Substance of Leadership, a program for interior transformation whose aim is to develop more effective and enlightened leaders. In following nature’s pattern, this approach emphasizes that growth develops from within, only later manifesting outwardly. Instead of imposing behaviors imitated from the outside, Substance of Leadership recognizes that authentic leadership has qualities of improvisation based upon underlying belief structures. Substance of Leadership uses issues, examples and understandings drawn from the arts, humanities, myth and ancient wisdom as the basis for guided introspection. This work plants the seeds of change that can result in the right action arising in the moment when it is needed.

Substance of Leadership is applicable in variety of contexts - from families and businesses to civic, community and organizational settings. Rather than teaching exterior-oriented, learned behaviors, Substance of Leadership focuses on interior transformation that results in authentic decision-making, thoughtful communication, respectful collaboration, imaginative use of teams, a playful approach to life and the encouragement of a healthy institutional culture.


Each topic in the Substance of Leadership series focuses on a particular aspect of leadership. Knowledge is gained through reading, listening and watching the primary material and the interior development work takes place through the platforms of personalized multi-media online journaling, masterclasses, individual coaching sessions and the ongoing Substance of Leadership Mentorship Program. This multi-layered approach allows the issues associated with Substance of Leadership to inevitably resonate with daily-life experiences – provoking “in the moment” inner reflection, encouraging the examination of interior motivations, and gradually developing the qualities of confidence, maturity and wisdom that comprise the defining characteristics of genuine leadership.


Substance of Leadership makes use of metaphors from physics, psychology and game theory while also offering analogies taken from mythology, Eastern mindfulness traditions and the arts. The nature of childhood play is examined for its application to adult settings, recognizing that the playground and the chessboard have as much to teach as the boardroom and the battlefield.  Quotes from Isaac Newton, Mahatma Gandhi, Carl Jung, and Lao-tzu reside next to lines drawn from poetry, sacred texts and children’s stories. Together these sources offer imaginative inspiration, mirrors for self-reflection and insights into the underlying dynamics of complex, dynamic environments.


To encourage interior development, the Substance of Leadership approach provides the interplay of structured knowledge presentation, individual guidance and personalized learning. The gradual, focused inner work results in a more complete leader: capable of responding to ever-changing environments and challenges from a balanced position of poise encompassing receptivity, judgment and thoughtful action.  

...be patient with everything that is unresolved within your heart, and try to love the questions themselves as if they were rooms with locked doors, or books written in a language you don't know. Do not search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not yet be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the question now. Perhaps then, on some distant day, you will, without even having noticed it, gradually live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet

Please reload

About the Author

John Thomas Dodson enjoys a multi-faceted career as a musician, teacher, writer, public speaker and leadership consultant.

Deeply committed to education, throughout his career Dodson has mentored young artists as they have sought their own authentic paths in music and life. His artistic, educational and community-building activities have received numerous awards and honors.

After studies with American composer Robert Jager at Tennessee Technological University and renowned conducting pedagogue Frederik Prausnitz at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, he received Tennessee Technological University’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Later, as a professor there he was the recipient of the Pan-Hellenic Outstanding Faculty Award, the first time that the award, voted upon by the university’s students, was given in the field of music. He has twice been honored with the American Orchestra League’s Sally Parker Education award, and with Adrian College’s Ross E. Newsom Outstanding Teaching Award. He was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Siena Heights University for his work educating the public about the arts and their relevance in building vibrant communities. Dodson was given the Lenawee Arts Award from the Croswell Opera House and was recognized by the Governor of the State of Michigan and representatives from the State of Michigan Senate and U.S. House of Representatives for his artistic and educational impact upon the Southeast Michigan region.


Dodson has conducted concerts with renowned orchestras in North America, Europe and Eurasia. He has served as a music director for professional US orchestras for over three decades and continues to lead the Lexington Bach Festival in Michigan and Conciertos de la Villa de Santo Domingo, an annual music festival in the Dominican Republic’s Colonial City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dodson has been involved with many highly esteemed contemporary composers including Bright Sheng, Michael Daugherty, Christopher Theophanidis and Theodore Antoniou. He has collaborated with acknowledged masters like Philippe Entremont and emerging artists like David Aaron Carpenter as well as with members of the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra and New York City Ballet Orchestra at Lincoln Center.


Dodson’s innovative leadership with the Adrian Symphony Orchestra was praised by the League of American Orchestra’s for resulting in “a culture of experimentation.” He is a sought-after public speaker, having made presentations at national conferences for the League of American Orchestras and its predecessor, the American Symphony Orchestra League, as well as Conductors Guild and numerous civic groups, non-profit agencies, institutes of higher learning and business organizations.

©2017 John Thomas Dodson All Rights Reserved

No part pf this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.