Better Than You Can Imagine

Make a list of
everything you
really want but
think is

I coach leaders.
I coach coaches who coach leaders.

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Robert Ellis

With over 30 years of experience working with global companies—spanning startups, mid-stage, Fortune 500 giants, and non-profits—I've guided leaders to take their impact to the next level at any stage of growth. My proven strength in coaching entrepreneurs and CEOs to become better leaders, think more strategically, create high-performing teams, foster future-friendly cultures, and deliver compelling presentations—including several high-profile IPO roadshows—has earned me praise from one client as “one of Silicon Valley’s best-kept secrets.”

I’m an executive coach and the founder of Futurosity and the Coaching From Essence training program for executive coaches. I’ve taught leadership and coached entrepreneurs at Singularity University and developed Level UP, the leadership curriculum for the Global Startup Program. I was one of the original coaches for the Nasdaq Milestone Maker program, helping late-early to mid-stage entrepreneurs grow their businesses to the next level. I’ve also taught Facing Challenge, Navigating Change: Leadership and The Hero’s Journey, an 8-week course at Stanford University using Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as a framework to explore mindsets and skillsets for leading yourself and others on a heroic journey in business and in life.


A leader is someone who guides people through the unknown to something better than they can imagine.

mountain-quest.png Leadership is a journey into the unknown. When things are certain, there are few possibilities. When things are uncertain, possibilities are abundant. Anything can happen. Learn how to navigate the unknown. I’m an ally on that journey.

All you’re ever really trying to do is get from A to B. B is what you want to create. A is where you are now. No one wants to stay at A. If you do, ‘stay at A’ is your B. B can be anything: clarification of your essence or purpose; a change in feeling, mindset, or behavior; the solution to a problem; the creation of a billion-dollar business. To get to B, you first have to know what B is. That requires clarity. The first question to ask, then, is, What’s your B?

If your B is to become an extraordinary leader, you need to clarify what it means to be a leader and what it means to be extraordinary.

The second thing you need to know is, What is A?

That requires honesty. You have to tell the truth about where you are. What kind of leader are you now?

If you’re doing something you already know how to do — if you’re recreating something you already know how to achieve, albeit in a different form, and especially if your B is simple and shorter-term, doesn’t rely on the help of others or on extensive resources — there’s a good probability of getting from A to B in much the way you imagine. And when you get there, B will be close to the way you imagined it.

If you know where B is — it’s predictable and replicable — and you know where A is, you’re really just looking for the shortest distance between two points. It’s a project management challenge.

You’re on a path.

That’s called management.

If you’re on a path, you need a pathfinder — a project manager.

Everything is familiar. It’s like being on a tour. Yes, it’s a journey, but it’s not a very interesting one. If you’re a leader, and you’re trying to create something path-like, I encourage you to delegate it to a manager. You probably have more important things to do.

If you want to be an extraordinary leader, you don’t want to be on a tour. You don’t want to be a tourist or even a tour guide. You want to be on an adventure.

You want to be an adventurer.

Wanting what you already know is possible is a lack of imagination—or aspiration. If you’re trying to create something that requires a personal transformation, you can’t predict what’s possible in advance. You want something better than you can imagine.

When you’re on an adventure, you don’t actually want to get to B. You aim for B—the best thing you can imagine—but you’re really looking for something better than you can imagine when you leave A. Let’s call that B-prime.

Since you can’t imagine it, you don’t really know where B-prime is. You may not even know where A is. There is no path.

B-prime is something you’ve never done before, something with the potential to have a bigger impact than B — something so aspirational that you recognize it will require a personal—or organizational—transformation for you to succeed.

You have to go on a quest.

That’s called leadership.

If you know where you’re going, you’re a tour guide. A leader is someone who guides people through the unknown to something better than they can imagine.

The only way to create B-prime is to risk creating something less than what you want. Let’s call that B-sub.

Some people call that failure. I call it a lesson.

There is no failure (at least, not in the sense of a lack of success; you got some result, so you succeeded at creating something). The only way to fail is to fail to learn the lesson. The faster you learn, the faster you can create B-prime.

There’s another possibility: drift. If you’re not creating, you’re adrift. You don’t want to drift.

Your role as a leader is to help your organization create B-prime. You do that by going on a quest. And by building a mountain.


Leadership is not climbing a mountain. It’s building a mountain underneath you.

floating-mountain.pngIt may feel like you’re constantly overcoming obstacles on your way to success, but the only way to grow a successful organization is to invest as much time as possible creating value at the peak. I help leaders build a better mountain.

The responsibility of every leader is to make themselves and everyone in the organization more valuable. Begin by creating a mountain underneath you—creating the resources and stability needed to let you focus on the highest value things so you can move up the mountain.

What’s at the top of the mountain? What should you spend more and more of your time on? It really comes down to a handful of things: Future. Impact. Systems. Strategy. Culture. Leadership.


More than anyone in the organization, you need to have a vision for the future. A clear idea of what’s possible. A B—the best that you can imagine—to aim for on your quest.

You also need an intuition of how the future might unfold, in the environment, your industry, with your competitors. While you can’t predict the future, you can prepare for it—by going on a quest, conducting experiments and creating fast feedback loops, and by doing pre-mortems, pre-parades, and post-mortems.

You must have an idea of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there, even if you don’t know exactly what that looks like, if you want people to follow you.


How do you decide what to do, how to spend your time, how to invest your resources?

What does impact look like? It looks like winning.

Everyone in your organization should know exactly how you keep score—how to know if you’re winning—and how what they do helps the organization win. You only need a handful of metrics. Everyone should know what they are. And everyone should know the score.

Look for ways to multiply your impact. Building a mountain is about helping everyone you work with create more impact.


As you move up the mountain, you gain a broader view. You’re not so focused on what’s in front of you, your personal tasks, or your department. You have to start thinking about the larger ecosystem in which the organization lives. How do all of the functions support each other? Are they aligned? What about outside stakeholders—customers, suppliers, distributors? How are you managing investors, advisors, influencers?


Strategy is about execution. What are you learning on your quest? The reason for going on a quest is to learn as fast as you can so you can turn more and more of your business into a path—and refine it, scale it.

Are you executing effectively? Good execution depends on the other high-value factors you’re focusing on: Future. Impact. Systems. Culture. Leadership.


Most people have a simple view of culture. It’s the way we do things around here. It’s what people do when the boss isn’t around.

It’s important to understand what culture really is. As Edgar Schein wrote in The Corporate Culture Survival Guide:

“Culture is a pattern of…assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems...that has worked well be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel...”

Edgar Shein

In other words, culture is what happens when a group of people stop learning, stop questing.

The key to a successful culture is for everyone to understand that there they are always on one or more paths and one or more quests—and that they have to do both. They have to continue to learn and grow, challenging what they think they know (assumptions) and not settling for what has worked “well enough.” You need to create a future-friendly culture that knows how to quest.


Everyone in an organization has a responsibility to help everyone they touch become more valuable. If you’re a leader, you need to help everyone who reports to you be more valuable. But you also have to help your peers and the people above you become more valuable. If you want people to be more valuable and create more impact, invest in them and teach them how to quest.


“Robert might be one of Silicon Valley’s best-kept secrets.”

I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing people who are doing incredible things. What can I help you create?

Author image Robert Lang former CEO, Socialbakers

Robert might be one of Silicon Valley’s best-kept secrets. Rarely, I have met someone who was so quick to build a trusted relationship with. Granted, that Robert was introduced to me with very high recommendations, but then, many people do and Robert definitely exceeded my expectations. Even from our first meeting – a 2,5h walk through San Francisco, I took home very valuable feedback and questions to work on.

Author image Liesl Yearsley CEO, a•kin

It is not often one gets to say that a single day can change a life, but that is what Robert did for me. I am a seasoned CEO, regular public speaker on a global stage, have listed a company before, raised venture funding, launched tech products, have a bunch of patents, multiple successful exits…….but I was still struggling to have the impact I ought to have given that sort of track record. Robert helped me cut through the noise of my own ego to find my authentic self. I now stand with more power, awareness and fullness of presence. I would happily have ten days more…. and am happy to recommend him to anyone privileged enough to get to work with him.

Author image JR Smith former CEO, AVG; Partner, Evolution Equity Partners

I look at Robert as an insider within my organization; he’s worked with all of my team and continues to contribute to our overall growth… I strongly recommend you use Robert if you are looking to mature as a top exec, strengthen your team, improve your strategic thinking ability, present like a celeb, sell or articulate your vision clearly and simply.

Author image Rebecca Harrison CEO, African Management Institute

Robert is highly impactful as a leadership coach and I thoroughly enjoyed being coached by him. He knows when to ask the tough questions, when to leave space for reflection, and when to push harder. And he makes it fun. He helped me navigate a challenging transition from scrappy start-up into rapid growth, and coached me into becoming a more confident and effective leader. I’d highly recommend him for leadership coaching.

Begin Before You’re Ready

You can knock over the Empire State Building with 29 dominos.

empire.pngAnd the first domino only has to be the size of a breath mint. The Empire State Building is your B. The first domino is a conversation. Knock over the first domino. Let’s talk.