I’m Stephen Josephs. I help people claim their vitality and get more out of life at work.

I believe work should bring out the best in us, rather than grind us down. For the amount of time we spend working, it should produce more than security or wealth. It should develop us. At the end of our careers we want to look back at what we’ve done and know that our efforts not only achieved our financial goals, but we made the world a better place and became wiser in the process.

Accomplishment and personal fulfillment go hand in hand. The people who fully engage in their roles because it’s an expression of their natural gifts and deeply held values are the people you want to lead your teams and shape your company’s culture.

I am looking for kindred spirits among leadership development professionals who want to exchange ideas about what works and what’s worth accomplishing in our profession.

If this resonates with you and you are a kindred spirit, then Dragons at Work was created for you. As the story unfolds, it gives us a forum to discuss our work and share resources.

I hope to see you there.


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I’ve coached executives for over 30 years. I’ve studied various mind-body disciplines (yoga, aikido, tai chi, qigong, meditation) for 45 years. After 50 years, I still play the classical guitar every night (mostly Bach these days).  I’ve studied psychology and transformational methods and applied them to leadership development. I’m passionate about helping leaders find new ways to expand their effectiveness. I am a coauthor of an award winning leadership book, Leadership Agility.

Throughout my career I have been interested in 3 broad topics: 1) What accounts for superior performance?  2) What principles are at work when we easily learn and change? 3) How do we become wise?


I began coaching in 1979 when I founded the Massachusetts Institute of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP is a practical and outcome oriented system that can be used to model and change behavior. It was natural that as I taught these skills to change agents and business professionals, some of the executives in our programs became coaching clients. Working with them stirred my interest in business best practices and skills, and I created a business collecting and teaching them. I called it Optimal Performance, Inc.

I’d ask executives if they had employees who outperformed others by significant margins, but no one could exactly say what made them superior. Using the modeling skills of NLP, I would find the difference that made the difference. Based on what I uncovered I would make recommendations for training and/or selection.

In many cases the skills I tracked were made possible by the expert’s deep beliefs about what was worth doing or even feasible. So, I couldn’t simply gather best practices or streamline sales processes. I had to understand more subtle and unconscious motivations that drove behaviors.

On the teaching end, I found the same complexity. People often behave the way they already do because of deep internal forces that trump logic. Some people dramatically changed their behavior merely because it seemed reasonable to do so, but the majority needed more skillful and personalized approaches that coaching provided.

After 30 years, I’ve acquired a host of other transformational methods, and I rarely use NLP – but it got me started!

Mind-Body Disciplines

On a parallel path, I was interested in my own performance and development. Each time I modeled a great salesperson, negotiator, or strategic thinker I would adopt those skills to my own repertoire. I felt fortunate that I was learning from the best and getting paid for it as well.

In 1965, on my way to becoming a classical guitarist, I wanted to have better control of my attention, so my performances were the best they could be. I heard that the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, used to stand on his head before concerts as a way to calm himself down. So, I began the study of yoga and what has become a 46 year (and counting) dedication in mind-body disciplines. Throughout that time, I’ve had a daily practice of a mind-body art (aikido, yoga, meditation, qigong, tai chi). I devoted a couple of hours a day to these practices, because I wanted to see where they could take me.

Today, I use what I learned from these disciplines to provide executives with efficient methods of using their attention to make better decisions, stay clear in the midst of conflict, and recruit optimal states for performance in any situation. I rarely teach these methods themselves, but use streamlined practices that executives find easier to accept and use. They are also highly effective transformational methods that catalyze shifts in our capacities to lead.

Leadership Agility

I believe it helps coaches to have a developmental model, so they know how the human psyche evolves in a natural sequence. Being at one stage or another affects a leader’s capacity to lead.  As co-authors, Bill Joiner and I presented a map of that development in Leadership Agility (Jossey-Bass 2007). Using that map as a guide gives coaches great precision in their work. For the client it feels as though coaching is unfolding according to what next step seem most worth taking, and progress is very rapid. Through our interviews, Bill and I found that half the people at the highest stages practice some method of honing their attention.

7 Powers Profile

This assessment gives leadership development professionals a way to assess the level of fundamental strengths that sustain their clients’ (or their own) careers. It’s built on qualitative research that inquired into what capacities extraordinary leaders draw upon in response to difficult challenges.