Individual & Organizational Passion / Leadership

Dr. Jackie Freiberg's questions for personal and organization passion and leadership were contributed on July 9, 2010.

QuestionsForLiving: What were your primary questions that started you on your life's journey, toward coaching and consulting?

Dr. Jackie Frieberg: I’m not sure that I was as purposeful as this question hopes that I would be… However, I think that one question that perhaps fueled my journey was a question that I got from my father years and years ago.

My father always knew that I had a passion for business. From the time I was very little his comments, feedback and conversations suggested that ‘If you want to go in business, you need to go to graduate school.’ It was just a given. So one of the pieces of wisdom and questions that my father passed to me as I was looking at graduate school was: “You know you can get a pretty good education anywhere, if you put your heart, soul and head into it. So one of the things that you should think about is, “Where are the sun belts?" He said, “You will be able to work hard if you can go to a place that's really nice.”

This is an interesting perspective from a father for his daughter. He was encouraging me to do a real life principle which was “work hard - play hard”. So that’s what I did. I looked at Southern California and I applied to graduate school out there – I got in. And that’s what I did, and I never moved back to the East Coast.

This was the wisdom of a very wise, conscientious, and conservative man who wanted his daughter to do well. He said “Circle the sun belts, and apply to graduates schools in those areas because you will be able to work hard if you are in a great environment. The sun is healthy, alive and good for people and it worked for me. So there's one question, “Where are the sun belts?", that drove my journey toward graduate school, which drove me toward an education n communication, consulting and coaching. I don't think I necessarily started out knowing I was going to coach, consult or speak. I started finding passion in the area of communication and realized that if you can really enhance, build, develop and grow your communication skills, you become more marketable in a variety of different positions - you have the freedom to articulate who you are, who you want to become, and what you want to add. Communication skills are fundamental to a successful career.


QFL: What questions were you asking yourself that attracted you to Southwest Airlines and led to the authorship of Nuts! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success?

JF: I wanted to study leadership as a series of interrelated relationships. Herb Kelleher is a remarkable man. I love him and he has inspired my thinking of leadership more than any leader I have ever met in my entire life of studying great leaders. However, and I think Herb would be the first to agree with this, it is more than just Herb that is happening at Southwest Airlines.  Leadership is not just something that one person does in a position of power. Rather, leadership is a series of relationships that unfold in a variety of different places within organizations.

An organization is successful to the degree that it is able to fuel or empower leadership relationships at all levels. Once Kevin had finished his dissertation, I went to Southwest Airlines and said “I want to come in, but I don't want to study Herb, or any one person in a place of authority; rather I want to study how relationships are unfolding that are creating incredible change initiatives within the organization; I call that leadership.  Southwest Airlines welcomed me because they said that every analyst in this industry was looking at Southwest Airlines and saying: “What's going to happen to this company when Herb decides to retire, or in the absence of Herb?”. We would love to have your insight on that.

So I went in and studied leadership relationships. The questions that I was asking that drove me to my relationship with Southwest were:

  • How does leadership happen, not through one person, but how does leadership happen in a variety of relationships in all levels within the organization?
  • What is it that we can do to create and fuel leadership at all levels within organizations? You have to give people the gift of understanding what it is to exercise leadership and invite them to step into that place every day. Southwest Airlines becomes the leading example for those saying, ‘If we can understand what Southwest is doing to create their culture of leadership at all levels, then we can recreate it.’ 


QFL: What are the core questions which you ask yourself when writing and teaching the concepts within your books, Nuts, Guts, and Boom?

JF: For me, the primary questions are:

  • How is this going to help? 
  • How is this going to add value to our reader’s lives? 
  • How is this going to offer hope? 
  • How is this going to create a story ,an illustration or a strategy that someone else will be able to use,  and thus enhance, grow, and improve their environment or ultimately their life?

I have a huge desire to help other people. Any kind of assessment or tool that you would use always indicates that I have this desire to teach. There are two parts to teaching. One part is to give to those who are being taught. The second part of teaching is that the more you teach the more you know. So in teaching,  I know more, and my blinders are lifted. I become more reflective and more insightful myself. The more I stretch, grow and know ,the more I then have to share.  I think that the questions that I truly do go into any of these projects with, and which always are  in the back of my mind are:

  • Who do I know that can benefit from this?
  • How can I share this with someone else in a way that will make his or her  life better?


QFL:  What questions do you ask yourself that define your approach to helping individuals and organizations achieve peak performance, passion, and love for their work? 

The specific answer to that question gets really narrowed and focused. I believe no organization will achieve peak performance and pockets of excellence and the kind of culture that is engaging, thriving, alive, and profitable, if you do not have individuals, first seeking that in their own professional/personal lives.  So I think that this type of peak performance is the result of not one, but a community of people who are striving for peak performance in their own lives.

So the question that I would ask is "Are you in the business of building your own personal/professional brand?". Every time I start a presentation, I asked my audiences "Have you considered building your own personal brand, and have you considered what that brand looks like?"

A brand, in my mind, is a promise of an impending experience. Well, a brand for a person is the very same thing. When I anticipate speaking with someone if s/he has worked hard at building and crafting their brand, and promoting like crazy, and if I worked hard promoting my brand then we should both know what to  expect when we get on the phone together.

To get real specific, at an organization when I talk to leaders and their teams, I ask the question “Are each and every one of you in the business of building and promoting your own personal brand and trying to become the best leader that you can possibly be?” All organizations have their own definition of leadership - they have defined it in their own way. That means when you come to this organization you hopefully embrace that definition of leadership and ask yourself, "What are you doing every day to live that leadership out loud in all that you do?"

We all have to be in the business of constantly building our own personal brand.  “Are we living the values that we hold near and dear to our hearts out loud, and are we in an organization or in a culture that allows us to share those values with leadership out loud?”


QFL: What core questions would you suggest that other people ask themselves to create and feel a sense of passion for their work?

To create a sense of passion, I think you probably have to go deeper and ask these three questions:

  • What am I naturally just good at? What do I just do without really thinking - what just comes to me? What skills or talents just come naturally to me?
  • What do I love doing?

When you wake up in the morning and you are  fired up, excited, and totally motivated, and I don't need my coffee and I am just good to go - that means you’re just passionate about something. You’re fired up about something and you love that. Then I think you have to ask, “Well, at work, in the work that I'm doing, am I able to tap into, not just my gifts and talents and the stuff that I am good at; but also in any given day, am I able to do what I am passionate about?” That's a perfect world where you are working day in and day out and you are able to use your gifts and talents and exercise your passion. I think that when we understand what those passions gifts and talents are and then find ways with our workplace to exercise those things by engaging in entrepreneurial projects.


QFL: What core questions would you suggest that leaders ask themselves to create a sense of passion and love for work within their organizations? 

I think that passion and love for work is somewhat contagious. We have to remember that personal change precedes organizational change. We start with ourselves and we ask those very same questions:

  • Am I as alive, on fire, passionate, and am I allowing myself the opportunities to stretch, grow, develop, and learn in the work that I'm doing in the position that I hold?
  • Am I coming to work exuding passion and sharing and inspiring passion? 
  • Am I able to live my values out loud in the work that I do? 
  • Am I a great example of the leadership that we have defined in this organization? 

I think these are critical questions for leaders to ask themselves at least  on a monthly basis. If leaders are not passionate, and exuding passion, then they become toxic to the rest of their team. You cannot expect your team to be something that you are not. A leader does have incredible power to influence the lives of their people. I think great leaders will model, inspire and then teach. So then I think these are reflective personal questions:

  • Am I modeling what it means to be an outstanding leader in this organization? 
  • Am I living my values? 
  • Am I being who I really want to be? 
  • Am I a great example to my family and my organization? 
  • Am I stretching and growing?

Go back to those personal questions because as you build yourself, and your own personal brand, that brand becomes an icon and an inspiration a “Wow, I want to be like you!” kind of leader. 


QFL: Independent of the work environment, what questions do you believe that people should  or could ask themselves to make our world a happier and healthier place to live?

I think one of the all-telling questions is: “Will I be missed?”. The follow up question to that is, “Have I earned the love and respect of my family and my friends?”

Note: In this question, I said “earned” in a very calculated way. I do not think that love and respect is something that you are entitled to just because you are the matriarch, or patriarch, of the family, or because you are a leader in your community - I think that you have to earn it. Typically, you earn the love and respect of those around you by serving them. The most powerful form of leadership is service and service does not start with your team within your organization. Service starts with your family and your friend, and from the there, infuses the workplace and your organizational teams.


Dr. Jackie Freiberg can be contacted at:

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