O. Frederick 'Fred' Kiel
Kiel, O. Frederick "Fred" of Lanesboro, Fred Kiel, a pioneer in the fields of executive coaching and character science, died on September 24 in Rochester, Minnesota. He was 82.
He is survived by six children, Kelly (Gregory) Garramone, Amy (Doug) McNamara, Bryn (Daniel) Hennessy, Anna (Graham) Martin, Jordan (Sahar) Kiel, and Freda Kiel, his siblings Loren Kiel and Dolores Johnson, and ten grandchildren.
Born on May 15, 1940, in Rapid City, South Dakota, Fred was the youngest of five children of Orville Manford Kiel and Anna Mabel Shoemaker Kiel. His rancher farmer family instilled in him a lifelong commitment to conservation and sustainable agriculture. Fred's educational journey began in a one-room schoolhouse in Grindstone, South Dakota, and culminated in a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Minnesota.
Animated by curiosity and optimism, Fred's quest to "help leaders create positive, energizing work environments," began in the 1970s. For more than forty years Fred guided Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits to accelerate business success through principled leadership. In 1991, Fred co-founded KRW International in Minneapolis, pioneering deep-dive verbatim 360s, a rigorous development process that provided senior executives with transformative feedback. Fred characterized his approach to executive coaching as one that starts in the heads and hearts of leadership. "That's my purpose - to help leaders of large organizations connect their heads to their hearts. This has always been my North Star and has served me well."
This would remain a theme throughout his work. Doug Lennick, a dear friend and colleague, asked Fred to help him develop a psychological explanation of how people score high on emotional intelligence while also scoring low on integrity. This insight led Fred and Doug to develop the concept of "moral intelligence," which they defined as "the mental capacity to determine how universal human principles should be applied to our values, goals, and actions," in their influential first book "Moral Intelligence" (Wharton Business School Press, 2005). Through interviews with business leaders, they identified connections between moral intelligence and higher levels of trust, engagement, retention, and innovation. "Moral Intelligence 2.0" followed in 2011. These books have been translated into seven languages and are used as core texts in many university courses on business ethics.
Fred's third book, "Return on Character," published in 2015 by Harvard Business Review Press, was a pioneering work in the field of character science. Drawing from his seven-year study of CEOs and executive teams, Fred established a correlation between character habits of senior leaders and positive financial outcomes, employee engagement, and risk reduction. Fred codified this research into a concise ethos of "who you are matters more than what you do." Leaders set the culture, and culture creates the value, both to shareholders and customers. Fred closed his book with a call for change in global leadership norms such that leaders everywhere - business, government, science, politics, religion - are expected to be and become individuals with strong character habits. "Leadership character should be fundamental to business education programs and performance evaluation processes. Business schools are misguided. They emphasize training MBAs in the business skills but never even glance at the other side of the equation - who are you as a person? How do you treat other people? What does your heart tell you? Would your decision making improve if your head and heart were connected?"
To the delight of his children and grandchildren, Fred self-published a children's book, "Tales from the Grindstone Forest," illustrated by his young son Jordan. The "Tales" were inspired by stories from his youth set in a magical forest filled with lovely and loving animal friends. His prose is both lively and animated while also pausing to invite the reader to hear and feel the magnificence of the natural world.
Fred was strongly committed to community service. In 1976, he was appointed to the first licensing board of psychologists by the governor of Minnesota. Fred served on the boards of several philanthropic organizations, including Augsburg College Youth and Family Institute, Graywolf Press, Walk-In Counseling Center, Lyra Concert, the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, and the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce.
Fred's love of people, conversation, and the land prompted him to build the Sacred Clay Country Inn in Lanesboro, Minnesota, his favorite place on Earth, in 2005. Fred described Sacred Clay's mission as "helping people become more fully human - to experience both their head and heart, a place for personal renewal." In addition to serving as an anchor in the lives of his children, grandchildren, and friends, Sacred Clay was a place for weddings, family reunions, and a haven for guests to enjoy nature at its best. Fred also used Sacred Clay to promote and support musicians, artists, Amish artisans, and craftspeople, as well as sustainable farming and organic dairy practices.
Fred was a joyful, optimistic, hopeful, kind, generous, and funny father, grandfather, friend, and colleague. He is deeply loved and sorely missed.
Published on January 29, 2023
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