Stephen McGhee is at the forefront of mind-opening new directions in leadership. For the past 25 years, he has guided business executives and influential leaders across the globe, to go beyond self-imposed limitations to new levels of leadership. Stephen is an international keynote speaker and author of three books on leadership, he has transformed accomplished individuals around the country and initiated cultural change with major corporations such as Microsoft, Merck, Georgia Pacific and Firestone. He recently completed his first film, Climb For Freedom, a documentary about the transformation of seven men summiting one of the world’s highest peaks and the profound impact of that journey on their lives and relationships.
With a graduate degree in Spiritual Psychology and a background of working in both investment banking and as an ecumenical minister, he brings an engaging, diverse perspective to life and leadership.
LW: At what point did you consciously commit to the path of awakening?
SM: I was five years young, when I first felt attuned to the path of awakening. I remember hearing my parents arguing and I asked for God to help them and my siblings. At that age, I didn’t have the wit to commit to my awakening. I do remember an experience of equanimity and peace as I talked to God. Since then, there were many times I stepped away from the path of awakening, and this was the moment I remember committing to the path.
LW: Did you find that comforting?
SM: Yes, it was incredibly comforting. I felt that these prayers would go straight into the heart of God.
There was a Grace that came forward at these times. I learned later, that Grace can be defined as “unmerited favor”. At this time in my life, when I send a prayer up, I ask for ease and Grace no matter what is going on.
LW: What was the defining experience that supported you in believing the unbelievable was possible?
SM: It was a somewhat painful experience. In 1994, I decided to leave a very prosperous position as an investment banker. In theory, I had it all. However, for me the work I was doing was not integral. Our business practices were out of alignment. I left banking to pursue the entelechy of my Soul. I let my insurance lapse and found myself in the emergency room, from a weight training accident. They gave me a strong medication to remove a blood clot and I can remember leaving my body. I spent the next 8 days in intensive care. This was a great gift to me, because I had time to ruminate on my life.
This experience was clarifying for me and I feel as if I received information on leadership that I have been teaching ever since. It was a pivotal time for me, as I left the finance world and came away with a sense that anything is possible.
LW: Were you scared?
SM: There was tremendous fear and freedom in the same breath. Have you heard the phrase? “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose” by Janis Joplin.
A big part of my former identity was lifted. The question then became, how am I going to be in the world without that identity? I was a newborn. Then, I began to see the freedom in what had happened. It was as if, Spirit gave me a clean slate. And the truth is, we all have a blank slate each and every day and I simply wasn’t seeing it at the time.
I do remember listening to a man in the bed next to me, with his labored breathing. I could hear him struggling to live. I heard him take his last breath. The blessing he gave me was the experience of how deeply precious each breath is. Moreover, the great gift of experiencing this life as a “spiritual being having a human experience”. By Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
LW: What has been the most challenging experience in your life that turned out to be the most meaningful opportunity to your life's path?
SM: I went through a divorce in 2014. I was hanging on tight to my own ideal scenes of relationship, marriage and family. I am in my fifties and getting a divorce. I was embarrassed. I felt so vulnerable that I could not make the marriage work. It was a push and pull experience of wanting out and at the same time, feeling that I needed to stay. It took me to my knees and this was another life experience of going deeper, becoming more vulnerable and opening my heart more.
LW: What inspired you to become a Leadership Coach?
SM: I was on the succession plan at the bank. Because of that, I received world-class training on leadership. The problem was that I felt the business practices at the Company were not in alignment with the principles I was learning.
From there, I became a real student of leadership. After over 20 years, I am just now feeling that I am integrating all that happened in that hospital bed in 1994. Either, I am a slow learner or the planet is just now ready for a more progressive model of Soul Centered Leaders?
LW: What guided you to specifically support and coach High Level Executives + Leaders?
SM: I can relate to that type of person. I understand the drive and ambition for material wellbeing, while having a desire for Soul Level fulfillment. This combination, helps to create an extraordinary life.
LW: How do you inwardly prepare to work with your clients each day?
SM: The way that I choose to live my life, is the greatest preparation I have for my clients each day. And that includes the mistakes that I make and how I deal with them. Every step I take is a progression.
LW: What are the practices you are committed to?
SM: Spiritual exercises, Yoga, healthy food, having fun, participating in the lives of those I love.
Before a session, I clear my mind. I let go of anything that no longer serves me. I ask for the Light to fill me, surround me and protect me. I ask that I might get out of the way and allow the Spirit of God to work through me for the highest good of whom I am serving. I pray to Lead with Love and be filled with Living Love.
LW: What teachers have you worked with and/or currently work with to inspire and support your evolution in consciousness?
SM: The greatest teacher of my life is a man named John-Roger. He transitioned on October 22nd two years ago. I don’t miss him though, because his teachings live on inside me.
Dr’s Ron and Mary Hulnick of the University of Santa Monica have been an amazing demonstration to me of what is possible, when leaders work together, toward a higher mission. The work they do is of the highest caliber on the planet, in terms of developing people. I graduated from the University in 2002, with a Masters in Spiritual Psychology and went back in 2016 to add an emphasis in Consciousness Health and Healing. And after all of that, I am now on the faculty co-leading a program on Soul Centered Professional Coaching at the University. It’s an amazing experience for me.
And I would be remiss to not mention the petty tyrants in my life. Those individuals that brought “material” for me to see myself more clearly have been great teachers in my life. These are the ones that I was angry at, or judging them. I have learned a great deal from all those that have come into my life on any level.
I’ve also learned from the strangest teachers. For example, a shoe shine man in Atlanta. The way he shined shoes could bring me to tears. It was an art to him. He was creating something special with every pair of shoes he shined. There was a line of customers waiting and he didn’t care, because all he could see was the person and the shoes that were in front of him. He demonstrates excellence.
Teachers are everywhere all day long! For me, that is a great lens to see the world through.
LW: In your words, how are you serving the world and contributing your gifts?
SM: I see myself as a Minister to Leaders. I combine the beauty and the Grace of spiritual context with the details of the business day. I feel that this is the gift that God gave me. I assist men and women in finding the inspiration inside of themselves to contribute at the highest possible level, while being true to Self. I believe in exponential growth on both the Soul Line and the Goal Line of life.
LW: As an Entrepreneur, what words of wisdom would you offer so many of us that are passionate about sharing our gifts and contributing greatness on the planet?
SM: I would say to them that being an entrepreneur is a journey of Self growth. You cannot hide from your Self as an entrepreneur. One of the great gifts is that you are learning about who you are and what’s possible as a human being. There is great wealth in that and some people miss that.
Entrepreneurship offers tremendous freedom. I know many entrepreneurs that project fear into the future. Some good questions to ask yourself, as you’re building your business would be:
“Be as steady as the North star and as flexible as the wind.” by John-Roger
LW: When you climbed Mt. Aconcagua, what was the most significant learning you experienced while you were there?
SM: The mountain was in charge, not me. It’s a 23,000 foot climb, so there is plenty of room for learning on the ascent and descent. The great guide, Augusto Ortega, says “Mountains aren’t scary, it is the people that climb them that are scary”.
I had conversations with the mountain and asked her: Will you allow me to climb you? Those that don’t respect the mountain seem to have more challenges in climbing them.
LW: What does living wholly mean to you?
SM: Living Wholly means embracing all of life. Embracing the shadows and the light, the sadness and the joy. It means putting myself forward spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally as I learn and grow. It includes trying new things constantly and consistently. Freedom and discipline are integral elements of this path. All of that connects back to the beauty and grace of life.
LW: What are your top 3 suggestions for living an extraordinary life?
LW: What is your daily Spiritual practice?
SM: Breathing is good! I use all the tools I have learned, including daily intentions, Spiritual Exercises, forgiving myself for my judgments of Self and others. And daily gratitude is a very important part of my day.
The greatest practice is in life. How am I approaching my life as caring and loving for Self and others? Am I going to send an email that came from a place of reaction or pause and respond when I am residing more fully in my heart?
LW: What are you reading right now?
SM: “How to Live a Good Life” by Jonathan Fields
LW: If you could share a mantra from your journey thus far, what would that be?
SM: Trust Self.
LW: Is there something you’re currently working on that you’d like to share with us?
SM: Yes, I am working on a program to encourage women to Lead. We are at a critical time on the planet and I want to encourage the natural elements in the feminine to stand forward and lead. It’s time for greater balance in this area. I am going to take the subtle areas of leadership that I have experienced for 20 years and apply them with a team of women leaders. I am planning on launching this program in early 2017.