Leadership Interview – James Hotaling

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

There are simply no words that can do justice to the example of servant leadership epitomized by Command Chief Master Sergeant James Hotaling. A highly decorated member of the special operations community earning the Bronze Star with Valor for actions during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, Jim is a true American hero.  I have interviewed countless leaders over the years, and never has so much leadership wisdom been espoused so poignantly, eloquently, and with such authentic humility as what you’re about to read below. Jim’s answers to my questions are nothing short of a leadership manifesto. Please take the time to leave a comment below and thank Jim for his service. On with the interview…    

Mike Myatt: What is your first recollection of really knowing that you were called to be a leader?

James Hotaling: From my earliest memories I always felt I had a “calling” to serve. At the age of 13, I joined the Civil Air Patrol. The teachings of this auxiliary of the USAF, was invaluable to me and truly the building block to what I have become today. I was exposed to military discipline, traditions and core values as a teenager and along with solid family values shaped my servant leadership style.

Mike Myatt: Has your leadership style changed over the years, and if so, how?

James Hotaling: Call it maturity, but I would be lying if I said I haven’t learned from my mistakes and frustrations. I have learned to slow my rush to judgment and always understand there are other viewpoints. My biggest change is learning to truly embrace diversity of thought.

Mike Myatt: What was the single biggest “ah-ha” moment you’ve had as a leader?

James Hotaling: It was actually very recent. This February I attended a resiliency conference conducted by the DoD. The premise of the conference was presenting the answers to some of the problems we have been experiencing in the military with suicides and PTSD. The military has come up with eight key areas to concentrate on when supervising for a “Total Force Fitness” approach. These keys to resiliency has changed my leadership style and really was an “ah-ha” moment for me. You see, in order to be effective during good times and bad are to embrace and develop a resilient force. I try to “weave” the eight key points into conversation everyday with my people. In the introduction to the study, the publication states, “We are in an age of sustained conflict. Wars and threats to our security are no longer episodic, but require continuous optimal performance, resilience and recovery. Injury from these conflicts may be physical and mental, social and spiritual. It impacts the service member, their family and community and the nation. If we are to protect the freedom and security of our nation, we must move beyond simply having a sound body to a holistic view of health and fitness that includes both mind and body.”

The eight areas are; Physical, Environmental, Medical, Spiritual, Nutritional, Psychological, Behavioral and Social. We as leaders must work hard to create an atmosphere where everyone has a holistic approach to well-being.

Mike Myatt: Who had the most significant influence on shaping you as a leader?

James Hotaling: I have been blessed with great mentors. My first was a retired Air Force Colonel in his 60’s who gave his time to teach young teenagers who volunteered to be in Civil Air Patrol. He taught me about the power of giving back. I had a supervisor in my active duty days who always understood the importance of providing broadening experience to his people. True story: I was on a downhill slide of being over confident (and young), cocky, arrogant and downright turning into a bad apple. One night he took me out behind our work section and proceeded to beat the crap out of me! After I was the recipient of a good right hook and fell to the ground, he jumped on top of me and was about to hit me again when he stopped and I could see he was actually tearing up. He was so upset at me for failing him and my teammates. He wanted me to know that I had all the opportunity in the world to succeed and I was not taking advantage of it. That one event changed me forever. Never again would I let my attitude get bigger than the opportunities that other people were working hard to provide me. His emotional caring showed me what it was to be a servant leader. My last great mentor was my team leader. He showed love. Love for his country, mission and his team. A grown man many years older than me showed me how to love others.

Mike Myatt: What does the military offer young leaders in the making?

James Hotaling: Our core values sums up what you get in a young military leader. Integrity first, Service before Self and Excellence in all we do. With this simple foundation along with tried and true military discipline, how can you go wrong with future leaders!

Mike Myatt: How do you feel military leadership skills translate into civilian life?

James Hotaling: See the above answer. What corporation would not want to invest in someone who comes to them with these skill sets and leader DNA already built in? Today we have a new term for it and it is being a “warrior-diplomat”. The amount of exposure to various leadership scenarios throughout the world gives a military member a very unique perspective. Whether it’s negotiating with a tribal leader, working with the State Department, leading people in challenging and rapidly changing environments, etc; these experiences allows someone to think critically and lead successfully which would translate to a well prepared leader no matter who you work for.

Mike Myatt: What has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?

James Hotaling: Placing mission accomplishment over friendship. I once stood up an organization from scratch. This was a two year process and cost me many friends and tarnished a bit of my reputation. But in order to accomplish this stand-up and do it right, I had to make many hard choices that were very unpopular at the time. This taught me that it is truly lonely at the top, but as a leader you must always have the integrity to do the right thing no matter the personal cost.

Mike Myatt: What’s been most rewarding to you as a leader?

James Hotaling: Leading men into combat. To lead men who have volunteered to serve their country is unlike anything else I have experienced. To share in a tradition of Service before Self and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country is humbling. Since the days of the Spartan Warrior, men have stepped forward to defend their homeland. To serve amongst special operators has taught me many things in leadership.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the primary role of a leader?

James Hotaling: A good leader should always focus on taking care of his own (through leadership, management, communication and mentorship), should always know how to analyze the strategic context of the operational environment and always as a leader be able to manage change.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the single biggest stumbling block for leaders?

James Hotaling: Over management and under leadership

Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest strength as a leader?

James Hotaling: Passion. I bring intensity and focus to the job every second of every day. My love of country and passion for the mission keeps me motivated to perform at the highest levels for my people. It is extremely important to never settle, but rather always seek to continuously develop yourself to be better.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest weakness as a leader?

James Hotaling: I never try to think in terms of weakness. I think of terms of where I need to improve. The area I think I need to constantly work on is having the patience to listen to contradicting opinions. I truly value diversity of thought and work hard at making sure a majority of meetings have diverse players in them. My issue is always learning to sit back and really listening to a counter argument without first trying to jump in and defend myself.

Mike Myatt: Is it more difficult to be a leader today, why or why not?

James Hotaling: I recently transferred into a new organization. After the first 30 days of walking around and talking to people, evaluating their processes and seeing performance levels; I realized there was one vital ingredient missing that would propel them to the next level, and that was good old fashion leadership. I would not say it’s more difficult to lead today, I would say you need to have courage to be a leader. Not a manager, not a process improver, but a leader. It really doesn’t matter if it was 3000 years ago or in present time, people need leadership.

Mike Myatt: What’s the best and worst example of leadership you’ve observed in recent times?

James Hotaling: Best- I have witnessed a senior leader work hard at “looking into the future” and really set the condition to deliberately develop his force. He has tirelessly placed people in key schools and assignments to develop them. He cares more about the future of his organization then worrying about himself.

Worst-I witnessed a leader of an organization care more about himself (image, reputation, amount of friends he had) than he cared about his people and organization. When a person is in it for themselves, he is truly a hollow leader.

Mike Myatt: What should leaders today be focused on with regard to the future?

James Hotaling: Force Development. You must be developing the people below you to succeed. You must do this much earlier than you think. You can’t wait for someone that is only a year or two out from being a key leader to start developing that person. Work hard to provide as much development and broadening experience to as many subordinates as possible. This will create a pool of experience and the true leaders will begin to evolve and rise to the top. You must invest in future leaders now in order to grow in the future. With limited resources we have to rely on leaders to think and motivate their people to achieve success.

Mike Myatt: If you could give our readers one piece of advice on leadership, what would that be?

James Hotaling: A true leader should never be in his position for personal gain. It should always be about accomplishing the mission. That is why you are there. You are to LEAD the organization to better performance. It is a privilege to have the capacity to execute that responsibility every day. A good leader always looks at himself in the mirror first before looking at anyone else for excuses. Responsibility to SERVE in a leadership role has responsibility and reward, be respectful of both.

Mike Myatt: How important is “legacy,” and how do you hope to be remembered?

James Hotaling: Personal legacy is something a servant leader should never think about. It is all about the organization. I would like to be remembered as someone who gave back to his country since the age of thirteen. I am an American Airman and I have answered my nations call. It’s that simple, I look for no accolades only the ability for myself to say thank you to my country for giving me and my family all that we have.

Leadership Interview – James Quigley

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I’ve always said that if you want to learn about leadership talk to someone who has actually led something. James (Jim) Quigley, Global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited is just such a leader, and the “something” he leads is a global professional services juggernaut with more than $26 Billion in revenue, and 170,000 people located in more than 150 countries worldwide. What I most appreciate about Jim is his almost evangelistic zeal in championing the Deloitte brand. Jim is a fully engaged CEO who leads by example. You’ll also find Jim to be among the most transparent CEOs you’ll encounter. If you don’t believe me just go looking for him – he’s not that hard to find. Jim has a new book out (“As One“), you can find him on Twitter @DeloitteCEO and Jim is a frequent presenter at conferences such as World Business Forum and the World Economic Forum in Davos. Enough with the background – on with the interview…

Mike Myatt: What does it take to be a CEO of a global professional services firm, and why should anyone be led by you?

Jim Quigley: CEOs today need to model and advocate mutual trust between employees and leadership. I believe that successful CEOs will be judged on long-term sustainable performance and the stewardship of their organization’s mission, rather than on short-term performance and results.

One of my main focus areas is to increase my leadership team’s ability to be effective. One way to achieve that is by respecting your people, helping them find their authentic voice and leadership style, and demonstrating a genuine advocacy of their professional development.

It is absolutely critical for leaders to lead by example and foster a culture of values and respect. If I empower my leadership team and instill the organization’s values in them, they in return will do the same with their teams. That’s why I spend a lot of time talking to my partners about culture and our values, and the importance of articulating a clear vision and strategy.

Mike Myatt: Your new book ‘As One’ is receiving rave reviews. What inspired you to author a book at this time?

Jim Quigley: I’ve been fascinated by leadership for a long time, and I’ve had the privilege to be in a leadership position for much of my career. Over the years, through my many conversations with C-level executives, it became clear to me that galvanizing large groups of people to work together toward a common purpose was not just a challenge for me, but it was a prevailing challenge for executive leaders.

The actual idea to write a book evolved from a conversation with Mehrdad Baghai, my co-author, where we realized that although we were thinking similarly about leadership, we were coming at it from two very different perspectives. Yet we both shared the belief that leaders from all walks of life are searching for a pragmatic and tested approach to help them realize the full potential of their people. That’s when we agreed that it was time to take a new look at collective leadership.

Mike Myatt: You say that ‘As One’ challenges conventional thinking with regard to leadership styles. Can you share your thoughts on this?

Jim Quigley: ‘As One’ is unconventional in that it has brought about a much-needed depth to the way we classify different approaches to collective leadership. Historically, management theory has tended to present a binary view of leadership—command-and-control vs. collaborative. In reality, we discovered that there are multiple styles of leadership, some or all of which may lead to more effective collaboration, depending on the situation. As One provides a leadership discourse with a rich taxonomy that captures the distinguishing features of different leader-follower models. It is also an approach that is robust in its measurement elements and both actionable and adaptable to a wide range of leadership scenarios.

Mike Myatt: You talk a lot about collective leadership – why is this important?

Jim Quigley: Collective leadership is important because in a rapidly globalizing world where technological advancements are continually redefining how we do our jobs and how we interact with each other, it is no longer possible to assume that you have the full commitment and loyalty of your people. Today, more than ever, leaders need the full commitment and engagement of their people if they are to succeed in an intensely competitive world.

Collective leadership defines how individuals, leaders, and organizations need to interact to achieve common goals. By establishing a common framework for how to work together, leaders can achieve a productive and sustainable form of engagement, creating a culture where members choose to participate in and contribute to the organization’s performance.

Mike Myatt: How has social media affected you as a CEO?

Jim Quigley: Social media has created a number of opportunities and challenges for the business community, changing the way they communicate with their customers, suppliers, and employees.

As CEO, it is incumbent on me to understand and support the new and emerging ways our teams collaborate and communicate with potential talent, each other, thought leaders, business leaders, and all of our stakeholders. It starts with awareness—for example, Deloitte has the second largest corporate presence on LinkedIn—and then moves deeper, into strategy, execution, and measuring results.

Personally, my experience with social media took a step forward this year when I started my Twitter handle (@deloitteceo) to share some thoughts on topics that are important to me and our organization.

Mike Myatt: What has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?

Jim Quigley: One of the most difficult decisions the leadership team had to make was the decision to keep consulting as a service line at Deloitte when I was the CEO of the U.S. firm. The Enron scandal and the ensuing passage of Sarbanes-Oxley opened a new chapter in the accounting profession. One after another, our competitors began shedding their consulting arms due to limits placed on accounting firms’ providing consulting services to audit clients. For us, too, all signs pointed to a separation. But after a lengthy consideration, we made the difficult, strategic decision to keep consulting as part of Deloitte.

Looking back, we realize that we made the right decision. Today, consulting is a critical part of our business. Having a strong consulting practice enables us to recruit and retain diverse talent with varied expertise, which ultimately benefits all our business lines and enhances the value we deliver to clients.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the primary role of a leader?

Jim Quigley: Leadership is an evolving discipline. Some believe leadership is about people, and leaders must develop people’s sense of belonging to their group and cultivate a strong shared identity among members of their group. Many think leadership is connected to productivity, and leaders must effectively coordinate activity so members of a group have a common interpretation about how to work together. Others think leadership is about purpose, and leaders should inspire commitment to drive people’s dedication to achieving defined goals with directional intensity.

I believe the primary role of a leader is to bring these three components together to help unleash the full potential of their people.

Mike Myatt: How has ‘As One’ affected you personally?

Jim Quigley: I’ve become an even stronger advocate of measurable data and actionable information. As One’s diagnostic provides specific metrics that leaders and organizations can assess, and the insight from this can be extremely valuable.

For example, ‘As One’ retaught me the dangers of making assumptions. In environments that appear to have common roles and large numbers of employees in common tasks, individual needs for how to be led differ. When leading large groups of people, leaders have to see the various ways their people are experiencing the environment today and understand how, given the opportunity, they would change that environment to make it be more conducive to their choosing to collaborate. Sometimes, this will involve epiphanies that can be summed up as “I was wrong about what I thought” or “my assumptions were incorrect.”

Mike Myatt: What are the biggest challenges you are facing as a leader today?

Jim Quigley: One of the key challenges I face today is maintaining our leadership position in the market. For example, to support our growth we are looking to hire 250,000 people to join our workforce over the next five years. I believe creating a uniform culture and aligning our people across borders, functions, and disciplines will be a critical component of our long-term success. That’s why I chose to invest in ‘As One’. I think through our ‘As One’ strategy, we will be able to further strengthen the commitment of our people to our brand and, most importantly, to our clients, in every single one of the 150 countries where we have a presence.

Mike Myatt: If you could give our readers advice on leadership, what would that be? Any parting thoughts?

Jim Quigley: 1) Believe in your people, 2) give them ownership and empower them to realize their full potential, 3) have a genuine interest in them and respect their ideas and how they want to be led, and 4) model the accountability and values you expect of the organization.

In the long run, these are the attributes that will enable leaders to increase employee engagement and create an environment where their people are proud to be a part of the organization and are fully and wholeheartedly committed to its goals and success.

Final Thoughts: After reading this interview, it should come as no surprise why Deloitte is so successful. Jim is a great leader with a strong vision. He values his people and is committed to fulflling Deloitte’s brand promise. Please leave your questions/comments for Jim below – He’s a social media guy so I’m sure he’ll respond…

Disclosure: Deloitte is a client.

Leadership Interview – Michael Hyatt

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

CEOs that make great decisions are rare these days. Humble, authentic leaders who really understand their craft are equally scarce. Chief Executives who actively engage in social media also find themselves in the minority among their peers. Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyattwww.michaelhyatt.com) is that rare commodity. As Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the largest Christian publishing company in the world, and the seventh largest trade book publishing company in the U.S., Michael’s track record of leadership has stood the test of time. After reading the following interview you’ll know why…

Mike Myatt: What is your first recollection of really knowing that you were called to be a leader?

Michael Hyatt: When I was a junior in high school, I noticed that I always went first. I didn’t wait on others if I thought something needed to be done. I took initiative. When I did this, I noticed that others would jump in and follow me.

Mike Myatt: Has your leadership style changed over the years, and if so, how?

Michael Hyatt: Very much so. I had a lot of success early in my career. I became arrogant and began to think of myself as the guy who had all the answers. Fortunately, I experienced some stunning failures soon after my string of successes. They humbled me. I refer to this as receiving “the gift of ears.” I learned to listen more and talk less.

Mike Myatt: What was the single biggest “ah-ha” moment you’ve had as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: When I realized that my thinking had a direct impact on my actions which had a direct impact on my outcomes. It all starts in my head.

Mike Myatt: How has social media impacted you as a CEO?

Michael Hyatt: It has given me more direct access to my employees, my customers, and the media. It has raised the visibility of our company and given me the opportunity to shape how people perceive us. It has provided me with a personal platform and a way to teach and learn.

Mike Myatt: How has your faith impacted your leadership style?

Michael Hyatt: I hope it informs everything I do. Jesus is the ultimate leader. I have learned so much about leadership from reading the Gospels. I intentionally try to emulate Him. Kind of “HWJL”—How would Jesus lead?

Mike Myatt: Who had the most significant influence on shaping you as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: Two previous bosses, one positive and one negative. (Don’t ask for names!) Additionally, two executive coaches, who have helped provide objective feedback and input.

Mike Myatt: What has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: Putting my job on the line over a principle I was unwilling to violate. This has happened several times in my career. The stakes have always been enormous, and I was so frightened each time that I was physically shaking and sick to my stomach. But I had to make a stand. Thankfully, in retrospect, those decisions were critical. I don’t regret a single one.

Mike Myatt: What’s been most rewarding to you as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: I think giving people hope that you can lead effectively without compromising your character. Young leaders today are desperate for role models. They can quickly become cynical if they don’t have positive examples. This has motivated me to live my life intentionally in every sphere. (I should also point out that I often fail. But even there, being willing to admit it is a type of modeling.)

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the primary role of a leader?

Michael Hyatt: To model the five aspects of leadership: insight, initiative, influence, impact, and integrity.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the single biggest stumbling block for leaders?

Michael Hyatt: The idea that they have to have all the answers. The more humble and transparent a leader is, the more effective he or she will be.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest strength as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: My commitment to modeling the behavior I expect in others.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest weakness as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: I am too trusting. Trust is good. It builds rapport and connects people to you. However, if it is granted too early, without sufficient experience, it can be disastrous. I have made this mistake many times—and keep making it. Apparently, in this area I am a slow learner. Over the years, I have learned to surround myself with people who are less trusting and can look out for me.

Mike Myatt: Is it more difficult to be a leader today, why or why not?

Michael Hyatt: Yes, I think it is way more difficult. For starters, we are in the middle of a giant shift between generations who think very differently. As a result, they have to be led differently. Leaders have to be flexible in order to succeed. In addition, the economy makes it very difficult to succeed in business. We are having to re-think how we do business and adjust our value propositions.

Mike Myatt: What’s the best and worst example of leadership you’ve observed in recent times?

Michael Hyatt: The best example is former boss who kept his word, even when it cost him personally. He demonstrated tremendous integrity that impacted me deeply. The worst example—and I have actually witnessed several of these—is of leaders who can’t let go. They appoint successors then turn on them.

Mike Myatt: What should leaders today be focused on with regard to the future?

Michael Hyatt: I think it is more difficult than ever to have clarity about the future—in any field. Between the economy and technology, everything is changing. As a result, I think it is more important to build a culture that is flexible and nimble, so you can respond to changes quickly. This is more critical than trying to figure out where everything is going.

Mike Myatt: If you could give our readers one piece of advice on leadership, what would that be?

Michael Hyatt: You are not as good as you think when things are going well; you are not as bad as you feel when things are going poorly. Retain your perspective and surround yourself with people who will love you and will tell you the truth.

Mike Myatt: Do you have anything new in the works that you’d like our readers to know about?

Michael Hyatt: I am working on a couple of books, one on leadership and one on productivity, but they are still a ways off.

Mike Myatt: How important is “legacy,” and how do you hope to be remembered?

Michael Hyatt: I have given a lot of thought to this, particularly in the Life Planning process that I advocate. I want to be remembered as a man who loved God, gave himself to others, and was faithful to the very end.

If you’re a fan of Michaels or if you just want to share a thought with him, please let him know by leaving a comment below.

Leadership Interview – John Baldoni

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership Interview - John BaldoniThere’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.

Interview: Rebel Brown

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Rebel BrownToday’s interview is with noted turnaround specialist Rebel Brown (@rebelbrown). Rebel has more than 25 turnaround engagements under her belt – she knows what it takes to be a successful leader in not just the good times, but in the toughest of times. I can tell you from personal experience, few things test your metal as a leader more than leading a turnaround.  Today also happens to be the launch day for Rebel’s new book “Defying Gravity.” As a bonus to our readers, I have included a link at the end of this interview that will allow you to purchase Rebel’s book and receive an 80 page workbook for free (today only) on how to defy gravity in your own company. On with the interview… 

Mike Myatt: For our readers not familiar with your background, could you give us a brief Bio?

Rebel Brown: I’ve been a consultant for over 20 years now, focused on helping international clients in areas of business and market strategy, positioning and market launches. My clients range from early stage start-ups to corporate turnarounds to small businesses.  I started out as a sales rep selling big systems against IBM- which provided me with an early, first-hand perspective on Gravity.  No one wanted to change the IBM status quo.

Mike Myatt: Today is the launch day of your new book Defying Gravity, what motivated you to write the book and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

Rebel Brown: I began to realize that regardless of my client’s size or market focus, from early stage to small business to enterprise, I was constantly having to deal with the same challenges in thinking and planning, before we could focus on the project objectives. Most of the issues I was seeing were caused by status quo thinking, the Gravity that holds us in the past.   As humans we are Natural Born Gravity Machines.  We get stuck in seeing things the way we’ve always seen them, doing things the way we’ve always done it – because it’s safe and comfortable and we like that. But that’s what gets us in a mess over time.

That’s why I wrote Defy Gravity.  I wanted to be able to take the same principles and processes that I used to help my own clients, packaging them to help everyone think differently about their business beliefs and knowns – to find and capitalize on new opportunities for growth. The book helps readers learn to release their Gravity – those beliefs that hold them down.  Once we release Gravity, we focus on finding our true value, mapping that to realistic market opportunities, create a flight plan (including waypoints to manage progress) and away we go! 

Defy Gravity is every person’s guide to challenging their status quo. Once we challenge our beliefs and knowns –the sky is the limit.

Mike Myatt: I love the title of your book and am curious to know what was your first recollection of experiencing defying gravity? 

Rebel Brown: I catch myself in Gravity all the time, especially since I wrote the book.  I’m the biggest Gravity machine I know!

I’ll share a story that relates to the book itself.  I initially wanted to self publish Defy Gravity, so that I could keep control of my content. But then I listened to everyone around me who said I needed a New York agent and publisher to have a successful first book.   So I listened to their advice and secured both – only to find that they wanted to change a lot of things about Defy Gravity that I didn’t like.  They didn’t want this book – they wanted a tactical book on sales and marketing.  I could write that but, it wasn’t my passion. So I drew the line – and they fired me.  Wow, that was a shock.

After the shock wore off, I realized it was the best thing that could have happened.  I was stuck in the status quo, following the past rules – instead of challenging that same status quo that I wanted to write about.  A friend of mine, Scott McKain, introduced me to Clint Greenleaf and Greenleaf Book Group and the rest is history.  I loved my editorial experience with them and the book is the book I wanted to write. I had the chance to challenge the publishing dinosaurs and deliver a different kind of strategy book that offers applicable value to any business today – large or small.

Mike Myatt: What has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?

Rebel Brown: As a turnaround specialist – I have to make some tough calls about business futures and people’s lives.  Sometimes they aren’t happy calls – and that’s when it gets really hard.  For me businesses are as much or more about the people than they are about the products and markets …so those tough restructuring calls (or sometimes the shut it down calls) are the hardest things ever.  I don’t sleep a lot when we’re doing that – and even after twenty-five or more turnaround assignments, I still get sick to my stomach thinking about having to let people go.

Mike Myatt: What’s been most rewarding to you in your work in the leadership field?

Rebel Brown: Ah – when the light goes on!  When I see a client’s executive team start to let go of the Gravity and embrace the dynamic methods I’ve developed to help them think differently about their business.  It’s like watching a spark turn into a flame and I love it more every time it happens.  It’s amazing what we can do when we ditch the past and think out-of-the- status quo-box. That’s the best time of all – seeing people light up and get excited about seeing things differently – other than we reach the successful growth that follows that inflection point.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the primary role of a leader?

Rebel Brown: I see myself as a coach and facilitator.  After working through over 100 client scenarios there’s not much I haven’t seen. My role is to share my applicable experiences and the dynamic processes I’ve developed to help people find their own ways of thinking differently.  I don’t use rote processes – those paint by numbers approaches.  I don’t think they work.  Every business is unique, so the way we think about our business must be unique as well.

I help people learn to think objectively and dynamically about their business, and I help them keep rethinking their business to avoid Gravity as they move forward.  Along the way – I also help them find their value, their markets, their best market entry strategy and then help them power into the market. 

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the single biggest stumbling block for leaders?

Rebel Brown: Getting stuck in Gravity is by far the biggest – that is, continuing to think and act based on the past. Another one I see often is when leaders want to be popular – and won’t make the tough calls.  You wouldn’t believe how many companies I work with that are in a mess because the leaders wouldn’t make the tough calls  – for example to lose a person, a division or a product.  That’s a specific form of Gravity that will send you into a tailspin every time.

Mike Myatt: Is it more difficult to be a leader today, why or why not?

Rebel Brown: I think it’s easier.  Think about the status quo of 20 years ago.  No open doors, no interactions between employees and executives – the Ivory Tower was a big barrier to communication AND collaboration.  We’ve broken down so many walls in that area. Plus, with the advent of the internet and social media , we have so many tools available to us to be better leaders.  We can listen to our teams, listen to our customers, our markets. What an amazing time to be able to evolve and adapt in the moment- based on the real needs we hear directly from those we are leading.

Mike Myatt: What’s the best and worst example of leadership you’ve observed in recent times?

Rebel Brown: Best examples would be any of the Zero Gravity Companies I profile on my website. From NetFlix, Nu Skin and Jet Blue to Southwest, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and more.  The leaders of these companies are all flying in the face of the status quo and changing the way they think about their markets and their businesses – and they are being successful doing so.

The worst?  I’m gonna pick Mark Hurd’s decision to move to HP’s competitor – Oracle. Every business has huge amounts of Intellectual Property and Trade Secrets that are private to that business. And guess what? The CEO has all of that intellectual property and those secrets in his arsenal to guide the business forward.

If a CEO (or Board Member, senior executive etc) is able to leave a business and move to a competitor immediately – even if he or she was asked to leave by the previous business – then all bets are off. Forget corporate secrets, forget Intellectual Property, forget business as we knew it forever more.

I have an even bigger issue than the business side.  I believe that this kind of behavior demonstrates low integrity – way low. How can a CEO who took a leadership responsibility with one business (and in this case falsified company documents and was fired) move to a competitor and believe in any way that there is a shred of integrity in his actions? 

 Without integrity – there is no leadership.

 Mike Myatt: What should leaders today be focused on with regard to the future?

 Rebel Brown: Ditching Gravity every chance they get, focusing forward and listening to the real Keepers of the Truth – their customers, prospects, partners and market visionaries. What we think internally about our markets really doesn’t matter a hill of beans.  Value is in the eye of the beholder and our beholders are NOT inside our companies.

So often we get stuck inside the walls – holding meetings, listening to our experts tell us what the market (our customers) want.  That’s a sure invitation for Gravity. Get out, get your executives out and learn from your markets.  And don’t just chat with the same old comfortable customers.  They’re stuck in Gravity right along with you. Learn from the new blood – that emerging space.  They hold the key to your future success.

Mike Myatt: If you could give our readers one piece of advice on leadership, what would that be?

Rebel Brown: Question everything you believe is true.  Some of your knowns will in fact be valid – so hold onto them. But ditch the beliefs whose time has come. Be open, constantly think out of the box – look for ways to do things differently and better. And above all else – outlaw two phrases:

“But that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

“But we can’t.”

Ditch those and you’ve taken a huge step forward out of Gravity!

Mike Myatt: What’s next for Rebel Brown?

Rebel Brown: So many exciting things are happening.   Now that the book is available, I’m back to helping consulting clients apply my strategies and dynamic processes to their own businesses.  I’m also creating a broad range of turnkey systems for small business and entrepreneurial endeavors to help them apply the lessons on their own. I’m delivering a series of webinars and training solutions for Defy Gravity, plus a series of eBooks that will drill down into specific focus areas. These eBooks apply the lessons of Defy Gravity to specific business situations, for example, turn-arounds, small businesses and mature companies that have leveled off.   I’m starting two communities that will also serve small businesses and entrepreneurs – The Rebel Nation rises! Of course, there’s the speaking engagements and the next book, and a book on the side that’ s more personal in nature.  Plus I’m focusing on showing my working cow horse, Pearli Girl and then ski season is coming up.  I love my life!

defy-gravity-the book You can purchase Rebel’s book here: