A New Chapter at Hudson: Pam McLean Reflects on Her Time as CEO

By Pam McLean, Ph.D.
September 10, 2021
A New Chapter at Hudson

Beginning September 28th, 2021, Pam McLean will be shifting out of her role as CEO of Hudson Institute of Coaching, after 20 years at the helm. She will be staying at the organization in an active leadership capacity with the title of Founder & Chief Knowledge Officer. Michael Hudson will be stepping into the CEO role.

It’s transition time at Hudson and it’s a deeply personal time of transition for me.  In the words of sociologist, Zussman, I am amidst an autobiographical occasion, a significant life transition wherein one’s existing life story is altered, inviting us to revisit our pre-existing identity and modify it for the journey ahead and oh, how my identity has revolved around Hudson for a very long time!  I’ve spent the past two decades living, breathing, dreaming, sometimes worrying, and always imagining all things Hudson.  It’s been an exhilarating experience that has offered me so many opportunities to grow, stretch, learn, and lead and now, while I’ll remain onboard in new ways, I look forward to more time to find out what else I might explore in this one precious life.

We are making our second leadership transition in the 35-year history of Hudson.  We began with a dream Frederic had to create a place where adults could pursue meaningful non-degreed learning experiences in the company of fellow learners and respected colleagues.  He conceived of coaching as a medium for growth and development before the concept was even on the edge of our awareness.  Without that prescient dream and vision we wouldn’t be here today.

I took the reins of the business over two decades ago when the path for leadership coaching was just coming into view and the climb in building a viable business was steep. Oddly enough, I had not aspired to this role – it came to me by virtue of Frederic’s devastating health crisis.  I stepped out of an analytic psych practice, continued to parent three sons in the heart of their adolescent and teenage years – and stepped into leading an organization in a nascent field – coaching.  I had a lot to learn, plenty to balance, and we had a lot to do to build a viable organization!

As these past two decades have flown by, Hudson has grown into a mature coaching organization with a respected brand, a track record for creating real impact, a commitment to contributing in significant ways to the field of leadership coaching, and a strong vision for the future.

Through these years at the helm, I’ve learned and evolved, in so many ways. Leadership is a true privilege, and it offers so many life-changing lessons.  Each step of the way those lessons deepened my capacity to lead and to serve our community and customers.  A few lessons that have left me a far better human being and I believe served the mission of Hudson are as follows:

An Ethical and Purposeful Compass is Essential.  My father taught this lesson to me early in life and I am forever grateful.  There have been many opportunities to be seduced by ‘the easy’ way and yet, I’ve learned repeatedly that stepping back and remembering our commitments to quality and real impact has allowed me to make choices that best serve our mission.  It’s nice to be liked, yet as a leader, it is far better to be respected for being considerate, ethical, and responsible.  No one decision will satisfy everyone, and a leader’s ability to be courageous in the smallest conversations and the biggest decisions is a game changer for an organization.  

Humility Matters.  In retrospect, I chuckle at how certain I was about any variety of challenges, and dilemmas in my early years of leading the organization.  Twenty years later, I see complexities with more ease, alternative perspectives with more interest and I understand the importance of knowing less and wondering more!  Humility matters, knowing is limiting, and seeing all the parts at play is enlarging; and asking, continually asking for input is key to good leadership.  I am leaving this role with far more humility than when I arrived and far more wonder about our work and our complex world.

A Leader is as Strong As Her Team.  So many have helped me lead Hudson over all these years.  My sister, Toni McLean, came onboard early in my tenure and has been a trusted colleague, sounding board and champion in every way.  Our faculty – those who lead our HCC’s, LF’s and our corporate programs – is a supremely talented and committed group that has continually supported our vision, my leadership and every step of the way, believed in the importance of doing our best work for the field of coaching. Our home team, those on our staff executing on every detail – is the vital heartbeat of all we do.

Inviting Disruption is Key.  The field of coaching developed from an ambiguous possibility into a field and a practice over these past 25 years. I am confident in the next 25 years it will evolve in new ways we can’t yet envision.  A good leader needs to intentionally engage in disruptive thinking, continually asking what else, how else, what’s next and yes – the ‘why’ word!!  I wasn’t always very good at this – early on I loved the notion of stability – but I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to sit in the space of ‘what else might be possible’. I’ve practiced disruption over these two decades through constantly reading, traveling to new cultures, taking on new learning, inviting candid conversations where we learn from our differences and asking myself as often as I can, “what are other perspectives might I entertain?”

While I will remain at Hudson – sitting on our senior team, developing new curriculum, and continuing to write and speak – I will be relieved of the leadership tasks that require so much time and attention.  It’s time for change for me – a little more space for new learning, giving back, and having fun. It’s an important moment in our 35-year-old organization, and it is a blessing to hand the reins over to Michael McLean Hudson knowing we share so many of the same values and a passion and commitment to the longevity of this organization.


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About Author
Picture of Pam McLean, Ph.D.
Pam McLean, Ph.D.

Hudson's Founder & Chief Knowledge Officer, and a preeminent authority on coaching and transition and change in the adult journey, Pamela McLean, Ph.D. has been at the forefront of the field of the emerging field of coaching for the past 30 years.