“The more we break, the less breakable and more resilient we become at the places we break” – Meet WXN member Diane Craig
As an advocate for tissue and organ donation and transplantation, she’s worked with Don Cherry and former Speaker of the House Gilbert Parent on this important cause. As the president of Corporate Class Inc., she travels the world to help leaders develop their Executive and Leadership Presence – or as their motto says, they “systematize the predictable and focus on the exceptional.”
Read on to learn why Executive Presence is more than leadership abilities alone, what she learned from 35 years of entrepreneurship, and how she honoured her daughter’s memory. This is Diane Craig, and she’s not retiring – she’s refiring!
WXN: What was your path from Image Consultant to Executive Presence and Leadership Trainer, Facilitator and Coach?
Diane: My claim to fame when I first started in business was working with politicians in Ottawa. I was at the House of Commons and on Parliament Hill frequently. It is also when I realized that the old saying, “You can dress them but you can't take them anywhere,” was true for some. As I worked with politicians, I developed a passion for helping leaders show up at their best. I started reading, researching, studying and taking courses on leadership, presence, showing up at your best, authenticity, social and interpersonal skills, neuroleadership, emotional intelligence, inter-cultural skills, body language and speaking with impact. What does it take to have great presence? To connect faster and better with people? To win people over? Is charisma a myth?
There’s so much more to your presence than your image alone. Image is not a substitute for your credentials. The way you dress might be your price of entry, but without substance, you will lack gravitas, an important pillar of Executive and Leadership Presence.
WXN: What made you decide to take the leap into entrepreneurship?
Diane: My husband was an entrepreneur, and he really encouraged me to start my own business. He would say, “If you're good enough to do this for others, you can do it for yourself.” I had my reservations, but then I thought, he's right. And I did.
A year after I started the business, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He was 44 years old and he passed away three months after being diagnosed. My son Kenny was 12 and my daughter Sandrine was seven years old when my husband passed. I had a big decision to make: do I go back and work for somebody, or do I continue on my entrepreneurial journey? I felt that the flexibility of having my own business, while raising two children as a single mom, was worth taking the risk. So I continued on the path I was on.
WXN: And that wasn’t your only loss.
Diane: Indeed, and little did I know that I would have to go through the grieving process again, even before I was done with this one. Four years after my husband’s passing, while away on business, I received a call that my daughter had been in a terrible school bus accident. A pick-up truck hit her school bus in a rural area of Kanata, just outside of Ottawa. She was 11 years old. The bus had rolled over three times and the ICU doctor told me over the phone that her chances of survival were slim.
I flew back to Ottawa immediately – the longest flight I ever took from Toronto to Ottawa. The next morning, the doctor told me there was no function left to her brain. The swelling had taken over. She was breathing by the help of a ventilator. After she was pronounced brain-dead, I was asked if I would donate her organs. I did – both my son and I felt it was the right and only decision. I went back to the grieving process. And that's when I became involved with organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
I did remarry in 2018 to a wonderful man, and sadly, two weeks before we were married, he was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer. He passed away one week after we were married.
WXN: What did your involvement with organ and tissue donation and transplantation look like?
Diane: With the help of several friends, business acquaintances and our caring community, I built my own foundation shortly after my daughter died, Sandrine's Gift of Life, which I ran for six years. And then I thought, maybe I would be more influential sitting on boards. I sat on several boards nationally and provincially, including the Trillium Gift of Life for 12 years. I did a lot of speaking engagements nationally and internationally about organ and tissue donation and transplantation. I also become involved with Intriciti – an organization that helps professionals integrate their faith and business. I have been on the board of Intriciti for over 10 years now and the opportunity to contribute to this organization is most rewarding.
WXN: What advice do you have for building strength out of loss?
Diane: We all break. But we have the ability to put ourselves back together. I think of the Japanese art of kintsukuroi where they take broken bowls and put them back together with gold and silver lacquer. I believe the more we break, the less breakable and more resilient we become at the places we break.
WXN: Looking back, what is your proudest accomplishment?
Diane: You know what they say: "It took 20 years for this person to become an overnight success!" For me, maybe it took a little longer because of my personal traumas, but I pushed through. And I must say, my son was my biggest motivation factor. I developed and built a unique Executive and Leadership Presence model. I have licensed this program to individuals globally and delivered it to Fortune 500 companies internationally. I've worked with the CEOs of multi-billion-dollar organizations all around the world. I am so blessed. Because of my work, I have been places and met people I wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet if it hadn’t been for this business.
At the personal level, my biggest accomplishment, besides my son and my daughter, is the impact we were able to make with organ and tissue donation and transplantation. In 2004, I received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada for my volunteerism. I received the Volunteer of the year award from Canadian Living Magazine, and my foundation, Sandrine's Gift of Life was chosen by the New Millennium Project in 2001 to represent volunteerism in Canada and archived at the National Library of Canada. This was a wonderful award honouring Sandrine’s life and the impact she had on so many others.
WXN: What’s next for you?
Diane: We're staying on top of current trends, and as thought leaders in our industry. At Corporate Class, we are thinking about what the leaders of the future are going to look like and how we will help them evolve. We believe they will be skilled at being human-centered, inclusive and leading globally in radical times of uncertainty and crisis. They will leverage their intellect for the interpersonal and social connections as command-and-control will be gradually phased out. They will develop more complex skills and competencies related to developing self and others. And this will be for the brave-at-heart leaders. These leaders are going to be flexible, agile in relation to diversity and inclusion as it is ever-changing, and they will be attuned to the market and the emergence of all by embracing the power of human creativity for their business and teams. They will spark personal insight into behavioural evolution.
WXN: What does the “X” in “WXN” represent to you?
Diane: We know it was always meant for the word executive, but we could also say it is the X factor in each one of us, and I like the idea that it is where thousands of inspiring women cross paths.
Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What’s your “X”? Join Diane and the rest of the WXN community!
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Diane Craig – Founder and President, Corporate Class Inc.
For over 30 years, Diane Craig has been providing leadership development training to multi-national businesses, Fortune 500 companies, business schools and government agencies to optimize performance and potential across every organizational level.
Recognized internationally for her Executive and Leadership Presence Training System, Diane facilitates customized coaching, workshops and seminars to organizations around the world: from Europe to the Gulf Region, Asia, Australia, South Africa and across the Americas – North, Central and South.
Diane has witnessed firsthand the global corporate acknowledgement that leadership skills coaching and development encourages talent retention. It enhances capabilities and opportunities – and increases performance to stimulate development of the next generation of leaders. The nucleus of her training philosophy is to align and leverage academic and technical expertise with personal potential.
From C-Suite and senior executives to new professionals Diane has helped elevate the success of some of the most influential people in the world. She has worked privately with the C-suite executives of multi-billion dollars organizations such as Huawei, Wargaming, General Motors, KPMG, Deloitte and Publicis-Sapient.
An acclaimed speaker, in March 2019, Diane was the guest of the Embassy of Canada in Kuwait, in collaboration with Canada’ s Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) during a special Women’s Empowerment event in Kuwait City. Diane delivered the keynote address, “Advancing a global key initiative to prosper politically, economically and socially,” where she spoke about how leaders can advance this key initiative to ensure all citizens prosper politically, economically and socially.
In addition to international corporate workshops and presentations, Diane facilitates leadership training at university business schools: Richard Ivey School of Business, McMaster University; Rotman School of Business, University of Toronto; Schulich School of Business, York University, Fox Business School, Temple University.
Diane is a member of Women Presidents’ Organization and the International Coaching Federation. The WPO is a membership organization for women presidents, CEOs, and managing directors of privately held, multimillion-dollar companies. She is a regular speaker at national and international business meetings and conferences.
Her perspectives on executive and leadership presence are frequently sought after by media. She is often quoted in The Globe and Mail and National Post, Forbes Magazine, CNN Business News and appears regularly on CBC and CTV.
Diane holds a Certificate in the Foundations of NeuroLeadership from the NeuroLeadership Institute. Her facilitation methods utilize its scientific, brain-based coaching techniques that combine the science of the brain, neuroscience, with leadership. This impacts team dynamics and interactions to drive individual performance.
Diane studied haute couture at Ottawa’s prestigious Richard Robinson Academy of Fashion Design. She continued her education at the Protocol School of Washington – and at University of British Columba, Vancouver, BC, Canada and the Pacific University in Oregon, US. In 2010, she completed the NFP Program for Corporate Directors: governance of not-for profit boards. This intensive program, jointly developed by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the Institute of Corporate Directors, focuses on key accountabilities and responsibilities for Board Directors.
For 12 years, until December 2016, Diane served as a Board Member for the Trillium Gift of Life Network, the province of Ontario’s organization responsible for organ and tissue donation and transplantation. In 2006, she became a member of the Intriciti Board of Directors.
Frequently heralded for her inspirational role in leadership, Diane is the recipient of many awards including: Governor General of Canada Meritorious Service Medal; Canadian Living Magazine and Avon Canada’s Women of Inspiration Award; Toastmaster International’s Communication and Leadership Award.
Diane may be contacted at email@example.com