Interview with President of CPL, Patricia Neal, on Leadership

photo credit: AtomikPhotography

photo credit: AtomikPhotography

"I am fascinated by inflection points that are the beginning of a new trend. Looking into the future, what are some trends on the horizon?"

Interviewing Patricia Neal on Leadership

Edited by Rachel Harris and Sarah Flores

CPL had an opportunity to sit down with Patricia Neal, President of the woman-owned Center for Purposeful Leadership (CPL), formerly Heartland Group. Patricia has been coaching and training executives and thought leaders into transformational outcomes for 12 years. She guides leaders in uncovering their authentic leadership and becoming powerfully vulnerable in presenting their transformational journey in a public forum. Leaders who work with Patricia boost their capacity to relate to others, enhance effectiveness for team management and wow audiences with newfound presentation skills. Currently, Patricia is updating her skills via a Conversational Intelligence® for Coaches and Coaching for ROI trainings. Insight into her extensive network and thought leadership can be found at

Check out our interview with President of CPL, Patricia Neal, below:

CPL: I understand CPL celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a conference last year. Reflecting on your own business success, who has inspired your leadership?

PN: My husband and partner, of course! Rachel Harris, really runs the place, as she steps forward in her leadership. Our CPL team--fantastic leaders to work with and be inspired by. Then there is Kiki the wonder cat…

I am inspired by leaders who pay attention to whole systems and whole people. Meaning, they hire for the person as a contributor to the whole picture, not just a set of skills. They are contributors to those around them and their communities outside of work. You can tell they are values-driven, inspired-by-life people.

I won't try to list names specifically, because the list numbers in the thousands. I am constantly inspired by the people whose lives intersect with mine.

CPL: As President of a woman-owned business, your to-do list and inboxes are often overflowing. When you have moments to read, what captures your attention these days?

PN: I have a large network of friends and colleagues whom I track because I consider them to be leading-edge thinkers. I watch what they watch. Forbes and HBR regularly catch my eye, but leadership shows up in many non-business settings, so I subscribe to a breadth of online news sources to broaden my perspective. I am fascinated by inflection points that are the beginning of a new trend.

CPL: After 12 years of coaching leaders into their authentic voice, you have worked with some of the brightest minds in the Twin Cities and Bay Area. You have developed a thought leadership following. Looking into the future, what are some trends on the horizon?

PN: Whole-brain, whole-heart leadership: leading to new ways to engage and collaborate for satisfaction and success. Purposeful leadership: Recent research shows that a sense of purpose, not a specific set of characteristics, is the key to successful leadership. Creating thriving cultures: Culture is how people express and define themselves within an organization. Culture defines what is measured. What is measured, matters, but the measurements will change by demand from employees. More than ever, culture will trump strategy. Sustainability: not just of systems and externalities, but of humans inside the systems.

CPL: You are an incredible networker with over 4,000+ connections on LinkedIn. For people starting out in the workplace, what are some of your expert networking tips?

PN: I am voraciously curious about many things. In person, as an introvert, I’ve learned how to take that curiosity and start a conversation. I ask questions. Then, I try to listen, which is crucial.

Online, I follow and connect with people that interest me in their leadership styles and explorations, and I let them know they interest me.

CPL: You recently began running and competing in triathlons. That takes courage! How has courage played a role in your position as company President?

PN:Choosing a big goal does take courage! Acting on it takes even more courage and self-initiative, but I am always looking for ways to challenge myself and grow. It’s easy to do intellectually, but then, 4 years ago I decided to challenge myself physically and entered the YWCA Women’s Sprint Triathlon with 1200 other aspiring women and girls. It creates an annual stretch goal and benchmark. I created my own training plan of little steps that became longer strides. A 1-minute run turned into 5 minutes, then 20, then 3 miles. I grew my biking and swimming skills the same way. Some days I am tired and facing a wall of resistance, but I know I’m not doing it alone. Then the big day comes, the goal is met, the joy is palpable.

Choosing to co-found CPL (then Heartland) 20 years ago took courage. Choosing to step forward as President six years ago took courage. I then realized that learning to run a business is much the same way as training for the triathlon. The big goals get chunked into incremental, doable pieces. But, just like the triathlon, I’m never doing it alone. Collaborating with a great team is key. The team keeps me inspired and on track. We choose to be mutually accountable, which takes courage and perseverance, but brings great joy when we find and rediscover our groove together.  

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