November 29, 2016

The HEART – A Leader’s Most Valuable Asset, with David MacLean

The annual Christmas Dinner is the highlight of the Christian Embassy’s year. This year we welcomed almost 200 diplomats, parliamentarians and business leaders.

The festive evening allows busy leaders and their spouses to relax, network, and enjoy special music and meaningful reminders of the season. Diplomats appreciate what is often a first opportunity to experience Canadian Christmas traditions.

Leaders from varied backgrounds participated in readings, reflections and seasonal music. David MacLean, Chair for The Executive Committee Canada, gave the keynote address: The HEART – A Leader’s Most Valuable Asset.


David identified the fundamental qualities of an effective leader using the acronym HEART:

  • Humility acknowledges that we need each other and that no one is indispensible.
  • Empathy allows us to understand the needs of those we lead and serve.
  • Authenticity means that who we are in public is who we are in private, protecting us in this age of global social media.
  • Risk involves courage, vulnerability and failure, allowing us to discover what works and what does not.
  • Tenacity enables us to move forward in the face of opposition – an important part of winning.


David went on to say that with the birth of God’s Son on earth, God offers to all people the greatest free trade opportunity in history. Jesus’ birth opened up the exchange of:

  • a hard heart for a heart of flesh
  • a broken heart for a healed heart
  • a proud heart for a humble heart
  • an angry heart for a kind heart
  • a passive heart for a passionate heart
  • a weak heart for a strong heart

Comments from some of our guests include:

Thank you so much for hosting us. You do so well at demonstrating the love of Christ.
Member of Parliament

It was a wonderful evening. Thank you for having me. I am grateful for your friendship and readiness to help the embassies, Parliament, and businesses establish lines of communication.

Ambassador to Canada

Fantastic encounter. I am so grateful. I asked if the spirit of Christianity is in business and then I found you.
Business Leader

A very nice event, as it is the first time I've come. Everything is good. Thank you for allowing so many people to meet and communicate.

Ambassador to Canada

33rd Christmas Dinner Host Committee

His Excellency Solomon Azoh-Mbi Anu’a-Gheyle
High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon

His Excellency Calsey Willmore Johnson
High Commission for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas

Her Excellency Birtukan Ayano Dadi
Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Her Excellency Janice Avonne Miller
Jamaican High Commission

Her Excellency Yvonne V. Walkes
High Commission for Barbados

Mr. Sami Haddad
Embassy of Lebanon

The Honourable Joseph A. Day
The Senate, Saint John-Kennebecasis, New Brunswick

The Honourable Pana Merchant
The Senate, Saskatchewan

The Honourable Norman E. Doyle
The Senate, Newfoundland and Labrador

The Honourable Betty E. Unger
The Senate, Alberta

The Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr.
The Senate, Ontario

David MacLean
David MacLean

David MacLean is a Best Practice Chair for The Executive Committee (TEC) Canada, equipping CEOs, entrepreneurs and executives to lead well. TEC is part of Vistage Worldwide, a global leadership development organization operating in over 20 countries. David is recognized for outstanding creativity and innovation in the art of leading leaders.

Prior to TEC, David served as a sports marketing specialist in the National Hockey League. He then established MacLean Group Marketing, an international, award-winning, full-service marketing agency; and MacLean Sports Marketing, which served the promotional needs of professional sports teams across North America.  

A TEDx speaker, David writes and speaks on Wholehearted Leadership.


Excellencies, sirs, members of Parliament, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen welcome! I am so delighted to be here with you tonight and speak to the “united nations” […].

We did an […] odyssey with our sons a few years ago and we had the privilege of visiting a number of different countries. And one of our objectives was to help our sons get exposed to different nationalities, races, religions, and languages. It was a phenomenal adventure. As I was meeting you, I was thinking, “We should have gone there. We should have gone there, etc.”

So thank you all for being here. I would like to say thank you to my son, David, who actually helped create this opportunity for me through his relationship with Ed. So it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be here and speak with you.


I think everything boils down to leadership. Good leadership or bad leadership. And I have the pleasure and privilege working with leaders everyday. As Ed pointed out, I work with the Global Leadership Organization, the Executive Committee Canada. And we exist in 22 countries to empower and equip leaders to lead well, to (grow both) personally and professionally.

Leadership is costly, isn’t it? So I’d like to start by thanking you for choosing to lead […]. I know a number of spouses are here tonight. [Leadership] is tough for everybody. With the time it consumes, the energy it consumes, the passion with which you engage and lead…Often times that can be very tough. So I’d like to start by saying thank you and kudos to each one of you for courageously stepping up, stepping in and stepping out. We need what you do. And I am a beneficiary of the kind of work that you do. So on behalf of all the people who benefit from what you do, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m sure you don’t hear that enough.

My objective tonight is to hopefully encourage you and equip you to lead well and to understand the power of your heart. Now (many) don’t understand what the heart is all about.

I want to tell you an interesting story. I was with the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club. I had a crazy idea and thought, “What I’m going to do, is take classic rock tunes written by Manitoba artists. I’m going to change the lyrics to those songs so they’re about players on the hockey team. I’m going to get the original artists to re-record their song with my words, release a CD called Hockey Rock Winnipeg Style. And we’re going sell it and the proceeds we are going to donate to our Goals for Kids Foundation.”

We did that. It was a great success. We sold out and donated $30,000 to Sick Children. As part of that project, I got to meet a Canadian icon, Randy Bachman. Are there any Randy Bachman fans in the house? He is a recipient of the Order of Canada, founding member of the Guess Who and founding member of Bachman-Turner Overdrive […]. The Guess Who [had a song in] 1970 [that] was the first Canadian single to go number one on the billboard charts.

I got to know Randy. We spent time together and he’s a great storyteller. I’d listen to him on CBC. Great storyteller.

He told me this story about their song, Taking Care of Business. And it’s about the pizza delivery guy. They’re in the studio they’re recording Taking Care of Business. They’re pretty well finished it, they order pizza and the delivery guy comes in to deliver the pizza. They look at this guy […] and said, “That dude looks like Fidel Castro.”

He had a very unique look. He comes in and says, “What’s going on?”

They say,“Oh we just finished recording a song.”

And he said, “Can I listen to it?”


They’re hauling out the pizza, they play the song, he listens to it and says, “Great song, but it’s missing something.”

They say, “What are you talking about?”

“Guys, it’s missing piano. Boogie woogie piano.”

They say, “Dude nobody plays piano in the band. Who’s going to play piano?”

“I’ll play piano. I’m not just a pizza delivery guy. I can play piano. Give me a break. Give me a shot. You guys just put it on. I’m going to play. If you like it, record it. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. Let me play piano.”

They say, “OK, knock yourself out.”

They play the song and he plays piano along to it. The (producer) shows up and he says, “OK I want to hear what you’ve done.”

So they go to play Taking Care of Business and Randy says to the engineer, “You don’t like the piano.”

And the engineer says, “No I like the piano.”

So he slides it in and the producer goes, “I love that piano! Who played that piano?”

“The pizza delivery dude that looks like Castro.”

“Well you better find Castro, because we need his permission to use this on the album.”

The pizza boxes were gone. They didn’t know where they ordered pizza form. And they thought, how are we going to find this guy? So owner of the studio says, “I order from five different pizzerias. Call them all.”

So Randy gets on the phone. What’s the question you think he asks, “Do you have a pizza delivery dude who looks like Fidel Castro?”

Sure enough. They find Fidel Castro and he shows up at the studio. They said, “Look, we love it. You’ve got to sign off on all the rights.”

That was the beginning of his music career. He ended up retiring as Bette Midler and Barry Manilow’s stage manager. Now don’t hold it against him […].

The HEART of a Leader

That to me demonstrates heart. And heart we often think is emotion right? Men lead with their head, women lead with their heart. No, not true.

Your heart is your deep place of passion, purpose, commitment, conviction. It’s your identity and life. It’s the essence of who you are. What would you think if somebody on your team came to you and said, “I’ve lost heart.”

Would you think they don’t have much emotion? No, you’d think, “You’ve lost yourself. You’ve lost your purpose, your conviction. We’ve got to help you get this back.”

Do you want on your team and staff people that are half-hearted? No, you want wholehearted people. What does that mean? People who are committed. They’ve got deep convictions about the work that you’re doing. They’re passionate about the purpose that you’ve got. They know who they are and they are full of life. That’s the essence of heart.

This pizza delivery guy demonstrated that in a simple way. His passion – he was more that a pizza delivery guy.

He had purpose, “I want something I’ve been working for, for a long time.”

He had conviction, “I can do this.”

He had commitment. He practiced his craft. He honed and refined it.

And he knew again he was more than just a pizza delivery guy, “There’s more under my hood.”

I want to talk tonight about the HEART of a leader. We’re going to talk about the five key characteristics of a wholehearted leader. And then we’re going to segway into the world’s greatest free trade agreement. You may be wondering, “How the heck is he going to do that?” Well stick around.

The HEART of a leader we see the deepest place of passion, purpose, commitment, conviction, identity and life […]. You may notice that HEART has five letters. Each characteristic begins with a different letter from HEART.

H – Humility

The H in heart: humility. I believe this is the most important character quality of any leader. Humility is recognizing there is more you don’t know, than you know. And you’re a learner.

I realize that I need you to be the best me that I can be. I’m not a rock, an island. I realize I need to be part of a team. That if I’m to bring the most benefit I can bring, I need the input of other people. I need your wisdom. You need my wisdom. And together we’re synergistic.

Have you ever worked for some who’s really arrogant? Don’t turn and look to the person next to you, focus […]. They’re not open to input. They think it’s their way or the highway. I got all the answers. Humility, the chiefest of qualities of a wholehearted leader. There’s more we don’t know, than we know.

E – Empathy

The second characteristic of a wholehearted leader: empathy. Empathy is simply seeing through the eyes of another, hearing through the ears of another and feeling with the emotions of another. Empathy is critically important, particularly in the world in which you live. You are here representing other people. If you’re not empathetic, why are you here? So I’m assuming that I’m in a room filled with empathetic people who understand who the people are that you represent.

Henry Ford said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle, as well as from your own.”

Empathy is critically important for success, because we have to understand what the needs of the customer are. I move in the business world. I’m an entrepreneur. I now get the pleasure of working with leaders, particularly in the business community […]. I need to understand the needs of my customer.

You have different customers. (For) the constituents you represent, empathy is particularly important. You have to make sure you have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on. And I know that’s why you’re all here. Because that’s what you do […].

A – Authenticity

Third characteristic: Authenticity. In today’s day and age, we can’t afford to be inauthentic. There’s something called social media that seems to capture everything. You pretend you’re standing for the environment and then you end up doing something that’s not in line with that. It hits social media. We’re found out in this age in a way we’ve never been before.

We need to be authentic. To have integrity. That no matter where we are, no matter what we do, it’s the same me. Who I am in private, is who I am in public. Who I am in the light, is who I am in the dark. We are authentic people – critically important.

And what’s important is to know who you are. You’re not me. I’m me. You bring a unique you that I can’t bring. One of my friends said one time, “Don’t try to be somebody else, because they’re already taken. Be who you are. You bring a unique flavour, a unique aroma, a unique set of gifts, experiences, talents and abilities that we need. Authenticity is beautiful, pretending to be something you’re not is not.”

R – Risk

R – risk. We have got to take risks to be leaders. We have to take risks. Now I know in the world that I’m in – the entrepreneurial world – we take risk all the time. And failure is good. Failure is the (pre-set) for success.

One of my CEOs [is] extremely successful in the high tech world. He had a company that was purchased by the Disney Corporation for hundreds of millions. He now has another tech company and this is his battle cry to his people, “Fail first, fail fast, fail often, because then we’ll realize what doesn’t work and we’ll quickly get to what works.”

Now I know in your world, the appetite for failure isn’t great like that. I’m sure if you went back to your embassies, your countries, your caucuses and said, “We need to fail first, fail fast, and fail often.”

They’ll probably say, “We need a new representative.”

But figure out where could you risk, because we grow when we’re outside our comfort zone. I’m sure the founding fathers of this nation took risks, or we wouldn’t be Canada. What are the risks we can take as leaders?

One of the key qualities you need to be able to take those risks is courage. Now there’s something critically important about courage.

Any John Wayne fans in the house? […] I remember in 1969 seeing the original True Grit movie with John Wayne. You remember he’s chasing the bad guys across the plane. He’s got the reigns of the horse in his mouth. He’s got his lever-action Winchester in one hand, his Colt 45 in the other. And he’s taking care of guys. And as a kid, I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s courage!”

But it’s not. I learned John Wayne’s definition of courage and this is it: “being scared spitless, but saddling up anyways.”

There are only two kinds of leaders: those who aren’t and those who are afraid. We all battle fear, don’t we? If you’re not in fear, you’re probably not outside your comfort zone. If you’re not outside your comfort zone, you’re not living up to your potential as a leader.

All battle fear. The people I work with oversee multimillion dollar organizations. [Many] go in to work afraid, “Is today the day that it doesn’t work?” […]

Courage is recognizing that if I made [a mistake], this is my opportunity to be courageous, to push through the fear. Courage is simply deciding to go through the fear. Courage isn’t a gift. It isn’t an ability. It’s a choice to push through fear.

I know all of you have had to demonstrate courage to be where you are today. Courage, I believe, is the second most important quality that a leader needs to have. To push through fear, to not cave into it and to keep moving forward.

T – Tenacity

H – humility. E – empathy. A – authenticity. R – risk. T – tenacity. TENACITY. That’s a commitment to move forward in the face of opposition.

Now you live in a unique world. You have people who are paid to oppose you. I don’t necessarily have that in my world. That’s unique. So we need to know how to push through opposition. To be tenacious in how we lead.

I believe one of the best speeches on tenacity is [by] Rocky Balboa. Are there any Rocky fans in the house? If you remember the movie Rocky Balboa when he […] decides to fight in an exhibition match, the current heavyweight champion. (His son is) disgusted by this and tries to talk his dad out of it, “You can’t do this. Don’t do this. It’s an embarrassment to you. It’s an embarrassment to me. It’s bad for the family. Stop!”

And [Rocky] gives [his son] the famous speech, “It ain’t how hard you hit. It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”  

That’s tenacity. A commitment to move forward in the face of opposition. It’s not about how hard we hit, but about how hard we can get hit and keep moving forward. You know that.  Everyday you’re getting hit in unique ways. And you’re choosing to keep moving forward in the face of that opposition. Kudos to you.

The Greatest Free Trade Agreement

Five key characteristics of a wholehearted leader: humility, empathy, authenticity, risk and tenacity. And now you’re wondering, “How are you going to segway that into the world’s greatest free trade agreement?” Well here’s how.

Christmas, I believe, is all about the heart. Christmas – I’ll give you a little different spin on it – Christmas […] was God announcing the world’s greatest trade agreement. We can trade our heart in. We can trade a wounded heart in, for a healed heart. We can trade a heart that’s been trapped in darkness, for a heart that’s full of light. We can trade a heart in that’s hard, for a heart that’s soft. We can trade a heart in that’s weak and apathetic, for a bold heart.

THIS is the message of Christmas. Jesus came and said, “I’ve got a new heart for you. I can change who you are.”

Many years ago, my heart was arrogant. It was independent. It was broken and wounded. It was isolated. And it was not good, until I made that trade. And it’s a good deal. It’s a good trade. Making that trade for God’s offer of a new heart, saved my marriage. Saved my company. Saved my life. If I had not made that trade, things would be very different.

For my broken heart, I got a healed heart. My heart that was trapped in arrogance…I began to (realize) the power of humility and the grace that that (unleashed). My heart that was hard, was softened. My heart that said, “I don’t need anybody,” was changed to realize, “I need other people” to be who I’ve been created [to be].

To me, Christmas is the heart. Christmas is the greatest free trade agreement ever, where God says “I’ve got a new heart for you. Do you want to trade it in? Make that trade.”

For me, it was the greatest deal I consummated in my life. I’ve made some good deals and I’ve made bad deals. But taking advantage of that free trade agreement – the offer of a new heart – changed my life. And it’s only possible because of what Christmas is all about: Jesus coming to offer that opportunity. We’ve got a comprehensive free trade agreement with God for a new heart. And I think it’s particularly apropos in light of some of the not-so-free trade right now, don’t you?   

I believe your most valuable asset, as a person and as a leader, is your heart. Discovering your true power. Your true commitment, conviction, passion, purpose, identity and life. Then discovering, “How do I harness my heart as a leader, step in and spend myself for the benefit of others? How do I lead and live in humility, empathy, authenticity, risk and tenacity and recognize the greatest free trade agreement ever offered is the opportunity for a new heart.” That changes everything.

I would like to thank all of you again for choosing to lead. Because it’s [lonely] and not many people do. If I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking with each one of you and learning about who you are, I have no doubt I would see examples in humility, empathy, authenticity. [Those who have] taken risks and [are] courageous and tenacious about where you’re going.

It has been a massive privilege and pleasure for me to be able to speak to the United Nations. Thank you very much.