Sean Ryan, Founder & President, WhiteWater International ConsultingSean Ryan, Founder & President
Change is happening faster than ever, and it will only keep accelerating. From the global shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession, technological and social upheaval at home and abroad, and a constantly evolving business environment, leaders today find themselves in a uniquely turbulent and unstable environment. It’s hard to keep up with the changes to date, never mind prepare for whatever is coming next.

Organizations need big-thinking, flexible, agile leaders at the helm to navigate these choppy waters. That’s precisely the kind of leader WhiteWater International Consulting has been molding for over 20 years.

“Our mission is to build leaders who can help their firms survive and thrive in this world of perpetual white water,” says Sean Ryan, WhiteWater’s founder and president. “This has always been important. Today, it’s essential.”

Viewing Leadership Development through a New Lens

WhiteWater goes beyond typical leadership development services and skill-building to empower leaders to truly engage their teams so they can adapt to change. Its unique approach is based on the concept of performance-driven, values-based leadership, which empowers leaders to deliver results while adhering to core values like integrity, honesty, caring, respect, and trust.

“In many organizations, that’s just boilerplate,” Ryan says. “What makes us different is we think those things are absolutely critical to truly engaging team members.”

This foundation of values gives leaders internal stability while leading through change. Crucially, it also builds trust and connection with team members, which is essential for advancing the organization.

While a lot of leadership development starts and stops at tactics, WhiteWater goes further, identifying the three key roles leaders need to assume to thrive: learner, teacher, and steward.

In a world of constant change, leaders must be perpetual learners who understand that everything about their business, from industry trends and customers to their team members, will continue to evolve. Yesterday’s knowledge may not be up to the job of informing tomorrow’s decisions.

Leaders are also teachers, responsible for sharing knowledge and insights with their teams so they are equipped to adapt and perform. Through their actions and words, leaders impart both their practical knowledge and the company culture to their team.

“Often, we just bark orders at people or tell people to go do stuff, but we don’t teach the context of why this is important,” Ryan says. “So we promote that idea of constant learning, constant teaching, and then being a prudent steward of what is important to the organization to help their team be the best they possibly can be.”

The final and perhaps most crucial piece of WhiteWater’s leadership development approach is what Ryan calls “Thinking – Actions – Outcomes.” Again, this goes deeper than other programs, digging beneath surface actions to get at the underlying mental models that drive decision-making. WhiteWater teaches leaders to notice and question the thoughts, assumptions, beliefs, and perceptions behind their actions. This distinct approach elevates WhiteWater’s program above leadership programs that focus only on enhancing skills for better outcomes.

A Customer-Centric Approach to Deliver the Best Results

WhiteWater tends to have very close relationships with its clients due to its rigorous, deep-diving approach. Its client engagement begins with getting a solid understanding of the big picture of the organization’s needs and challenges, as well as its mission, business objectives, and strategies.

Our mission is to build leaders who can help their firms survive and thrive in this world of perpetual white water

“We don’t look at leadership development as leadership development,” Ryan says. “We look at it as, what do leaders need to be able to do to help this organization be as successful as it wants to be?”

To answer that question and help clients drive and adapt to change, WhiteWater develops a detailed picture of the leaders’ skills and weaknesses. It identifies the additional skills needed to up-level their leadership journey, then charts the best course of action to help build their capacity. Case in point, WhiteWater’s interaction with a client started with a standard strategy creation process and support to pivot change. Over time, WhiteWater built a six-module program heavily customized to cater to the client’s needs based on those conversations.

The Backbone of Its Expertise

“Our team is composed of people who love to roll up their sleeves and get the job done while also enjoying the process every step of the way,” Ryan says.

WhiteWater’s strong team includes professionals with expertise in the consulting space who can bring both industry insights and an outsider’s fresh perspective to each client’s business to build resilient strategies.

Change isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. WhiteWater knows that the most successful organizations will be those that create strong, adaptable leaders who can build trust and engage their teams in the pursuit of excellence.