter about becoming a person of integrity, and when Josh asked him what he meant, Grandpa replied, “When I walk down the street and see someone I did business with, I never want to feel like I or they have to move to the other side of the street when we pass.”  Thirty-five years ago Josh founded what has become a leading regional financial services company that lives out integrity just like Grandpa taught him.  And like Grandpa, Josh has been consulted by important people his financial insights.

Her cousin’s death when she was 14 led to a career in pediatric drug development.  Her dad worked as a pharmacist, and Reena S. recalled going to work with him numerous times as she was growing up.  He taught her how pharmaceuticals helped people live longer and better.  Her mom set a living of being family-focused. A turning point in Reena’s life happened when she was 14.  Her cousin was diagnosed with cancer and died later that year, something that devastated the family and led her to pursue a medical profession as a career.  After obtaining her PhD at a leading school for cancer research and post-doctoral work on anti-cancer drug development, she embarked on a career working for several well-known pharmaceutical companies.  More than a decade ago she founded her own pediatric drug development company in the hopes of extending the lives of people like her cousin.  Every time she sees a patient treated with her company’s pharmaceutical products, she pictures the face of her cousin saying, “thank you, Reena.” 

Growing up in poverty with a single parent led Camila to help others reach their potential.  Today she runs a successful high profile non-profit helping vulnerable families break out of the cycle of poverty and lack of education. But her earliest memories were of poverty and the love of her struggling single parent mom. Camila’s mom set the example of hope and hard work for her three children as Camila looked after her younger brother and sister during the night while her mom worked to support them. Despite the poverty, Camila’s mom taught her the value of community: neighbors, her favorite aunt and people from her church were also strong influences on her life during ages eight to fourteen. “People saw my drive and invested parts of their lives in me”, she recalls.  “Now I get to return the favor because none of us walks this hard road alone.”  Since 2006 Camila has served as executive director of a non-profit that equips 2,000 people each year to become self-sufficient.

These are just three examples of the hundreds of stories that are shared weekly on Executive Leaders Radio. Why not listen for yourself? offers you the ability to search the Who’s Who listing of guests to listen to their interviews.  With free registration on the site you can download as many of the interviews as you like.  They make compelling and inspirational podcasts. 


Have You Thought About The Heart of the Child in Your Life?

Think back to your own childhood.  What events or people had the greatest impact on your life growing up during ages eight to fourteen?  I’ll bet that you can still remember just how you felt.  Try it!

Now consider exactly how those people or events impacted who you are today. You were forever changed as a result of who you were ages eight to fourteen.  And as you think about the people who helped shape your own life, thank God for placing them there and helping you to become a better person because of (or in spite of) your own age eight-to-fourteen life story.

I’m a host on Executive Leaders Radio interviewing successful CEOs, presidents, and founders, helping them to tell their story to the world. 


And I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness!  Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

I work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search.  To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.  


Latest Leadership Posts


Seven Ways to Convince a Committee Continue Reading


You Got a Job Offer! Now What? Continue Reading


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 5 Continue Reading