Real Leaders

Real Leaders UNITE 2024 Recap

Pictured here: Real Leaders Members (Group 102) snap a photo at the UNITE awards celebration.

Reflecting on this past week at Real Leaders UNITE 2024 gave me hope for the future of business leadership.

First and foremost, thank you to all of our Founding Members who have been with us since 2020, and to our UNITED Partners including: Creative Alignments, Sorensen Impact Institute, SureCall Contact Centers, Priority Power, Sunrise Banks, Salas O’Brien, CentralReach, SVN, and Big Path Capital. And to the companies who came forth with fantastic sustainable gifts in our goodie bags including: PATH, Sprout World, Karun Sunglasses, WeFirst, and Conscious Ink we thank you for your creative contributions (see below). Last but not least, an extra round of applause to the formidable first-time UNITE Pass holders who conquered the rain and thrived at the Kona Kai Resort in San Diego. Thank you all!

Real Leaders UNITE 2024 Goodie Bag

Pictured Here: Contents from the Real Leaders UNITE 2024 Goodie Bag

What Builds Community?

There was a burning question I couldn’t fully put my finger on all throughout 2023 – the kind of question that keeps you up at night. I raised it in team meetings, during job and podcast interviews, and of course, in my confidential Real Leaders forum to gain intel and seek an answer. But even with help from some of the best minds in the world, it was a query that words alone could not answer for me. 

The question was simply: What builds community? 

Brief History

Since the pandemic, Real Leaders has transformed from solely a global business leadership publication to an online community of impact CEOs that facilitates monthly forums via Zoom, for leaders to get direct support from peers who are navigating common challenges. Members meet in groups of 8-10 each month to get guidance and better clarity with whatever is keeping them up at night. For an impact CEO, there aren’t many (if any) business communities like this where people can speak their language,  so it’s extremely helpful to know that you’re surrounded by other CEOs who truly get it

Establishing an Identity

Although we had served hundreds  of CEO members over the course of those 4 years, I still felt that the community’s identity hadn’t been fully established. When I asked What builds community, to others, the common answers were: people, shared-values, connection, and leadership. Surely, these attributes existed but to me, something was missing.  

Going into UNITE, I can assure you I was so focused on the event to have any space for free thought. I quite frankly had no idea what would unfold and just prayed for strength and humility. UNITE would need to take its own shape and be built by the members themselves. 

Pictured here: Real Leaders members walking to the opening reception.

Raving Reviews for UNITE

To my surprise the 3-day experience in San Diego was a massive success! I am continually receiving messages from members and speakers who shared experiences that left a lasting impact on them. For those of you who experienced UNITE, you all know what I’m talking about. For those who did not, we will have a recap video for you shortly and I encourage you to learn more.

We received comments from member CEOs such as  “Generally, I go back to business as usual afterwards. Maybe it’s all about timing, but this event was like a wrench that helped me get unstuck.” or “It would be impossible to attend Real Leaders UNITE and not be inspired” — have been sent to us throughout the weekend.

Pictured here: Kevin Edwards, Allie Burns, Felecia Hatcher, Daymond John (Left to Right) on the opening panel: How to Get Impact Capital Now.

The Secret Ingredient — Love

Isn’t that crazy? I would have never guessed I’d be writing about love. Love is for softies!

For me, the unexpected takeaway was that our members demonstrated and exemplified human qualities that are critically important in thriving businesses today; empathy, compassion, and love for one another. This simple answer to my burning question came from left field and now has me wondering why I never thought of it in the first place. It’s probably because love is often suppressed and lays dormant in all of us. It is the key ingredient that built this community and is also the one that will protect it for generations to come. Stedman Graham, one of many respected speakers at UNITE discussing “Identity Leadership” said it best “Take fear out and replace it with love and everything will shift for the better.”

Pictured here: Stedman Graham delivers a moving keynote on Identity Leadership.

Protecting the Community

I believe what differentiates UNITE from a typical event or conference is that  lasting connections are created. You didn’t just meander around, meet a few leaders, listen to a couple of motivational speakers and leave. You left feeling like you found “your people” and created everlasting relationships. I now feel a deep responsibility to protect this experience and foster its growth. Many of you sought me out after the impact awards celebration (maybe because I was wearing an astronaut suit) and encouraged me to “keep it this size” because of the quality connections that you made. So we collected your feedback and did a deep dive the next day while we were still fresh.

ReUNITE in 2025

Our team has thought long and hard about what it will take to push boundaries while maintaining a quality event in 2025. First, we wanted to make sure that those founding members (from the inaugural  event) were grandfathered into the community since qualification and pricing will undoubtedly elevate. Second, we will be capping the event attendance to preserve a quality experience at UNITE and in our community. Third, we plan to continually keep high curation standards of the speakers and sessions to provide a unique experience that you can’t find anywhere else. 

Pictured here: A lone astronaut poses with Chris Sullens, CEO of CentralReach

Building Community — Add Yourself To the Short List

Thank you for taking the time to read my open letter and please consider sharing it with 1 leader who 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, we can’t wait to deliver another incredible experience in 2025.

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