Profiles in Leadership: Thomas D. Willhite

Leadership is not a right or a position, it is a responsibility.         Thomas D. Willhite

In 1973 I met a man who changed my life.  His name was Thomas D. Willhite and to some he was a con-man and a charlatan, while to many others he was a gifted teacher of salesmanship, leadership and right living.  So enthralled was I with Tom and his teachings when I attended his 4-day personal development seminar while a graduate student in Hawaii that I subsequently left my Ph.D. dissertation and joined his growing seminar company.

The ensuing five years, first as a seminar facilitator (traveling each month between Los Angeles, Honolulu, Phoenix and Milwaukee) and later as a Vice President were filled with incredible learning, mostly about me – my capabilities, my strengths and weaknesses, my passions, and my skills of facilitation and teaching others.

Tom was always teaching.  When we were working on his ranch in Northern California cleaning out the stables he would make us all pick up piles of horse manure with our bare hands as a reminder that everything is made from the same source and we are all connected to everything.  He would then talk about how this understanding could help us stop negatively judging others.

One of his favorite teachings concerned the responsibility of leadership.  “Leadership”, said Tom, “is not a right or a position, it is a responsibility”.  And when asked how to best determine whether or not we were carrying out our leadership role with responsibility, he had a specific answer.

“If it feels good tomorrow, do it today!”

Think about this statement.  “If it feels good tomorrow, do it today!”  To me that is the ultimate test a leader must apply before making any decision or taking any action.  “Will I be proud tomorrow of what I did today?  If my actions today made the headlines of CNN tomorrow, would I be proud?”  The next time you are about to berate someone for a mistake, think about this statement.  The next time you are about to react during a moment of anger or insecurity, think about this statement.

To me it has always been an excellent leadership litmus test and more than once I have had to rethink my actions as a result of this simple, yet profound leadership test.  Try it out for yourself.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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3 Responses to Profiles in Leadership: Thomas D. Willhite

  1. Pingback: Always volunteer for the worst assignments | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

  2. Pingback: Ballast, Balance and Healthy Cultures | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

  3. Pingback: Same Ol’ Tom? . . . | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

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