David Irvine, The Leader’s Navigator(TM), is a widely sought-after speaker, best-selling author, and trusted leadership advisor. His work has helped build accountable, authentic organizations across North America, making him one of the most respected voices on leadership and organizational culture. He offers the very best in personal and leadership development by teaching others how to lead the authentic way. He has advanced degrees in human development, science, and social work. With more than 35 years of experience as a family therapist, workshop facilitator, lecturer, and adviser to executives, David has developed a unique, personal, and practical approach to inspiring leaders and transforming lives.
To inspire leaders at all levels of organizations and in all walks of life to make a meaningful difference in the world, build lasting success, and create a life that matters – by living and leading the authentic way.
Customized learning experiences are our specialty. Through in-person and virtual programs we impact individuals, organizations, communities, and families. We deliver transformational results for transformational leaders.
I have spent decades guiding leaders to expand their influence in the world and build accountable, authentic, and more fully human organizations through:
- Customized presentations
- Workshops and seminars
- Bestselling books
- Personal and organizational coaching
My expertise is in:
- Authentic Leadership
- Organizational Culture
- Sustainable Accountability
- Embracing change
- The well-being of leaders and their families
I work to inspire and guide leaders – at all levels of organizations and from all walks of life – to their authentic, accountable selves, enabling them to increase their influence in the world.
I will guide you to look inward toward the hardest realities of your life and guide you to true, authentic leadership. In short, I am a difference maker to difference makers.
Character is the sum of the underlying principles, values, and beliefs that I live by. Character is the courage to face the demands of reality. “It’s not the fierceness of the storm which determines whether we break, but rather the strength of the roots that lie below the surface.”
Caring is everything. I assume human goodness in every interaction. We succeed because we care.
My life is my message. I live what I teach.
I will never make a promise I don’t intend to keep. I hold myself accountable to every principle and practice what I bring to my clients.
I go the extra mile to create the most value for my clients. I don’t use a cookie-cutter approach but work with you to develop custom-made experiences.
Make a difference.
Every interaction with me will make a positive impact on the way you think, feel, and act. It’s more important for me to “impact the few” than it is to “impress the many.”
Empowerment through co-creation.
It’s human to want to be part of creating something worthwhile with others. I am here to support you and make you stronger.
A lifetime of learning.
I believe in lifelong learning. I’m passionate about growth and development and am always seeking new ideas that help us, and those we serve, be better. We learn together; we grow together. We succeed together.
David has advanced degrees in human development, science, and social work. With more than 35 years of experience as a family therapist, workshop facilitator, lecturer, and advisor to executives, he has developed a unique personal and practical approach to inspiring leaders and transforming lives.
David has worked with people in public, private, not-for-profit, family business, and entrepreneurial sectors across North America. Thousands of people attend his programs every year. David has taught courses at three universities and the Banff Centre. His presentations, workshops, retreats, and writing won’t just move you – they will get you moving.
David is a bestselling author of seven books, with over 300,000 copies sold worldwide. His most recent books are The Other Everest: Navigating The Pathway To Authentic Leadership and Caring Is Everything: Getting To The Heart Of Humanity, Leadership, and Life. He also hosts the podcast The Leader’s Navigator with his daughter, Hayley.
He serves on board of the Wayfinders Wellness Society, an organization that provides a safe space for military and first responders suffering from PTSD. He is also a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, in their graduate program.
As a former nationally ranked distance runner, he maintains an active lifestyle of yoga, boxing, weight training, and hiking. David lives with his wife in Cochrane, Alberta.
I’ve been asked many times for my thirty second elevator speech. I’ve always resisted elevators as much as I have elevator speeches. If you want to understand who I am, you must get off the elevator and take the stairs with me.
Fascination with Nature
My childhood was a rich and diverse experience of love, trauma, support, pain, encouragement, and abuse. I was surrounded by wise, gifted and damaged parents, teachers, and religious leaders. From my earliest memory I wanted to help others and make the world a better place. I now know that this desire, which became an impetus to serve the world, was also a way of healing myself.
I was raised on a small farm in Central Alberta and have always been fascinated by the life force revealing itself through tiny seeds growing into vegetables, chicks emerging from eggs, and the miracle of foals born in spring. My reverence for life was set early on as I observed that plants never grew better because I demanded that they do so. Plants grew only when they had the right conditions and were given the appropriate care. We are not separate from nature. We are a part of it.
I’ve been blessed with some incredible people who came into my life with the guidance I needed precisely when I needed it. One such mentor was Norris Lowry, our hired hand on the farm who taught me how to create a safe environment with horses that foreshadowed my work in the field of human relationships and leadership development. Much of what I teach leaders today is what I learned on the farm.
As a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but life had other plans. At university, a professor in child development, Dr. Al Price, inspired me and changed the trajectory of my life. He encouraged me to enroll in the Child Development & Family Relationships program and, after completing an undergraduate program, I attained a master’s degree in Social Work, studying with the world renowned family therapist, Virginia Satir.
Many of the families and children I saw in private practice had been failed by the very systems that were meant to serve them. They came from schools, courts, alcohol treatment centers, women’s shelters, and jails. I learned in those years as a therapist that every human being has within them a seed of possibility and what we label as “pathology” is often a protective survival response to a traumatic, unsafe environment. What we call flaws are the scars of hurts and wounds accumulated over a lifetime. I discovered that healing comes through compassion. Only when we see, hear, and experience ourselves and others as we are, not as we could be or should be or ought to be, can we see the possibility within us and make meaningful life changes.
I began to teach my parenting approach at the local college and soon business and community leaders in attendance invited me to facilitate leadership development programs in their organizations. Eventually, my organizational work grew and I gave up my family therapy practice to work full time in the organizational development field, adapting what I had learned about family systems to organizations.
The first consulting firm
In the early 1990s I joined a consulting firm and along with two of my colleagues wrote Accountability: Getting A Grip On Results, a book that integrated their decades of experience in organizations with my work with families. This book reached leaders around the world, helping their organizations become more accountable. And An unintended consequence of applying the principles of accountability to organizations was my personal healing journey out of depression and addiction. Realizing the power of accountability in one’s life and one’s leadership was a profound, defining life-altering experience.
Introduction to authentic leadership
In the early 2000s, I began to research leadership development and discovered that what people want from their leaders is to get past the gimmicks, the fads, and the flavors of the month. They simply want their leaders to be real.
Becoming real – authentic – means undertaking a voyage that takes us inward and downward, toward the hardest realities of our lives. The best leadership comes from people who have penetrated their inner darkness, men and women who can lead the rest of us to a place of authenticity that is hidden from what the world sees, who have been there and know the way, and in so doing, know the why. Authentic leadership is about connecting fully with others and creating psychologically safe organizations by connecting with your authenticity in a way that will forever change how we experience and impact the world.
This journey within – towards discovering your authentic self – I call The Other Everest.
Other Everest Journeys
I’ve had many of my own “Other Everest” journeys – voyages that, at the time seemed to be devasting, but were defining moments that shaped me into the person I was destined to be. I have faced the darkness of trauma, addiction, burnout, depression, and numerous personal and family tragedies.
My brother’s untimely death reminded me how brief life is. To borrow from the words of Elton John, life is like, “a candle in the wind.” Hal’s dying inspired me to live. And to live authentically. Inspired by his compassionate life, I wrote a book called Caring Is Everything: Getting To The Heart Of Humanity, Leadership, and Life, and dedicated it to Hal.
Hal’s dying became a gift to my living. It became clear that I needed to take action, gather my courage, and begin offering public workshops for authentic leaders. Thus, The Other Everest Retreat was born.
And when the pandemic hit, I redefined my business to provide meaningful virtual options, including a series of virtual Masterclasses to reach authentic leaders around the world.
Conclusion – What I love about my work
Our experiences from our upbringing are both a blessing and a curse. As authentic leaders, our work is to appreciate the blessing and perhaps more importantly, take the curse and, like an oyster irritated by a grain of sand, over time, use it as a catalyst to build layers of character and understanding—thus producing a pearl.
Through hindsight, I know that every encounter, every challenge, and every situation from my upbringing were significant threads in the tapestry that represents and defines my life, and I am deeply grateful for all of it. My career has been unimaginably rewarding. I have met incredible leaders who have inspired and taught me as much as what I have brought to them. My work has been a remarkable instrument for making a difference and doing my part to heal the planet.