Annie McKee is a bestselling author and advisor to top global leaders. As a founder of the Teleos Leadership Institute, she consults to executive teams, leads change projects in organizations, communities and governments, and speaks to groups of leaders all over the world. Annie also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and conducts research on leadership and organizational effectiveness. Among other accomplishments, BusinessWeek has named Annie in their Top 100 Leaders noting her role as an executive coach.
Annie McKee’s journey to becoming one of the world’s top advisors on leadership has hardly been conventional. It has been full of risky moves and unconventional choices. She will tell you it is a journey in which she learned to believe in the power of hope.
Born in England, Annie spent much of her childhood in Ithaca, New York. She graduated from high school at 16, turned down a scholarship to study physics and took off for California, and later Hawaii. There Annie worked in community organizing, struggled on public assistance and cared for her three small children before deciding that college was a must. At 28, she enrolled at a community college and then Chaminade University where, while attending classes, raising a family and working, she graduated summa cum laude. By then a single mom, Annie and her small children next moved to Cleveland where she began to consult and teach, got off public assistance and earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University.
While she dismisses the enormity of this accomplishment, Annie cites what she considers the true triumph of this time in her life: “I never missed a play, or a game, or any event that mattered to my kids. Every moment and all the effort was worth it. I put my children first, working to build a better life for us all. It was hard, and also joyful and fun. What allowed me to live through the difficult times, really, was hope. Hope that things would improve, hope that we would find a better life and ultimately, that I would help others create a better world for us all.”
Armed with her degrees, Annie began to teach and to study and write about leadership. She was invited to take a position at Wharton, and later asked to help the University of Pennsylvania’s senior team bring about a large scale organizational change. All the while, she was building relationships with leaders in many sectors, advising them on leadership and designing large change projects.
Then, along with millions of Americans who were brought to their knees by the image of the flaming World Trade Centers on 9/11, Annie had another defining moment in her already remarkable life.
“I was scheduled to meet with a senior executive in the South Tower on 9/11 and I had rescheduled at almost the last minute,” something she says was difficult because she rarely, if ever, backs out of her commitments. “I stood at a window high above Madison Avenue just before 9 AM, and I saw the whole thing. Days later and when I finally stopped crying, I felt a profound sense of urgency to realize my own dream of contributing to leaders around the globe.”
While there are virtually thousands of tragic stories from that day, Annie says that witnessing the terrorist attacks was the catalyst for the most important—and positive—decision of her life. Almost immediately, with friend and business partner Fran Johnston, Annie formed Teleos Leadership Institute, a consulting firm with a mission of developing values-based leadership and resonant organizations. The global leadership development firm works with executives from all walks of life—energy to media, finance to governments—to help them better understand themselves and the impact of their actions, words, and attitudes on themselves, their leadership, and everyone around them. She and her team travel the world consulting to, and coaching, many of the world’s most influential leaders and organizations. Clients who have benefitted from Teleos services include, among others, Vodafone, Creative Commons, GlaxoSmithKline, Merrill Lynch, the Provincial Government of the Eastern Cape, PR Newswire, SAP, Provincial Government of the Eastern Cape, South Africa, ThomsonReuters, UniCredit Group, Unilever, the United Nations Development Program, and Viacom.
Annie has co-authored groundbreaking and bestselling books on leadership, including Primal Leadership (Harvard Business Press, 2002, with Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis) and Resonant Leadership (Harvard Business Press, 2005, with Boyatzis). Another popular book, Becoming a Resonant Leader was published by Harvard Business Press in 2008, with Boyatzis and Teleos co-founder Frances Johnston. Annie’s newest book, Management: A Focus on Leaders (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011) is a university textbook that revolutionizes the way management is taught and learned.
She serves as Adjunct Professor for the Graduate School of Education at The University of Pennsylvania, and guest faculty for their Aresty Institute of Executive Education at The Wharton School of Business, as well as Brookings Executive Education, with leaders in the U.S. Federal government. Annie also serves on the Board of the University of the Pacific’s Center for Social and Emotional Competence as well as the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute. Annie supports her global community by sponsoring the education of a host of talented young people in the developing world and mentoring young leaders.
Annie received her doctorate in Organizational Behavior from Case Western Reserve University and her baccalaureate degree, summa cum laude, from Chaminade University of Honolulu. She continues the study of her discipline with the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and the Institut für Gestaltorientierte Organisationsberatung of Frankfurt, Germany.
Annie McKee’s address has changed and the mode of delivery for her message is different these days, but Annie's mission has hardly wavered. ‘My mission is to, one by one, with leader after leader, help others embrace the hope that carried me through my life. If I can help people experience hope and find their dreams, and give them the power to realize them, I will consider my life worthwhile.”
Annie is married to Eddy Mwelwa, and they have four children, Rebecca, Sean, Sarah, and Andrew. They also have three dogs and two cats—Tula (named after Eddy’s home village of Mutuntula), Keiki, Pika, Tiko, and Tiger (also known as Mikey).