By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth
There’s a lot of noise in the leadership space – in fact, there are so many coaches, experts, consultants, gurus, etc., professing leadership acumen and expertise that it can be tough to distinguish between the posers and the players. Over the next few days I’m going to sprinkle in three interviews with leadership professionals whom I hold in high esteem and regard: John Baldoni (@johnbaldoni), Marshall Goldsmith (@coachgoldsmith), and John C. Maxwell (@johncmaxwell). All three of these individuals are published authors, speakers, and advisors on the topic of leadership that have stood the test of time. In fact, while these three individuals wouldn’t necessarily refer to themselves as such, I believe it’s vey fair to call them thought leaders on the subject of leadership. First-up in this series is my interview with John Baldoni…Aside from John’s gifts for communicating and teaching principles of actionable leadership, what I hope you take away from this interview is how passionate he is about the topic of leadership, and the humble manner in which he expresses himself.
For those of you not familiar with John’s work, he has authored several books, the most recent of which is “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managng Up.” John is internationally recognized for his work in the field of leadership and is listed as one of the world’s top 25 leadership experts. You can follow John on Twitter (@johnbaldoni) or visit his website for more information, to read his blog or watch his videos.
Some might wonder why I’d interview John as the general perception is likely that we are competitors. The truth of the matter is that while we conduct business in the same sector, share recognition on some of the same lists, and even write for some of the same publications, I view John as a peer and not a competitor. Put simply, this blog is about providing value to readers, and my job is to expose readers interested in leadership to great leadership thinking. On with the interview…
Mike Myatt: What has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?
John Baldoni: Since I am by choice a solo entrepreneur, leadership decisions for me are personal. Deciding to remain independent, rather than join a firm or company was a difficult choice. It has been tempting and it’s flattering to be considered by other firms, but I have decided that what’s best for me is to pursue my career as an independent consultant.
Mike Myatt: What’s been most rewarding to you in your work in the leadership field?
John Baldoni: Helping men and women achieve positive results! I do this through my work as an executive coach, teaching as a leadership educator, and writing my columns and books. What keeps me going is when someone who’s read an article, heard a lecture, or allowed me to coach them tells me that they have learned something that has helped them become a more effective leader.
Mike Myatt: What do you see as the primary role of a leader?
John Baldoni: Leaders do what the organization needs them to do. In good times, it’s a pleasure to grow and groom the organization. In tough times, it’s a hardship, often choosing between not good and bad choices, but two right choices. The role of leaders is to create followership and leaders do it by creating conditions for followers to succeed.
Mike Myatt: What do you see as the single biggest stumbling block for leaders?
John Baldoni: Leaders are not perfect; they are living breathing human beings with clear faults. Leaders make mistakes, but leaders who succeed are right more often than wrong. But to me the greatest stumbling block is dealing with what you don’t know. It’s not what you know that keeps you awake; it’s what you don’t know that does.
Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest strength?
John Baldoni: At a recent speaking engagement I was introduced as a leadership expert who cares, really cares, about helping people do their jobs better. That statement made me feel great and I’m quite certain I cannot top that.
Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest weakness?
John Baldoni: You asked us to keep our answers short so I don’t have time to delineate all my faults, but let me say one thing I work on is patience. Our leadership models are built upon action, getting things done. But sometimes you need to let things happen that requires patience, and so I am still learning.
Mike Myatt: Is it more difficult to be a leader today, why or why not?
John Baldoni: Every age presents its own challenges, but there are clearly some factors that are making it tough to lead organizations. One, our economic conditions are very tough. The economy is recovering, but jobs remain scarce so everyone needs to do more with less. Two, working globally stretches human abilities to adapt to different cultures and different situations. Three, time is compressed as never before due to 24/7 mindset. Get it done and get it done now is a real challenge that may not set up organizations for long term success.
Mike Myatt: What’s the best and worst example of leadership you’ve observed in recent times?
John Baldoni: I think we are seeing an epidemic of failure of accountability. Whether this absence of responsibility occurred in our financial meltdown, or is occurring now in the Gulf of Mexico, people in senior positions – and I would not call them leaders – are seeking to buck-pass responsibility. Senior executives whom we used to regard as sane and sober leaders are acting more like whining children as they seek to outdo each other by saying, “Not my fault!”
And the best example, that’s hard to say, but let me suffice to say that I see it – we all see it – everyday in the people around us. It’s school teachers who work extra hours to ensure their students succeed. It’s bosses who pass up a pay raise or a promotion so that someone on their team can stay on the payroll. It’s our community volunteers who help out in the neighborhood or go across the land to help another in his neighborhood.
For an individual of note, I would have to select Father Greg Boyle of Home Boy Industries in Los Angeles. For more than two decades, Father Greg, a Jesuit priest, has been offering gang youths an opportunity to work and in the process discover an alternative to gang life. A truly extraordinary story of extraordinary leadership that provides common sense opportunities.
Mike Myatt: What should leaders today be focused on with regard to the future?
John Baldoni: Leaders need to encourage critical thinking. Ambiguity is the defining factor of our times. Scarcity of resources as well as need for renewable ones is challenging us to make new and different decisions. Global economics can determine survivability of neighborhood businesses.
Mike Myatt: If you could give our readers one piece of advice on leadership, what would that be?
John Baldoni: Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do. At the same time, realize what you don’t know and trust the people closest to you. And finally never be afraid to admit you are human, that is, capable of making a mistake.
Mike Myatt: What’s next for John?
John Baldoni: More coaching, more teaching, more writing!
Conclusion: Please leave a comment below for John if you have any questions or thoughts you’d like to share. Knowing John, he’ll be happy to respond to your questions so fire away…If you’re interested in reading other interviews please jump over to the interviews section of the blog.