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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

Aug 24, 2016

Thea Polancic is a passionate advocate for the power of business as a force for good in the world. She is the Founder and Chair of the Chicago Chapter of Conscious Capitalism - a movement dedicated to elevating humanity through business, founded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market. 

The Chicago Chapter is the first in North America, and in less than 18 months it has grown to more than 1,100 members. Under her leadership, the Chicago Chapter produces programs for the general public and private events for senior executives who are committed to leading organizations that are both purposeful and unapologetically profit-driven. As a result of her efforts, the international Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference has taken place in Chicago for the past two years.  

Thea is also the Managing Partner of ClearSpace, LLC, a consulting firm that helps CEOs transform themselves, their teams and organizations to meet the challenges of the future and grow and thrive. Over the past 15 years, Thea has worked closely with many senior leadership teams to grow organizations with a higher purpose, creating value for all stakeholders, developing servant leaders, and having healthy, values-based cultures. Her firm’s clients include organizations large and small across the country. She is a mentor to Chicago accelerators TechStars Chicago, Healthbox and The Impact Engine and the Conscious Venture Lab in Maryland.

Thea is sought-after speaker on leadership and the future of business.


Web -

Twitter - @tdpolancic

LinkedIn -   


Summary & Ideas for Action

In this interview, Thea covers the concept that consciousness and profit are compatible. Older executives may need to examine consciousness; younger executives may need to open their consciousness to embrace profit. Purpose is an intentional combination of consciousness and profit that necessitates a great business model, great leaders, and engaged stakeholders—the suppliers, the customers, the board, shareholders, and owners, and the employees of the organization. The growth is a journey, not an endpoint. The CEO is key to the purpose. Purpose spreads from the CEO down through the organization. If the CEO is not engaged in the purpose, the organization cannot prop it up. If the CEO sustains the purpose, then so may the organization.


Key Takeaways

[5:46] Will big business save the world? McDonald’s is the largest employer of teenagers on the planet. To make a difference for teenagers, you should go talk to McDonald’s.

[6:58] My personal purpose is in the form of a promise: By the year 2030, business creates a world of beauty, prosperity, and happiness.

[8:21] The world is a complex, ambiguous place. In uncertain, complex environments there is a specific kind of leadership that is more effective, which starts with a long-term perspective.

[14:15] How do you teach that it’s OK to be unapologetically capitalist and profit-driven?

[17:27] The need for purpose is on the rise and is moving mainstream quickly.

[22:05] This is a journey, not an endpoint. It starts with the CEO’s internal work. A CEO who is not the authentic driver of the purpose will undermine it.

[29:50] Leaders must match the intellectual valuing of mistakes, failure, and the challenges of the climb with the emotional capacity to be compassionate for themselves and their teammates, and create an environment of emotional safety inside of which risk taking can happen.


Quotable Quotes

  • “What we want is that caring and accountability.”
  • “Doing business in this way is ultimately one of the few remaining sources of competitive advantage that you’re going to have.”
  • “Have a stakeholder value creation model, not just a shareholder or owner value creation model.”


Books Mentioned on the Show

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Leaders Eat Last

Mindset: The New Psychology for Success

The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization