CASCO — In 2010, at the peak of the housing market collapse, I began to have trouble speaking. When I went to talk, the muscles in my throat would spasm, squeeze and contract. Talking became a chore. Turns out I had acquired a rare neurological voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia.

Spasmodic dysphonia changed my life – surprisingly, for the better. It changed the way I led, lived and interacted with others. I could no longer be the traditional CEO as the center of attention, presiding over every discussion and serving as the one grand voice of the organization.

I quickly learned to share leadership more broadly because I had to. I began inviting others, then everyone, to lead. I got better at asking questions and listening – first, to protect my voice but then, intentionally. Wouldn’t an organization where everyone led outperform one where just a few people held all the power?

In 2012, I began traveling to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota – the largest, poorest and most disenfranchised of all the Sioux reservations. There I learned first-hand what happens when one community bullies and overruns another, and how long it takes to unwind such destruction and help people regain their voice.

During this time I also began looking at the global, cultural transition underway from the Piscean to Aquarian age and how that might affect the future of leadership. The receding era might be described, in part, as a time of the “savior leader,” where a single, all-powerful person tried to define “the truth” for an entire family, congregation, company or nation. We are now drifting into a new age, a time in which people increasingly want to seek and speak their own truth.

“Entrepreneurs as ‘soloists’ will be replaced by orchestras playing a stronger, more credible tune.” – Steve Case, entrepreneur, philanthropist and AOL co-founder


Still, it was a surprise to me how quickly our new president fatigued me. I didn’t last a week.

I am not talking about policy, as I do believe government has become a bit too entrenched, taxes are overtaking us and that a law should be either enforced or repealed. What I am talking about is leading respectfully and working collaboratively for the common good, without bullying. That’s where he lost me, at least for now.

When President Trump unilaterally decided to build a wall that Mexico would pay for, he lost me. If Mexico would not comply, a tariff would be imposed on their goods. No dialogue. No outreach. No collaboration. No words of appreciation or respect for our friend and neighbor. No listening to what matters most to Mexico.

The next day, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled his trip to Washington. I was glad he did. I found myself rooting for him on this one.

Our company, Hancock Lumber, has been supporting an anti-bullying campaign with WMTW for several years. The messaging is aimed at students, but I have consistently viewed it is a campaign for all ages. Now, suddenly, here I was watching our own president acting the part of bully.

“Would people actually think this is how business leaders get things done?” I worried.


I have worked with many business leaders and never met one who aspires to operate that way.

Within days of feeling lost, however, I became optimistic again. What an opportunity this moment represents for the American people to unite and model a different, kinder way!

Hancock Lumber has a longstanding Pakistani customer.

Over dinner one night in Maine, he said, “Pakistanis love America and Americans. It’s your government we dislike.” I believe that his thoughtful words represent the opportunity of our lifetime – in a flat world, connectivity and friendship are only a doorstep or keystroke away.

There are 324 million Americans, and the action of the many speaks more powerfully than the action of any single leader, regardless of role.

What we do collectively defines America. It always has. There is no victory in sustaining hate or disrespect toward the White House. That’s just taking the bait. Instead, let’s each let our own light shine. Spreading love on every street can overpower what happens on any single street, even if it’s Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s how we must view it.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

My thought is this: Don’t get caught up in the game. We have a president, duly elected and therefore respected. The defining event of our time will not be what he does, but what we do. Hold a loving hand out to everyone around you and carry on. Your children, your neighbors and the world will see what we – the 324 million – do every day as the definition of who we are. In the Aquarian age, the voice of the orchestra trumps the voice of the soloist.

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