How the NLP Leadership Summit Began

From: L. Michael Hall







Well, we did it! 

On November 9th we held the very first NLP Leadership Summit in London.  And we even got a picture of the 27 of us who were there!  You can see the picture on Facebook of the group of 27 people who gathered for this NLP Leadership Summit.  If so, then you’ve seen the 27 NLP Trainers, Researchers, Authors, and Professionals who were present.


I’ve written the following for those of you who were not able to be with us.  Frank Bourke was to be there but the snow storm in New Jersey/ New York created flight cancellations and many others of you receiving this said that you wanted to be with us, but had previous engagements.


So what happened?  The answer is that we talked with each other!  We met for 6 hours without any agenda except that we were going to meet and talk and get to know each other.  And while that may not sound like a big accomplishment, from my perspective— it was actually a tremendous accomplishment.  And why?  Because before people in any leadership role can work together and provide actual leadership in any group, business, or community, they must first spend time together becoming a leadership team.  And so that’s what we did.  We spent time together to begin to become the kind of collaborative leaders that we need to become if we’re to be effective.


Now to facilitate a collegial relationship among us and between, the room was set up with a circle of chairs to convey in our psycho-geography that we are all colleagues of each other and that we all have an equal voice.  And I assume that for most or all of us this was critically important— to set things up to reduce (as much as possible) all of our drives for status, recognition, competition, etc.


Now what we actually did in those 6 hours also was not dramatic.  We spent the first hour-and-a-half introducing ourselves sharing when we came into NLP and what we do (take 30 people and ask each to speak for 3 minutes and that’s 1 ½ hours!).  It was not dramatic but it was incredibly helpful and insightful— to get acquainted at a personal level.  Frank Pucelik was stunned and said to the group that he was really, really impressed with all that people had done and were doing and what heart and spirit everybody showed in promoting NLP in their own way.  “I think of you as my children,” he said and as one of the 3 co-founders, that made perfect sense even though Frank was younger than a few others in the room and only a bit older than some others of us!  To create an orientation for the day, we asked the group to let the group decide:

“What’s the most important thing for us to talk about today?  What is something that would be valuable to talk about so that when you leave today, you feel that you have spent your time and energy well?”


The group focused primarily on four things—standards (criteria, values), credibility (research, academic acceptance), community (relationships, trust), a common vision (a shared intentionality).  As we were finishing that conversation, I began hearing questions that various people had raised and so writing them down, I then re-presented them back to the group, and asked if we could then used four of the questions to guide our discussion.  And so that’s what we did.  Here are the four questions that we then used in 7 or 8 smaller groups.

What is your best dream for NLP?

How can we best serve the work that we do in the world with NLP?

How can we rise above self-interest?

How can we set a higher-level frame that will create a harmonization?


We then shared our best dreams for NLP.  I shared the experience I had early that morning when I went through Customs as I entered the UK.  When I presented my passport and entrance form to the lady at the customs office, she asked me why I was in the UK and for how long.  I said, “I’m here to attend the NLP Conference in Canary Wharf.”   She asked, “I’ve heard of NLP.  Isn’t that reverse psychology?”  I firmly said, “No.”   She then said, “Isn’t that about hypnotism to manipulate people?”  And even more firmly, I said, “No, definitely not.  NLP is about discovering the structure of human expertise and teaching people how to replicate that expertise.”


I used that story then to set the frame, “Those ideas are our brand for many people!  That’s what many people think about NLP.  What do we want people to think when they hear the letters, NLP?  What is your best dream about that?”  Some of the answers that emerged were the following: People will think

NLP is a Community —a community of people who cooperate and collaborate.

NLP is known for what it gives, rather than received; NLP is contribution and a force for good in the world.

NLP is an esteemed Profession, one with standards, one taught in Universities around the world.

NLP is a resilient community built upon trust.

NLP is a community that deals with conflicts, has great models for helping people work through conflicts.

NLP is people who search for patterns and structures in experiences.


The conversation then went to community, to relationship, to trust and trusting.  At one point I asked the group to show hands for those who thought “There is a NLP community” and those who thought “There is not an NLP Community.”  Hands were about equally divided.  Then Heidi Heron from Sydney noted, “There are many NLP communities” but no global community that has a shared consensus.  That resonated with everyone.  We have communities, but not a single community that combines and unites the smaller communities.


Early in the day there was an attempt to begin talking about Standards and establishing professional criteria, and my guess is that everybody wanted to talk about that, and yet most of us realized that if we jumped into that too soon, it would be counter-productive.  It is a conversation that needs to occur, but we need sufficient rapport and relationship first.


Where to from here?  With many people in the room who had been at many similar attempts like the 1997 Visionary Leadership Conference and having seen the attempts come to nothing, we knew that this had to be just the beginning, the first step of a long journey, and that there has to be follow-up.  When I first mentioned every year at the NLP Conference, several noted that that was not sufficient.  And true enough.  Yet it is a beginning.  So we did agree— “Next Year in London!”  And we will be working on a Linked-In presence whereby we can invite more and more of the “elders of the tribe” into the NLP Leadership Summits.  And so the adventure continues!


We also heard Frank say a couple of times that he had made a commitment to not speak against or speak down about any of us.  And that commitment seem to be shared by all of us as a very concrete expression of trust and willingness to collaborate at this level.


Next step: I will do my best to set up a Link-In account — NLP Leadership Summit — and invite all of you into it.


I love what Julian Russell just wrote — and a great way to end:

  • On the basis of  “Be the change you want in the world” – if NLP folk can not only be at peace with each other, but can together be more than the sum of the parts, maybe the world might one day too! If we clean our own stable, and then maybe others will be inspired to follow.



Those who were Present:


Michael Hall               — USA

Frank Pucelik               — Ukraine

John McWhirter

Martin Roberts

Wyatt Woodsmall

John Seymour

Byron Lewis

John McWhirter          —  Glasgow, Scotland, UK

James Lawley

Penny Tompkins

Derek Jackson

Fran Burgess

Julian Russell

Joe Cheal

Melody Cheal

Paul Tolsey

Lisa Wake

Bob Janes

Judith Lowe

Karen Moxom

Katie Raver                 — USA, Austin Texas

Martin Snoddon          — Scotland

Jeremy Lazarus

Ariela Essex

Heidi Heron                 — Sydney Australia

Laureli Blthe               — Sydney Australia

Wendy Sullivan

Bruce Grimley