Remembering “t” – Thomas Leonard


Memories of Thomas Leonard on this 10th anniversary of his passing

Thomas Leonard was not yet 48 years old when he died suddenly of a massive heart attack on February 11, 2003. I had met him only once, and briefly, a couple of years earlier. The closest I ever came to a personal conversation with him was a 15-minute telephone “laser” coaching session we had some time in the late 1990’s. I recall being amazed at the speed with which he got me to the real point, shined a light on the real problem, and led me to a new understanding and an actionable strategy. It was stunningly beautiful to experience.

I still regularly listen to recordings of Thomas’ classes and demonstrations and benefit from the groundwork he helped to lay for the coaching profession. When I heard the news of his passing, I recall thinking that the pioneer trailblazer, the “Lewis and Clark” of the coaching profession, had finished his work of opening new territories. It was now up to us to continue exploration, to settle the land, and to see what wonders we might build on it. I am proud and excited still to be a part of that journey.

Earlier this week I received an email from Dave Buck, Master Certified Coach and the CEO of Coachville. Coachville was Thomas’ big project at the time of his death. Dave, as one of his closest friends and business associates, took over and kept it prospering.  Dave asked for people like myself to share our memories of Thomas Leonard on this 10th anniversary of his passing. Writing mine was an emotional experience, and as soon as I showed it to The Muse she told me I should share it here. She said it would give people a better understanding of what I am about as a person and as a coach.

Since she is The Muse, I obey:

How I Play in the  World Better Because of “t”* 

(a selected Top 10 Echoes of Thomas Leonard that I can still hear, loud and clear)

1)  I put up with very little now.
When I recognize what I am tolerating and make intentional choices about how I deal with them, they no longer have power over me. Life’s so much simpler when you refuse to tolerate any more.

2)  I tend to over-respond a LOT.
Knowing the continuum of options from over-react to over-respond changed my approach to what I was putting up with in my life. The opportunities for practicing this are never-ending.

3) I may not be 100% Need-Less, but I’m so much closer!
Needs must be met; they are not optional. When I see that they are taken care of fully, I am free of their control. I live with very clean energy in my life because of this.

4) I’m super-sensitive to being out of integrity with my values.
Values that are known, honored, and respected result in a full and integrated life.

5) I keep looking for fresh perspectives, particularly if I think I already “know” something.
If I think I have mastered something, I go back and deconstruct it to get a fresh understanding and maybe a new paradigm. Thomas had a wonderful way of continuously deconstructing things and teasing out new perspectives. I try to keep tuned in to Thomas’ restless, curious, creative mind.

6) Reaching goals is easier because, basically, I don’t have them.
Well, maybe I kind of have goals. But Thomas showed me how success is a by-product – it is far more powerful to design the environment so that it draws me toward a Huge Goal (Vision) that inspires me. The “goals” are just signposts along the way. This way, I never have to worry about what “next” goal to pursue since I’m already being pulled forward. My favorite example: instead of focusing on losing weight, design a future in which your health and fitness figures. What would I do in that future? Just do that now.

7) I have learned that struggle sucks.
I learned that hard work and struggle are not the same thing. I’m always checking to see if I have gotten stuck doing things the “hard” way or for the wrong reasons or if I’m falling into an old pattern of “self-reliance” and “no pain, no gain.”  Thanks to Thomas I recognize dramatically fast when I’m slipping into a struggle pattern so that I can get back to having fun with my work.

8) Less is more.
I didn’t learn the term “Minimum Effective Dose” from Thomas, but he got me ready for it. Whether it’s “laser” coaching or concentrating on the one or two highest-value activities that will get most of the result I seek, I learned efficiency from watching Thomas.

9) Generosity is good business.
Ideas just get better when you share them and when you let others in on your “big deal.” Thomas always delivered far in excess of what you expected. Heck, just look at The Graduate School of Coaching. When Thomas made the GSC offer I signed up immediately because I knew that wherever he went prosperity would follow. And he continues to over-deliver because of the influence he had on the people around him. Ideas can only be fully developed when they are shared.

10) Don’t wait until you get it right.
If you wait until you are ready to move ahead, whether it’s a new program, a business, or whatever, you’ve already missed much of the opportunity. Get it out there with all its imperfections and fix it as you go. Trust in perfection evolving.

* Thomas was known to many as “t” from the way that he tended to sign his emails. It is a term of fondness and regard for the premier mentor to the coaching profession. There is only one Cher, and there is only one “t” (Thomas Leonard).

Michael Stammer is a Sales | Life | Performance coach available for individual and group coaching and speaking to organizations. For more visit

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