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Introducing Leader of Self

Lava monsters, goddesses, and the wisdom of Disney

My two year old is currently in the phase where she wants to watch the same movie . . . Every. Single. Day.  

Her favorite movie is Moana, a Disney tale about a girl chosen by the ocean to go on a journey across the sea to restore the heart of a goddess, Te Fiti, responsible for all island life.

In order to return the heart, Moana must face a lava monster, Te Kā. 

Moana confronts Te Kā only to realize that Te Kā is the goddess, hurt and rageful after the loss of her heart.  

As Moana moves towards the fiery Te Kā, intending to restore her heart. She sings this:

“I have crossed the horizon to find you

I know your name

They have stolen the heart from inside you

But this does not define you

This is not who you are

You know who you are”

It doesn’t matter that I’ve now seen this scene and sung this song dozens of times, it brings me to tears each time.


I see myself. My goddess, my lava monster.  My journey to not be defined by what has hurt me and my willingness to remember who I truly am.

While our stories are different, we each journeyed far to find who we are - as leaders, parents, friends - we deserve to honor that lengthy journey.

We are all known by forces greater than ourselves.

Nature. God. Spirit. Universe. 

We’ve all had our hearts violated.  We lost someone we loved, got hurt when we least expected it, or we came face to face with deep disappointment.

But what has hurt us, does not define us.  No matter how long or how loudly our lava monsters have raged, that is not the truest or most important part of who we are.

We know who we are.

We are the way we love others - students and our family.  We are our dreams and core beliefs about what is possible in this world.  We are vast and generative and powerful.

Each line of Moana’s song moves me but it’s the acknowledgment of hurt and the clear conviction that we are all more than what hurt us that moves me most.  

I soften toward myself. I also soften to others.

In my curriculum Leader of Self: An Integrated Approach to Instructional Leadership, the deepest work lives in the willingness to know ourselves and then to see how it transforms the way we perceive and lead others. 

  • When I cultivate compassion for my lava monster, I also become more compassionate to others when they show up with fire and fury.

  • When I remember that my hurt isn’t what defines me, I allow myself to see the expansiveness of those around me.

  • When I remember that I do know my highest and best self, I lead from the core values of love, gratitude, and service.

Strategy and formula have helped me a lot as a leader.  But they’ve never been enough.

Leader of Self is about tending to the adaptive and holistic approaches we need as leaders to step into the richness of our most impactful leadership.  

Maybe this journey is familiar.  Maybe you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter that gives the strategy and formula.  Either way, I invite you to explore this space and to know that there are others adventuring alongside you.

Here are some journal prompts to help you start navigating:

  • “I have crossed the horizon to find you”

  • What has your journey been like in life and in leadership so far?  What are some of the unexpected detours and unanticipated travel companions?  Notice how far you have come.

  • “I know your name”  

  • What or who are you seen and held by?  Who truly knows and sees you?

  • “They have stolen the heart from inside you” 

  • How have you been hurt?  When have you felt alone or afraid?

  • “But this does not define you.”  

  • Write this mantra one time for every year old you are, “but this does not define me.”

  • “I know who you are.”  

  • What are my core values?  Why do I do my work?  What guides me when everyone has an opinion and preference?  What do I love?

Let’s be the leaders and seers of goddesses and lava monsters alike.


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