The secret to living a long purposeful life — let the child within you take the lead.

On Tuesday I had lunch with my dear friend Frances Hesselbein. I always look forward to my time with Frances as she is one of the sharpest minds on leadership. Frances is 103-years-old (!) and comes into work regularly as CEO of one of the world’s most important leadership organizations which publishes Leader to Leader journal.

When I asked Frances what advice she has for today’s CEOs, she shared Peter Drucker’s wisdom, “Think first, speak last,” and “Ask, don’t tell…”

When I asked Frances about the future of leadership, she shared, “I was recently with a group of young girls from 15 – 17 and we were aligned in our vision for a bright future. We agreed about the need for more female CEOs and discussed how firms with diversity of age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and finances are often the most successful, as diversity allows for many perspectives and different ways of thinking.”

As background, Frances was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton for her leadership as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, as well as for her service as “a pioneer for women, volunteerism, diversity and opportunity.” She has published 35 books in 21 languages.

Peter Drucker cited Frances as “the greatest leader in America” and appointed her as the founding CEO of the Drucker Institute on leadership.

As we enjoyed our lunch together I had a profound moment, as I noticed how vibrant Frances is. She looked at me with bright eyes and said, “I brought you ice cream,” as she placed a small cup of Haagen-Dazs vanilla on my tray. She then smiled even larger with shining eyes and said, “You’ll need this, Robert,” and she handed me the wooden spoon.

And right then my eyes felt a tear of joy forming as I realized the secret to living a long purposeful life is to let the child within you take the lead.