Real Leaders

Real Leaders UNITE 2024 – Day 1: Fusion

The Big Bang

On Feb. 5, 2024, 100 CEOs, investors, coaches, and speakers started to trickle into the unusually rainy San Diego area. They made their way to Kona Kai resort, located on Shelter Island, a small neighborhood in Port Loma. Despite the rain, there was an unmistakable buzz of excitement in the air. Many of these people had been meeting virtually for years and were finally about to meet members of their forum in person. Not only that, they knew they were about to attend a first-of-its-kind event. Not entirely sure what to expect, they knew that these next few days would undeniably be something special.


After checking in with the hotel, they were greeted by Real Leaders staff and led to registration. Gift bags, name tags, handshakes, and warm hugs were most definitely not in short supply. What seemed like a rather large empty ballroom just a few hours before was now brimming with excited conversation from a variety of groups who were coming together for the first time. The buzz of excitement was quickly turning into a full-on outpouring of laughs and an almost electric engagement. A few people noticed someone whom they recognized from his weekly LinkedIn livestreams for the Real Leaders Podcast make his way to the stage, some remarking that he was much taller in real life than he was on their screens. “Welcome to Real Leaders UNITE, everyone. Thank you for being here.” Real Leaders President Kevin Edwards was standing at center stage, microphone in hand. The din of voices became a whisper until the room of 100 was all looking at Edwards, poised and ready to deliver his opening remarks. Edwards spoke about how UNITE came to be. During the long planning sessions, the question asked again and again was, “What builds community?” The answer inevitably was, “coming together to build human connections that translate to the business world.”

As Edwards wrapped up his opening remarks, he introduced a new speaker to the stage. An author of multiple books, most recently, The Profiteers: How Business Privatizes Profits and Socializes Costs, Chris Marquis was greeted and given the spotlight. Marquis is the Sinyi professor of Chinese management at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. Maqruis’ keynote address spoke to the need to embody a collective dedication to catalyzing change, fostering collaboration, and reshaping paradigms to usher in a more equitable and sustainable future. As the wrapped audience came to a thundering applause at the end of Marquis’ speech, Edwards came back on stage to direct everyone to the main course for the evening, forming the group forums.

Forums For All

This is where the magic really happened. People went in as acquaintances and came out as allies. Adlai Stevenson I said, “The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum.” Although not a society, the beginnings of a real sense of community were beginning to form. The power of confidential forum is difficult to understand until you experience it, but in it’s simplest sense, it is a truly open and free setting to discuss business, life, and the unique role of being an impact CEO in a confidential, intimate setting.

Mapping The Impact Universe

With forums wrapping up, these leaders made their way back to the main stage where Marquis’ words of transformative change were still fresh in their minds. A new face was on stage, someone who a few of these people had known as a member of their forum for the past year. Mike Brown, previously the CEO of Impact Grove and member of the Real Leaders community, recently decided to take his impact to the next level by joining Real Leaders as Chief Impact Officer. His easy smile and confident demeanor were still the same, but many noticed that Brown had an even deeper sense of meaning in his life. He spoke about this on the stage, acknowledging that this transition was something he took on because he knew that, as a part of Real Leaders, he could make an even greater impact than he could as a founder. He went on to explain that it was his goal to create an impact in each and every business that was present that night and that he wanted to start by mapping the impact universe. He held up a large poster board and asked every person there to put a quote on the board, a headline that might one day make its way to Real Leaders magazine. As you can see below, people were pretty excited to put their name on the map.

Day 1 was coming to a close, and people were still buzzing. Conversations continued long after the speeches were over. People just needed to talk about what they had experienced and explain how it was going to influence their business. Yet, UNITE was far from over. Everyone knew that Day 2 was going to be a big one and so, one by one, they made their way to their rooms to rest and prepare for another big day of impact.

Add Yourself to the Short List

Thank you for taking the time to read about Day 1 of UNITE. Please consider sharing it with one leader whom you think deserves to be at UNITE 2025. If you would like to be added to the short list to receive first dibs at pre-sale pricing, please add your email below. Thank you again to all of the people who made this community thrive at UNITE 2024. We can’t wait to deliver another incredible experience in 2025.


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