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Transcript of Becoming a Great Leader, No Matter What Field You’re In

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John Jantsch: Leadership is leadership. Doesn’t matter what role you’re in, if you’re running a company, if you’re an elected official. In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Jason Kander. We talk about his book, Outside the Wire, getting outside your comfort zone to learn the lessons of leadership. Check it out.

Gusto Logo_full berry_smallStuff like payroll and benefits are hard. That’s why I switched to Gusto, and to help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive, limited-time deal. You sign up for their payroll service today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to Gusto.com/tape.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Jason Kander. He is husband, father, former Army captain who served in Afghanistan. He is also Missouri’s former Secretary of State, and the president of an organization called Let America Vote. He is also a candidate for the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, and we’re gonna talk about his book called Outside the Wire: Ten Lessons I’ve Learned in Every Day Courage. Jason, thanks for joining me.

Jason Kander: Thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: So, I’ve had a lot of authors, thousands of authors I’ve interviewed and I don’t think I’ve had one that has written a political biography yet on the show, so this is a first, but in reading your book, which I really loved, there’s so many lessons in there that are really leadership lessons in the truest sense, and I think entrepreneurs in the truest sense, the successful ones anyway, are leaders at heart, so I want to unpack the book really in that vein, if that makes sense.

Jason Kander: Yeah, it makes sense to me. Thanks.

John Jantsch: Let me start with the title, “Outside the Wire.” In kind of common military jargon, that’s sort of the idea of being beyond the safe base camp area, so how does that metaphor really kind of set the subtext for the book?

Jason Kander: Well, for me, the experience of going outside the wire in Afghanistan, going like you said, off the safety of the base, that’s an event in my life that a lot of times I kind of think about my life I guess as before and after that moment, and I think that’s true for a lot of people who have experienced anything like that, anything that can be just scary to do and forces you to get literally outside your comfort zone. At the same time, the book is mostly about … I mean there are stories in the book as you saw and lessons in the book, from my time in the military and specifically from my time in Afghanistan, but mostly what it’s about is my time going figuratively outside the wire in politics, going out and taking positions that may or may not have been unpopular, may or may not have been what I was advised to say but it’s what I believed, and so really the book is just about the idea that if you want to create change, if you want to get anything done, you’re never gonna do it from within your comfort zone, either literally or figuratively.

John Jantsch: There’s … and I don’t know if you’ll be able to do this, I’ve written a number of books and sometimes I’ll be interviewed, and they’ll say, “You know, you were telling that one story,” and I’m like, “Gosh, I wrote that a while ago. I don’t know if I remember that.”

Jason Kander: I’ve only written one book, so don’t worry, and it wasn’t that long ago so I’m probably gonna be able to get it.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, I’m gonna try to set it up and then you tell the story, because one of the really great things about why the book works so well for me is you’re a really good story teller and I’d love to have people hear the story part, so there’s one of the early lessons that you basically said you went out and kind of failed at this training thing, and you thought you were gonna get really taken to task over it, but it went a different way when you actually met with the sergeant. The lesson in that was really that here’s how real tough guys act, and I think that there are a lot of leaders and companies that feel like they have to be the authoritarian, dress everybody down, use fear in some cases, as a leadership tool. I wonder if you’ve … hopefully I’ve jogged your memory enough to know that story I was talking about.

Jason Kander: Yeah, absolutely. One of the lessons … the book’s organized into lessons which are just the chapter titles, and one of the lessons is experience is good, but perspective is golden, and that’s one of the early stories in that lesson. What happened was I was pretty new to the Army, I was an Army ROTC and we were doing land navigation training and we were doing nighttime land navigation training, which means that I was out in the woods, pitch dark in pretty heavy woods at an Army base and I had a compass and a protractor and a map and I was supposed to find these very difficult to find points, which are just like little sticks that stick up in the woods. They have little numbers on them and you’re supposed to write them down on your card to prove that you could navigate to these points. It was pouring rain. It was pretty quickly evident that I wasn’t doing well at this, it was my first time doing it at night. My map disintegrated in the rain. It was just a bad scene and it was a low morale moment, so to speak.

What the context of this is that that weekend out in the woods, we had with us an instructor who had only been with us this one time and he was this guy, Master Sergeant Matt Eversmann, and while most people listening to this will have no idea who that is, a lot of people actually have seen him portrayed on the big screen by Josh Hartnett in a movie called Black Hawk Down. The main character in that movie, it’s based on a true story, and the main character in that movie is Matt Eversmann, who at the time was a very young sergeant, and now by the time that I met him, he’s this Master Sergeant with a lot of combat experience and this was pretty soon after 9/11 that I had joined, so at that point very few people had deployed, so he was very unique. Now, somebody with that level of experience would be a lot less unique, still commendable, but a lot less unique. At that time, he was like … we were all like, “Oh my god. That’s Matt Eversmann.”

So I’m scared to death because I’m going back to turn in my score card which has nothing on it. I actually didn’t know whether I’d see him. I was just expecting, okay, some sergeant’s gonna get up in my face and tell me how awful it is that I got lost and how if I got lost in combat while I was commanding troops everybody would die, so I just figured, “Okay, I’m about to be humiliated. That’s fine. I’m soaking wet. I just want to change into dry underwear. Whatever.”

So I’m in line, I get to the front and I realize it’s Master Sergeant Matt Eversmann who I have to turn my card into and then I’m just feeling humiliated because I figure all he’s about to know about Cadet Kander is that he sucks at land nav, and that seemed mortifying. So I get up to the front of the line and he looks down at me and he says, “How’d you do, Cadet?” I said, “Not well, Sergeant. I got zero points.” I’m bracing myself. He says, “Well, you still got your weapon.” I had it over my shoulder. I said, “Yes, Sergeant.” And he slaps me on the back and he says, “Success. Get in here. It’s freezing out there. We got coffee in here.”

So I get in there and some officer comes in, a lieutenant comes in, and is demanding to know why a bunch of cadets have been given hot chocolate and coffee and Master Sergeant Eversmann pipes up and he says, “I did it, sir.” He says, “You don’t have to train a soldier how to be miserable, they already know.” Of course, given his level of experience, the officer had nothing to say to Master Sergeant Eversmann about that.

For me, the lesson was a guy like Sergeant Eversmann with what he had seen and done, he had no desire whatsoever, no need to feel that he had to prove himself to any of us, and he had the perspective to understand that we all knew that if we didn’t get any points to turn in that we knew we screwed up and we were soaking wet and we were freezing, but there was no learning point in being hard on us, and in fact I think the learning point he decided to teach us was you gotta care about your people, and you don’t gotta prove yourself, because that’s what it is to be a real tough guy is to not have to show anybody.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and you obviously learned and probably grew in your respect far more than him getting in your face, as you said, would have ever done.

Jason Kander: Yeah, absolutely.

John Jantsch: I think that’s a true, again, going back to entrepreneurs, I think that is a true leadership lesson. Part of it is reading the situation, but also clearly taking care of your people is a big part of what you have to do in a company.

So, there are a lot of lines where you have bolded them or put them in bigger text, and they just really jump out inside the chapters. There’s one that I think applies to so much of what we’re experiencing today I think, and it is “Your dignity, unlike your integrity, is negotiable.” I think that’s a lesson then, I don’t know if you have a story that I can bring forward with that, but I think that’s a lesson that, boy, integrity seems to be hard to find in a lot of corners today.

Jason Kander: Yeah. What I was trying to get across there is that there’s a lot of people who when they run for office or as entrepreneurs when they start going out to pitch or … and I think this is particularly true by the way both of politicians and entrepreneurs who have been in an environment where, maybe it’s a corporate environment where they were successful and they had a lot of help around them, and they didn’t really find themselves in a position where they had to ask for things and had to put themselves out there, that they frequently will … it feels like they are mistaking dignity and integrity for being the same thing when they’re not. You should never compromise your integrity under any circumstances. I make that point several times in the book, but I also make the point that it ain’t the same thing as dignity.

One of the stories I tell in the book is about when I was Secretary of State of Missouri and I had to go into the office of a state legislator who controlled the purse strings of our office, who chaired the committee on appropriations that decided whether we had the resources to do the important work that we were doing, and there were many things about that experience, and I’ll let people read the book, there’s some funny parts to that where it’s pretty demeaning, but nothing about it is compromising my integrity, it’s just … it’s a little demeaning and so it compromises my dignity, but that should be completely worth it. I should be … if it is a good cause, if it doesn’t compromise my integrity at all, I should be more than willing to cash in any level of personal dignity to do the right thing for somebody else. It doesn’t hurt me at all to do that.

Another place where I talk about that a lot is I’m pretty open in the book about what it’s like to have to go around the country and fund raise for a competitive United States senate campaign, and just one of the things I talk about is dragging my little rolling suitcase behind me everywhere I go all the time and how I always wanted to just plop it up on the table at the beginning of a meeting and say something like, “Wait until you see these vacuums.” Because I just felt like a traveling salesperson, but I believed in the mission and I never would have compromised my integrity to raise money, but look, it’s not always the most dignified process. You gotta get over that.

That’s what I see new candidates for office struggle with a lot. When they tell me things like, “I think I could do all of it. I’m really good at all of this, but I’m not very … I’m not sure I could do the fundraising.” I always tell them, “Why not? It’s just staying on the phone. That’s all it is. It’s just being willing to be dogged.” They’re like, “Well, asking people for money.” I’m like, “Well, you should never ever compromise your integrity. You should never do anything for a contribution, but that’s how our system works right now until we change it. If you want to do the right thing for people, you’re probably gonna have to go out there and do the work that it takes to win your campaign.”

John Jantsch: Wouldn’t it be great if in your business all you had to do was the stuff you love, the reason you started the business and not all that administrative stuff like payroll and benefits? That stuff’s hard, especially when you’re a small business. Now, I’ve been delegating my payroll for years to one of those big, corporate companies and I always felt like a little tiny fish, but now there is a much better way. I switched over to Gusto and it is making payroll and benefits and HR easy for the modern small business. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team.

To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive limited-time deal. If you sign up today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to Gusto.com/tape.

I don’t know if I’ve ever gone to the back cover of a book and read one of the blurbs, but I want to do this one because I think it’s … it works. “After reading this book, I concluded Jason Kander is too funny and too smart to be in politics. His motives are suspect and he should be removed from public service immediately,” Jimmy Kimmel. Where did that come from?

Jason Kander: It was very nice of him. I know Jimmy through a mutual friend and got to know him a little bit and asked him to read the book and he did and I guess it made him laugh, which made me feel really good about the book to be honest. That was a big compliment coming from him.

John Jantsch: That’s awesome. I want to dive into another one of those things that jumped out at me, and again, I think a lot of business owners, they get so, “Here’s our idea. We’re going this way. Who’s with me? We’ll never quit,” and at some point somebody has to tell them, “You know, you might be wrong about this idea.” I think that admitting that you might be wrong and that doesn’t mean giving up on your dream, but not always having to be right is an amazing leadership lesson. How did that … hopefully I again jogged your memory again on the point you were trying to make there, but that one really stood out to me.

Jason Kander: Yeah. There’s a few different stories in the book about that and it definitely is relevant … before I get into the story, it’s definitely relevant to entrepreneurs. I have not been an entrepreneur but as you know, I’m married to one, and Diana now, my wife, does a lot of innovation consultant work, and it’s always interesting to either overhear or to hear about her conversations with entrepreneurs who are just sure that they have a billion dollar idea, and when someone questions it, not in a mean way, but just the way entrepreneurs need, just sort of, “Oh, have you thought about this?”, the ones who are gonna be successful are the ones who don’t take that questioning as “I just need to convince you,” but instead are the ones who are like, “Oh, let me think about that. Let me go back and see if that works.”

My favorite story from that section of the book is I talk about how my mom picked my brothers and I up, my brother and I up from baseball practice and we were in seventh grade and we’re driving back home and she asked, out of nowhere, she says, “What would you boys think about it if a girl played on your baseball team?” We didn’t quite understand at that point yet that the objective in our life was soon to be to spend more time, not less, around girls and so we very stupidly and immaturely said, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense,” and she was like, “Why not?” I think my brother said, “Well, it’s tradition. Girls don’t play baseball.” The lesson that my mom then taught us was she pulled the car over and she kind of smiled and she opened the car door and said, “I guess y’all better walk.” We were very confused and she said, “It’s tradition. Girls don’t drive.” She didn’t make us walk home, but we got the point.

It also was just kind of a way of delivering to me the message that something that you were really sure of might not be right at all, and really, my mom had … she was a huge supporter of ours, she came to every game and every sport, but until that moment, she had never had an opinion on anything we did in sports, because I don’t think she really cared. She just was there to support us and that was the first time she did and it really stuck out to us.

Then I talk about how I carried that through life in a lot of different ways in the book, but probably one of the more fun stories there is a story I tell … fun now, in retrospect, a story I tell about when I was in Afghanistan. I was working as an intelligence officer and I was sitting with the Attorney General of Afghanistan and I was in this meeting with an FBI agent and she and I were meeting with him, talking about these things and he had this gentleman sitting next to him who was from eastern Afghanistan, spoke no English, the Attorney General of Afghanistan spoke English very well, he had gone to school in America, and he says to us at one point, because he’s talking about this gentleman, he says, “Don’t worry. He doesn’t speak a word of English,” and he says, “He is very corrupt and has been involved in several unsuccessful attempts to kill me,” assassination attempts. We were a little weirded out by that but we just made sure not to make eye contact with the gentleman. We all kind of laughed, like, “Oh, this is funny,” and in fact this gentleman he was talking about even laughed to indicate he understood a joke was told, but clearly didn’t seem to understand any English.

So then my partner I was with, the FBI agent, she goes outside to have a cigarette and this other gentleman decides he’s gonna leave, and he leaves and then she looks kind of shaken when she comes back and when we get in the vehicle to leave she tells me that she got out there, bummed a cigarette from her or something and they stood there in silence for a while, and then in perfectly unaccented English asked her where she’s from and tells her about his farmland in Nebraska. To me, that was a lesson I learned in always be very careful of what you assume is absolutely right because the Attorney General of Afghanistan had clearly made some dangerous assumptions about his subordinate there.

John Jantsch: I’m gonna give you one more and, again, this just hits so home for me with what it is … you know, a lot of times as entrepreneurs, certainly in politics, it’s easy to get caught up in people telling you how great you are, but you live your life with your family and friends and not your accomplishments.

Jason Kander: Yeah, that’s actually a quote from Royal’s third baseman, hall of famer, George Brett, from his Hall of Fame induction speech and I’m a big George Brett fan. Yeah, to me, in that … I don’t remember the exact story really that comes out though there’s several. I guess for me, the biggest thing I remember from that lesson that I was trying to get across is that it’s important, and everybody has said this, everybody always says, “It’s important to be able to slow down and appreciate your family and those things,” and I was getting that point across but I also wanted to get across some things like the most memorable stuff for me has been the human moments where I’ve been able to make a difference in people’s lives.

A big part of why I decided to run for mayor of Kansas City is because every campaign that I’ve been a part of, every office that I’ve held, it feels like so often when a voter or a constituent brings me an issue so often, I’ve actually had to respond to with “Well, you know, that’s more of a city issue,” because I’ve been at the state level. I think that the best opportunity I have to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives is if I’m fortunate enough to be elected mayor.

One of the stories I tell there is that when I was Secretary of State, we were able to do a lot of things that looked big and so much sweeping policy changes, but one of the things that sticks out most to me is driving home one day from Jefferson City and I see this gentleman on the side of the road holding a sign, and it was pretty clear to me that he was a veteran, he was my age and sometimes we can just kind of spot each other. It’s a military [inaudible] thing. He was homeless. I got out and I talked to him for a bit.

I won’t tell the whole story, but at the end of it what was clear was our office was able to help him and he ended up getting on his feet and a few months later he came to the office to visit and we talked for a while and as we were walking out, he asked me not only why I had stopped to talk to him but why I had stopped several times. I kind of kept at it to convince him to accept our help and I told him, I said, “Look, it’s just timing. If things had gone a little differently for me in Afghanistan, had gone more like how they went for you in Iraq,” he had been wounded and struggled with PTSD afterwards and traumatic brain injury. I told him, “It would have been me standing on the side of the road and it would have been you driving by,” and he said, “Yeah, I would have stopped for you.” I said, “I know.”

That’s the kind of stuff that really stuck for me is we were able to make a difference in his life and that’s only one person, but it was the relationship that I had the opportunity to develop with him that … that’s one of the things I’ll always remember from being Secretary of State.

John Jantsch: You want to tell us a little bit about Let America Vote?

Jason Kander: Sure. Thanks, I’m happy to. So about a year and a half ago I started Let America Vote. Our mission is to create political consequences for voter suppression, which really means that it’s our job when there are politicians in office who make it harder to vote, we make it harder for them to get reelected, and we do that by running boots on the ground campaigns against them. There are folks, unfortunately, across the country and I’m not trying to be partisan, it’s just a fact. This is a Republican party strategy. I am a Democrat and all that, but this is just a fact. Republicans have decided, the top of the party Republican officials, have decided that if they can make it harder for certain groups of people to vote, groups of people who they think have a bad habit of not voting Republican very often, then they can make it a little easier for themselves to get reelected. I just think that’s un-American and wrong and so rather than just battle them in court, which is still important and there’s a lot of good groups doing that, we decided that we wanted to also take that argument beyond the court of law and into the court of public opinion, so we knock on doors and make phone calls for pro-democracy candidates who are running against candidates that are making it harder to vote.

John Jantsch: Is there a website for folks who want to support?

Jason Kander: Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it. Yeah, they can go to Letamericavote.org.

John Jantsch: So you kind of touched on this, you’re running for mayor in Kansas City, Missouri. That would be in the spring of 2019, is that right? Did I get that right?

Jason Kander: That’s right.

John Jantsch: Dependent upon when you’re listening to this is why I put that date in there, you were a statewide office holder in Missouri. You ran for senate and quite frankly had it been a little different time you probably would be serving in the United States Senate right now. President Obama called you the future of the Democratic Party. It didn’t seem like this is where we were gonna see your name on a ballot next. Any thoughts on that?

Jason Kander: Yeah. A lot of people had some very flattering theories and ideas as to what they thought I might do next, and just as I was saying a moment ago, over the years so many people have come to me with issues that were really city issues that I really wanted to be able to dig in and solve because they seem to be the stuff that was making the biggest difference in people’s lives and that’s what I’m most excited about, is being able to here in my home town, my family got to Kansas City in the 1880s, I’m a fifth generation Kansas Citian. My wife and I are raising a sixth generation Kansas Citian, my son, True.

The opportunity to try and make a difference for people in a real meaningful way in my home town is really exciting to me and it’s something I’m really passionate about and I’m really enjoying the campaign quite a lot. My vision for the city, where I want us to go, is I want to take all this progress that we have and it’s been great, my friend Sly James, our current mayor, is term limited, he’s done a tremendous job. I just want to take as much of that progress as we can and leverage it, continue that progress, but also leverage it to make a difference in the lives of people who haven’t seen that progress in their lives yet. There’s plenty of places in our town where that’s the case and we’ll know we got there when there’s nobody in Kansas City who feels like in order to live the life they want and they deserve who feels like in order to do that they’ve got to move out of town or across town to make it happen. I’m pretty passionate about that. Thanks for the chance to talk about it.

John Jantsch: Well you bet, and we’ll have links to all the stuff we talked about in the show notes, and just one parting thing. A couple years ago I went to the Royals fantasy camp down in Arizona prior to the season and George [inaudible] was my coach.

Jason Kander: I went this past January. He was not my coach, but it was a great experience. He was there and at one point … I went with my brother and my brother’s 6’5″ and a really good athlete and I was at one point okay at baseball. Now I’m less good. It turns out a lot of these skills are pretty perishable. Anyway, so we played Brett’s team and so I come up and I hit it straight back to the pitcher and I’m coming back from first base and George Brett’s like, “It was a good swing, though, Jason.” I’m like, “No, it really wasn’t,” and he’s like, “No, no it wasn’t.” He was being honest but trying to be charitable and then my brother comes up and he misses a home run by like a foot and I’m shooting video on my phone and immortalized, what we will always have, we idolized George Brett growing up, and we will always have this video of Mel just stroking this ball and you can hear in the background George Brett go, “Oh, nice hit, Mel,” and clearly really means it. So he’s got that over me now.

John Jantsch: Well Jason, thanks for joining me. We probably better let people go and hopefully we will catch up with you and have a beer in KC.

Jason Kander: All right. Thanks so much.

Becoming a Great Leader, No Matter What Field You're In

Becoming a Great Leader, No Matter What Field You’re In

Marketing Podcast with Jason Kander
Podcast Transcript

Jason KanderSince recording this interview, Jason Kander announced that he was taking a step back from political life to deal with depression and PTSD symptoms he was experiencing as a result of his tour in Afghanistan. Kander bravely and candidly addressed his decision, in an effort to destigmatize mental illness and to encourage others to get the help they need.

My guest this week on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Jason Kander. He is a former Army Captain and New York Times bestselling author of Outside the Wire: Ten Lessons I’ve Learned in Everyday Courage. In the book, he discusses his time in the military and how he applies the lessons he learned while serving in his everyday life.

Upon returning from his tour in Afghanistan, Kander returned to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and became involved in politics. He served as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives from 2009 to 2013 and became the 39th Secretary of State for Missouri in 2013; a position he served in until 2017. At the time of this interview, he was running for mayor of Kansas City.

In addition to his work in Missouri politics, Kander founded Let America Vote, a grassroots campaign to combat voter suppression nationwide.

Questions I ask Jason Kander:

  • What’s the benefit to admitting that, as a leader, you might be wrong?
  • What are some of the specific takeaways from your military life that one can apply to entrepreneurship?
  • Why are you drawn to local politics?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why fear is not an effective leadership tactic.
  • The difference between dignity and integrity, and why one is negotiable while the other is not.
  • Why it’s dangerous for leaders to forget about humility.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Jason Kander:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto! Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for modern small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team.

To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive, limited-time deal. Sign up today, and you’ll get 3 months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to Gusto.com/TAPE.

Transcript of Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business

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John Jantsch: You know, leadership might be the hardest job for an entrepreneur. You’ve got to decide that you want that job, you have to understanding that it’s an obligation, and let’s face it, it is hard work everyday. It’s not for the meek.

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, we are gonna talk about the leadership contract and everything that you need to do to make leadership a part of your culture.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by CloudPhone. You can get big-time, modern, virtual phone functionality at a fraction of the cost. In fact, keep listening, I’m gonna tell you how to get 50 percent off.

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Vince Molinaro. He is a business strategist, author of three books, including the book we’re gonna talk about today, The Leadership Contact: The Fine Print to Becoming an Accountable Leader. So Vince, thanks for joining me.

Vince Molinaro: Thanks so much John for the opportunity.

John Jantsch: So let’s … So often there are key words in the titles of books that need to be unpacked a little bit. Let’s unpack this word, “contract.” What exactly is a leadership contract?

Vince Molinaro: Well, it’s really came about from working with a lot of my clients globally who had been investing a lot in leadership development, but not see it translate into stronger leadership within their organizations. And they were kinda saying, “What’s going on?”

And as I spent time really thinking about it, I think what I believe we need to do is help leaders understand that when they take on a leadership role, they’ve actually signed up for something really, really important. And I kinda use the term, it’s a contract.

But, a lot of leaders aren’t really consciously aware that they’ve done it. And, in fact, what I think many of us have done either to get the promotion, to get the increase in pay, to get the better title, is it’s more the analogy of an online contract. Wen you kinda are online conducting any transaction that window pops up with all the terms and conditions, and if you’re like 93% of the people on the planet, as studies show, you just kinda click “agree” and never read what the contract actually entails and what you’re really held to.

So, the contract says essentially that. That there is a contract, you gotta be aware of it, and it comes with four terms and conditions that you’ve gotta understand and internalize as a leader.

John Jantsch: So before we get into some of those, you don’t pull many punches in this book. You call people out that leadership is broken in a lot of organizations. Is that because of some of the things you allude to? Is that society? Is that people really misunderstanding what it means to be a leader?

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. It’s, to me, that that’s what is the most fundamental question I find I have with my clients is what does it really mean to be a leader today? Because the role is more complicated because our world is more complicated. Leaders are under more pressure, more expectations.

So the role has gotten bigger, more challenging, but I don’t know if we’ve really kept up with our thinking about what is it that I need to do individually, or what do we need to collectively as a group of leaders, to really lead our company. And I think we’ve got some baggage from the old days when we used to promote people because they were good at something technical. Best sales person, best analyst, best accountant, best engineer, whatever. Or because they stuck around the longest. They had the most tenure. And we would move people into leadership roles for those reasons, but not because they were great leaders.

And so today, because the role is so demanding, I think we gotta pause and think a little bit about what have you signed up for.

So the book is pretty direct. It does challenge people in leadership roles. And yet what I have found in all my work, and my talks with leaders everywhere, is they’re really resonating with it because they acknowledge, yeah, it is a tough job. I can’t go into it lightly, I have to really pause, and I have to make sure it’s right for me. And if it’s not then I need to kind of find another way to add value to my company.

John Jantsch: Well, and I think that’s a real challenge because I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and people that get started because they have an idea, or an ability to do something. And they, in some ways, didn’t really sign up to be a leader. They don’t like that part of it and they’d rather they didn’t have to do that. But, in a lot of ways, that’s the job, right?

Vince Molinaro: Well, exactly right. And that’s sort of why the first term of a leadership contract is that it’s a deliberate decision that you have to make. And you have to know yourself well enough, know what the role demands, what the company demands of you, and then make sure that you’re up for it, right? Or make sure you’re really ready to do what’s necessary to really step up effectively.

So I think in those instances that that is a decision that one does need to make. But, you know, the expectation now … What’s interesting is, we’re expecting everyone to be a leader, even employees. I’ve got a lot of clients that say, “No, we need everyone to step up.”

So that expectation is being put across. So I don’t even know if we have that, “Wow, you know, I wanna do this, but not that.” I think that is true in some cases. But, I think we gotta understand that we’re expecting everyone to step up in more significant ways, because I think that’s what companies need to be successful today.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and sort of with that though, we need to sort of break down the idea of the hierarchal leadership I suppose. And if you’re talking about everyone needs to be a leader, I mean that’s like describing the culture, isn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, that’s a great point. You know, that’s the other variable here is that the model of leadership has really shifted and evolved. So, certainly when I started my career years ago, it was a very hierarchical model. And the leadership strength was concentrated at the top, and they were the ones that kinda came up with the strategy and communicated the orders. And everyone else just kinda did their jobs with their small teams, and that worked for a long time.

But, in today’s world, what our clients really say is, “The world is more complex. One or two years at the top isn’t enough. We need leadership to be strong in every seat, every chair in our organization.” And that’s I think because, as you say, I think that model of leadership has really evolved and changed, and keeps evolving and changing.

John Jantsch: Accountability is a huge theme in your book. And, you know, as I read the book I was kinda struck with the point that I don’t know gets made enough by a lot of people in that accountability works both ways. That the leaders have to be accountable, but then they have to really demand, or at least expect, accountability in return.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, I think that’s the other part of the leadership contract that is theme of so much of the books that are written, and there are some great books written about leadership, really try to map out here’s what the great leaders do. And that stuff is important to know and understand, but when you really come down to it I think this connection between accountability and leadership is fundamentally there.

Human beings, that’s what we do, right? We see someone who we define as a leader, we hold them to a higher standard of behavior, that’s the contract. And if they don’t live up to that standard of behavior, like we see leaders involved in scandal or corruption, or bad behavior, we get frustrated, disappointed, and we immediately ask for accountability. That person needs to account for their behavior.

So I think that connection has always been there. I don’t think it’s necessarily a new idea that I’m bringing forward. But, I think we have to make accountability now more front and center in leadership. Because as you say, those two things are really connected closely together. And I have to … In the leadership contract is my contract with myself to be an accountable leader, but then I have to set the tone for others and demand accountability in those that I work with and those that I lead.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and it’s a tough job as a leader, of course, because you can’t get away with the “Do as I say, not as I do.” And I’m sure many, many people have worked for organizations where that frustration was felt because we were supposed to be a customer-first company and boss does nothing but complain about the customers, and that makes it really tough to do your job, doesn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Well, I think we’re always looking for our leaders, or looking to our leaders, to set the tone. And then when they sort of come up with, you know, different rules for everyone else than themselves, then they’re not being accountable. And we can kinda sniff it out. And I’ve always found interesting little kids. When they’re four and five, they’re really good at calling out adults, right? They’re saying, “Wait a minute, that’s not fair. You’re asking me to do this, but you’re not doing it yourself.”

And so I think it’s, again, hard wired in us as humans that we kind of demand that accountability and we demand that integrity between this is what you’re saying we need to be doing, and yet you’re not doing it yourself. Well, that doesn’t make any sense. So I think that’s just hard wired in us.

John Jantsch: So, you’ve alluded to a couple of the elements. Make the decision, hard work ethic, we’ve talked about, obligation. The one that I think is really intriguing to me is your fourth element is community. So, I didn’t mean to steal your thunder there with the four things, but if you wanna lighten those up a little bit and then maybe expand on that idea of community.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, well as you said, the first term is you’ve gotta make that decision. That kind of visceral decision to define yourself as a leader and know that you’re kind of all-in and fully committed.

The second one is, it comes with obligation and you’ve gotta live up to those obligations because we expect a lot from our leaders. We’ve talked about that.

As you said, the third one is that it’s hard work and you’ve gotta have the resilience and resolve to tackle the hard work. And a lot of the hard work is around the people stuff, right? Giving candid feedback, managing poor performers, making tough decisions that might be unpopular for you but important for the organization and you must do it.

And then the third term says that leadership is a community. It gets back to what we talked about. It’s the model of leadership has evolved, you know? And while companies might still organize themselves as a hierarchy, how we get work done now is less vertical and much more horizontal. So we’re working together across lines of business, across departments, across functions more than ever before. And that’s because, I think, our problems are more complex that we have to solve. The customer issues need different perspectives and we’ve gotta bring the best minds together.

The Corporate Executive Board has done some research and surveying among leaders, and they’re reporting that collaboration has gone up 60% for most leaders day-to-day, and that more and more what I need to be successful is less on my own effort, it’s more on what does John do to make my team successful? What does Mary do to make my team successful? We’re much more dependent on others for our own success.

And so, as a result, the idea of building a strong leadership culture where leadership is not just strong at the top, but across the whole organization, becomes more and more critical. And so this idea of a community is really, I think, the model of the future and that’s really what I talk about.

And in many ways, that’s kinda the promise of the leadership contract is to say, “You gotta get your leadership act together,” and then you kinda commit to making the community strong. Do your part, but work with colleagues across the organization to execute the strategy, to be agile, to drive innovation, all those things that companies are really working hard to drive and be successful.

John Jantsch: You know, it’s funny. The last few years there have been a lot of management consultants charging a lot of money to train leaders how to work with this next generation of workers coming in, the millennials coming in. And I think what you just described is really that. That that’s actually just become a preferred way to work and so a lot of organizations have been caught off guard because they haven’t worked that way, and it’s been tough for them to attract or keep folks that want to work that way.

Vince Molinaro: Well, I think it’s a great point. I think what has also been missed, right, because you know the millennials have gotten a lot of attention. And I think, sometimes, there’s been what I call a lot of “millennial bashing,” right? We’ve been kinda pointing out that they’re not motivated, they’re not this, they’re not this, they’re not that. We’ve … My team and I have done global research and leadership accountability is a global problem. And it’s not as … Leadership is not as strong, nowhere near as strong, as we need it to be. And it’s in fact, quite mediocre.

So now, imagine a millennial coming into a company who has high aspirations to kinda wanna change the world, have a real impact, and now they’re working for a leader that is mediocre. Well, of course their motivation is gonna be affected. And what millennials have done that we don’t really, I think, fully appreciate is unlike Gen X and even Boomers, they’ve come in expecting to work for great leaders. And when they find a great leader, they’re actually fairly loyal. And, you know, they may not be there for 20 years, but you can really, you know, get a lot from them. And they’re prepared to roll up their sleeves, and be pretty loyal, and pretty committed, and do great work.

But, if they don’t find it what they do is they leave. And I think Gen X did a little bit of that, but Boomers just stuck it out no matter how bad it was. And so that perpetuated a lot of mediocrity, a lot of bad leadership, because we never were forced to pay attention to it.

I’m really curious to see, because you know the research just came out in the last few weeks from Bloomberg that says that next year, in fact, Gen Z, Generation Z, is actually going to outnumber millennials. And so as they start coming into the workplace, it’ll be curious to see what happens. Because to me, that generation actually should be called Generation L. They should be called the Leadership Generation because they’re coming in to organizations already with ideas and thinking around leadership, more leadership development, more expectations of leadership than any other of the previous generation. So it’ll be curious to see when they come in. They’ll just kinda, “What’s all this talk about leadership?” Because they don’t know any other way on how to behave. They know how to network, they know how to collaborate like millennials. So, I think that’s gonna be another change in our workplaces over the next decade as both millennials and Gen Z start making up more and more of our employee base.

John Jantsch: You know the telephone’s still a vital way to do business, but it’s changed—the technology has changed—and CloudPhone is the answer. It’s perfect for small business. It comes with local numbers, toll-free vanity numbers (like 1-800-duct-tape), you can send and receive text messages on your business line, works with any of the phones that you already own. And you can get a ton of other business features like call recording and conference calling and voicemail transcripts. And because you’re one of my listeners, I’m gonna get you a 50 percent off the small business plan forever deal. Just go to Cloudphone.com/ducttape.

So, if I’m listening to this and I’m a leader of any type, but certainly a lot of my listeners are running small businesses, are there some best practices for getting this thinking started? I mean, it’s tough. If you’ve run your company a certain way for 10 years, and then you read this book, and you go, “Okay, now I’ve got it.” It obviously becomes a process, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s not an overnight start.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I think what’s really interesting is that’s where a small- to medium-sized enterprise actually has a lot of advantage over large companies. I’ve been in a couple of … I’ve been in three startups in my career and what I find is that oftentimes you just get naturally strong leadership because there’s an idea from the founder, from that entrepreneur or business model that’s really compelling. It just attracts people to say, “I wanna work with this person.”

And so, the early days are actually pretty easy and the best practices are always kinda in place, right? And I remember I joined a pharma company that was just starting out, a pharmaceutical company, and my first day on the job the head product manager came to me saying, “Okay, here’s how we work.” We had our pixelated and our five values, so you gotta live up to these five values. And how we worked everyday is you’re coming into a meeting, we’re not taking any notes, there’s no minutes, your job is to hear what’s going on, figure out what you need to do, and get it done. That’s how we go. Let’s go. And that was it.

And yes, there was everybody that was there in the early days were just so aligned and committed to those core ideas that we got … we grew really quickly until we hit about 150 employees. And as the research shows, that’s a funny number with human beings that once you hit that number then all of a sudden you start actually behaving like a pretty big company. Start getting a bit more bureaucratic, more process and rules get into place. You need that in order to hit your next level of growth.

And so the thing that I suggest in the book, I think, apply. The first thing is, you’ve gotta respond individually. You’ve gotta commit to being an accountable leader. Can really think about what that’s gonna look like. And then as an organization, you have to define what are the expectations we have of our leaders. What are the three, four, five things that we expect leaders to be and do in our company? You gotta really articulate that clearly so you can attract the people who are aligned to that vision. And then you can kinda start identifying who are the people demonstrating that so we can promote them. And that becomes important.

So it really gets down to that. In fact, our global research has found only about half of the companies have set clear expectations of their leaders. And so, if you do that as an entrepreneur, it already sets you apart from the rest.

And then the other thing that needs to happen is the opposite. So the expectations kinda set the vision of the future which inspires. But then, if you find leaders who are mediocre, who just are struggling interesting heir role and they’re not really stepping up, you gotta address that. You gotta address that. And what our research has also found, it only … One in five, about 20%, of the people who responded to our survey globally said that their organization had the courage to address the mediocre leaders. And so what they do is they say in conversations they say, “Well, we know who they are. We just don’t know how to do anything about it, so we’ll just leave them in their job.” And the second you leave a mediocre leader in their role, you’ve communicated to everybody that mediocrity is fine. You’re gonna tolerate a low bar. And then, that just puts you on a slippery slope which becomes a problem.

So, I think you gotta make that decision yourself to step up and be an accountable leader when you’re an entrepreneur and a business leader. And then, you gotta set those expectations for others. Create them for your company so you attract the best, those who really aligned already to your way of thinking. And that already will set you off a direction that will be pretty compelling and exciting for even a small company.

John Jantsch: And I think you just probably nailed one of the hardest parts of the hard work is that idea of something that feels confrontational. A lot of times it’s just easier to not have that hard conversation. And I agree with you 100% that that just sort of festers, doesn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Well, it does. And what it does is it slows us down. So in the book, I talk about the hard rule of leadership that says that what we don’t often appreciate as leaders is that when we avoid some of tough things, and they’re legitimately tough, right? Running a successful company is not easy. There are tough things. But, when we avoid those tough things, and we know a lot of leaders do, we don’t fully appreciate how it makes us weak as leaders, weakens our teams, and weakens ultimately our company. But, if you have the courage to tackle those issues and make progress, you really drive greater success.

Because if you don’t address those things, they kinda weigh you down. They’re always kinda like you’re carrying this big boulder on your back and on your shoulders, and they just kinda wear you down. But, if you chip away at them, you kind of lighten the load.

John Jantsch: So let’s finish up today making the correlation between this type of accountability, this type of leadership contract, and improved performance. Certainly, your work has hopefully returned some correlation.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, well in fact our global research has revealed that … We surveyed over 3,000 organizations worldwide and we asked in the survey to self-identify … the respondents to self-identify is your company … talk about your company’s performance over the last three years. And in the last three years, were you an industry leader, top quartile, were you above average, average, below average, or a lagger at the bottom quartile?

And when we analyzed the data it was fascinating. The industry leaders completely set themselves apart from everyone else. What was most surprising, even above average performing companies, which are pretty good, look more like poor performing companies than they actually look like industry leading companies. So when we cut the data to compare everyone else against the industry leaders, we found that the industry leaders are far more satisfied, over two times more satisfied, with the leadership accountability in their companies.

They’ve done a much better job, almost two and a half times better job, of setting clear expectations for their leaders. And, in turn, they have over two times more satisfaction, or confidence, that they have more leaders fully committed to their roles as leaders. So we’re really starting to see a strong connection between having really strong and accountable leaders in place, and a company’s performance. We’re gonna be doing more research to really delve into that, but already we’re starting to see that connection.

And in many ways, it makes perfect sense, right? If you have a group of highly mediocre leaders, they’re never gonna get you there, right? Just the math will never work. And so that’s, I think, what’s becoming more and more apparent is we pay a price for tolerating mediocrity.

Now, a lot of leaders don’t necessarily choose to be mediocre. They’re in conditions that are [inaudible] or the company hasn’t set clear expectation, or they’ve never been supported in their development. It’s not all on leaders. And that’s why I say there’s things leaders obviously must do, but the organization and the companies must support them as well. You need that dual responsibility.

But, that connection is very clear in my mind now between strong accountability among leaders and company performance.

John Jantsch: Speaking with Vince Molinaro, the author of The Leadership Contract. So Vince, where can people find out more about you and your work?

Vince Molinaro: Certainly they can reach out on LinkedIn. There’s also www.theleadershipcontract.com. And on there is really the information about the books, the information about the work I do, and a number of resources that people can download to learn more about how to bring these ideas into either their roles, into their teams, and into their organization.

John Jantsch: Great book, Vince. Thanks for joining us, and hopefully we’ll see you out there on the road someday.

Vince Molinaro: Well, thanks for making time, John. I really appreciate it and some great questions. I had a lot of fun. Thanks so much.

Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business

Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business

Marketing Podcast with Vince Molinaro
Podcast Transcript

Vince MolinaroMy guest this week on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is Vince Molinaro. He is an expert on creating a healthy, resilient leadership culture, and is the author of the best-selling book The Leadership Contract: The Fine Print to Becoming an Accountable Leader.

Molinaro is the global managing director of leadership transformation at Lee Hecht Harrison and is also a regular keynote speaker at conferences and corporate retreats.

On today’s episode, we talk about the elements that make up great leadership, and how you can foster them in yourself and your organization.

Questions I ask Vince Molinaro:

  • What is a leadership contract?
  • Do we need to break down the hierarchical model of leadership?
  • What are the four terms of the leadership contract?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How leadership has evolved in our modern world.
  • Why accountability is a two-way street in the leadership contract.
  • How to begin the process of transforming your leadership approach.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Vince Molinaro:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by CloudPhone! CloudPhone is perfect for small businesses: it comes with a free local or toll-free vanity number, lets you send and receive text messages on your business line, and works with any phones you already own. Plus it includes a ton of other business features like a virtual receptionist menu, call recording, conference calling, and voicemail transcription.

To help support the show, CloudPhone is offering our listeners an exclusive deal. Sign up today and get 50 percent off CloudPhone’s SMB plan forever. Just go to CloudPhone.com/ducttape.

How to Master the Art of People

art of peopleMarketing Podcast with Dave Kerpen

Ask most any business owner and they will tell you that one of the hardest parts of growing a business is managing people.

Entrepreneurs are typically visionaries and that trait doesn’t always come with natural leadership skills.

The fact is that there are few simple habits that will allow you get more of what you want if you work to embrace them.

Now, I’m not talking about manipulation, I’m simply talking about creating greater influence by paying attention to how others think, feel and act and adopting a better way of interacting with all of the folks you come into contact with day to day.

Everyone need work in this area – myself very much included.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Dave Kerpen, co-founder and chairman of Likeable Media, an award-winning social media and word-of-mouth marketing firm. He is also the founder and CEO of Likeable Local, a great social media management tool. We discuss his new book The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want, people skills, and how entrepreneurs can manage their employees better.

If you ever get the chance to meet Kerpen you’ll immediately learn why he is so qualified to write this book – Dave is a people person.

I recently visited his office in New York and it was abuzz with peopleness. (Not sure that’s a word but I like it.)

The Art of People is structured in a way that makes it very easy to read and digest. Chapters are short and to the point and each ends with action steps.

Questions I ask Dave:

  • Are people skills learnable?
  • How can someone improve upon his or her people skills?
  • What are the advantages of having an advisory board?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to become a better manager and a better leader of the people you work with.
  • How famous business leaders have overcome poor leadership skills.
  • Why the “Golden Rule” really doesn’t apply to leadership today.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by FreshBooks, small business accounting software for non-accountants. Freshbooks is offering a free month of unrestricted access just for Duct Tape Marketing podcast listeners. You don’t even need a credit card to register. To get your free month, go to freshbooks.com/ducttape and enter DuctTape in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.

2 Illuminate the Path Forward

illuminateMarketing Podcast with Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez

Great leadership involves great storytelling – it’s simply a proven fact.

Storie create emotion and the greatest way to influence someone is to move them.

There’s been a lot written about this topic over the last few years, but few people know how to craft a great story and use that story in a business context than Nancy Duarte.

I great presentation moves people to action and Duart has created some of the greatest presentation of all time. Now she and her business associate take what they’ve learned in helping leaders craft stories and turned it into a complete leadership style.

My guests for today’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast are Nancy Duarte, persuasive presentation expert and founder of Duarte and author of Resonate and Slide:ology, and Patti Sanchez, Chief Strategy Officer of Duarte. Together, they wrote the bookWe discuss leadership, communications, persuasion, and how to inspire a group of people to action.

Questions I ask Nancy and Patti:

  • What’s the difference between Inspiration and Movement?
  • How do you identify which stage of leadership your business is in?
  • How have your personal experiences affected your view on leadership?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How communication can affect your business’ growth day-to-day
  • Where many businesses may fall off in their progress toward better communication
  • Why some companies have internal and external struggles and how to reconcile the two

To purchase Nancy and Patti’s book Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols, head to Amazon.com or Duarte.com/Illuminate

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by FreshBooks, small business accounting software for non-accountants. Freshbooks is offering a free month of unrestricted access just for Duct Tape Marketing podcast listeners. You don’t even need a credit card to register. To get your free month, go tofreshbooks.com/ducttape and enter DuctTape in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.


1 Highest Duty: The Search For What Really Matters

highest honor

Marketing Podcast with Capt. Sully Sullenberger

My guest on this week’s podcast is former airline pilot, speaker, entrepreneur and author of Highest Duty: My Search for What Really MattersCaptain Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger. You probably know Sully best from the “Miracle in the Hudson,” where he completed the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson river in New York City on January 15, 2009.

When his PR agency pitched me on the idea of having Sullenberger on the show I must admit that I was intrigued by the opportunity to hear the story of the flight and landing on the Hudson, but what really drew me to the interview was the opportunity to talk about how a life altering moment became such a total career-altering moment.

It’s worth a listen just to hear Sullenberger relate the now very practiced account of the happenings that cold January morning, but it’s equally as interesting to note that he had apparently become a bit disenchanted with what was going on all around him in his chosen industry.

When an opportunity to change everything presented itself he grabbed it and became it. Sullenberger certainly was handed the chance to remake his career in stunning fashion (Hello, Good Morning America is on the line) but he also went to work on remaking himself in order to excel at his new career.

He knew he had to become a better writer, speaker and storyteller and worked diligently on honing these new skills.

Questions I ask Sully:

  • How has your life changed since the event?
  • What qualities of leadership are important in starting a new business?
  • How do you go about acquiring new skills needed for a new career?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • What it was like to be in the cockpit during the “Miracle of the Hudson”
  • How a foundation or system can help you handle difficult situations
  • How to think about risk when starting a business

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Hostgator, where you’ll get 24 hour live support via chat, phone or email, 1-click WordPress installs, easy-to-use website builder, design services, marketing services like SEO and PPC, and for my listeners: a 30% Discount. Go to www.Hostgator.com/promo/ducttape

How to Effectively Lead Your Employees to Improve Your Business

Marketing Podcast with David Long

Built to LeadIn a recent interview with my friend Guy Kawasaki, author of Art of the Start 2.0, he mentioned that perhaps the hardest part of building a business was learning how to lead and motivate people.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is David Long, CEO of MyEmployees and author of Built to Lead: 7 Management R.E.W.A.R.D.S Principles for Becoming a Top 10% Manager

David’s company helps organizations engage and reward employees and keep them motivate and he’s distilled a great deal of what he’s learned in building his own business and the good, bad and ugly he’s witnessed in organizations he has worked with over the years into his principles for becoming a top 10% manager.

Questions I ask David:

  • What stops people from succeeding at being great leaders?
  • How do you properly invest in the people that are struggling within your company?
  • How do people find, hire and keep good leaders?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to become an effective leader for your employees
  • How to avoid insecurity in your managers
  • How to keep your employees engaged

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast was brought to you by VeriSign and the Make Your Idea Internet Official Contest. Register a new .COM domain name with a participating registrar during the contest entry period and enter for an opportunity to win up to $35,000! Learn more about the contest and its rules at www.verisigncontest.com

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is also brought to you by Hostgator, where you’ll get 24 hour live support via chat, phone or email, 1-click WordPress installs, easy-to-use website builder, design services, marketing services like SEO and PPC, and for my listeners: a 30% Discount. Go to www.Hostgator.com/promo/ducttape

2 What I Know for Sure About Leadership

I’ve learned a great deal about leadership in the process of trying to build a business.


photo credit: Jeff_Werner via photopin cc

Only recently have I come to appreciate the important role that effective leadership plays in actually growing a business.

In small businesses we often look to more obvious areas of business for paths to growth, such as marketing and selling or even negotiating skills. The thing is, nothing really happens without true leadership.

That’s not to say someone can’t hatch a good idea, work their tail off and grow a business that looks pretty successful.

But, lacking vision, compassion, purpose and commitment, it’s pretty hard to build a place where people want to come and be their best self and that may actually be the hallmark of a successful business.

I’m not unlike a lot of entrepreneurs. I want to work on the stuff the business makes and sells today. Leadership is quite often more about the stuff of tomorrow and it’s messy and unruly and it gets in the way of things we’d rather do.

Oh, and it takes work, it doesn’t always come naturally to us, even those of us who are routinely thrust into roles that require us to lead in order for others to succeed.

So here are few things I’ve observed over the course of trying to learn to lead.

Grow yourself

Leadership is mostly about trying to help people grow and achieve potential. Of course the only way you can provide an environment where this can happen is if you charge headlong down that path yourself. Unless you are constantly experiencing your own growth you’ll cease to recognize the need for it in others.

Reading is probably my most effective tool for growth. I, of course, read most everything I can related my work, but I make it a point to read a great deal of fiction and other seemingly unrelated topics such as human growth, psychology, sociology, nature, ancient religious traditions and even architecture. I’m fascinated by the connections these subjects have to things like community building and system development.

Start asking for recommendations on books about leadership. Don’t be surprised if a few of them don’t mention the word leader in the title.

Create vision

People don’t give themselves to great companies or great products. They follow great stories and great causes and great ideas. Until your leadership ideas are steeped in a vision that’s bigger than simply going to work for you to get a paycheck, you’ll struggle to attract anyone interested in much more than that. Vision takes thinking bigger for yourself and your company first. Until you can do that you’ll find it hard to inspire yourself let alone others who might choose to join you. Do you have a big idea, are you headed somewhere really cool, do you do what you do because there’s a higher purpose? Share that and don’t be afraid to inspire others to think bigger in the process – that’s vision.

So here’s your question. What’s the picture of your business in three years and why is that a vision worth following?

Get alignment

Get people involved every step of the way by getting them to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Ask for their input and ideas and hold them accountable for improvement based on their input. Give them permission to disagree with you, even inviting conflict. Ask that surprises and bad news are delivered unvarnished. It’s the only way to get people as invested as you are in the outcome of their work and it’s how you eventually get everyone aligned.

Bring your entire organization together and ask them to identify, in their view, the three greatest priorities in your business right now.

Teach by example

This one is so obvious, but so hard to do consistently. If you sit around and complain about those darn customers, don’t be surprised if everyone else does as well. If you want people to be on time for meetings show them how important it is by arriving ten minutes early and starting on time. If you want your staff to go overboard showing clients appreciation, demonstrate it by writing hand written notes to clients each week. If you want people to be accountable for their health and wellness, well, hit the gym.

Identify three behaviors that you want to everyone to model and determine your place in leading them there by example.

Build a culture of winning

It’s a shame to see organizations where managers manage by retaining control and making sure that everyone need come to them for answers. Perhaps the most universal truth about leadership is that the best way to succeed as a leader is to put all of your energy into helping those you lead succeed. In Good to Great, Jim Collins noted that many of the best leaders built such a culture of winning that their departments could actually manage without them.

As your business stands today, ask yourself what would fall apart if you needed to leave for a few months and go to work on building leadership in those areas first.

Believe in people

I’ve found that people pretty much live up to our expectations. While it’s pretty easy to take credit when people succeed and place blame when they don’t, most of the time is comes down to what we expect. Expect more of people and you might be surprised. Believe in people and all of a sudden they do more than we expect, get more involved in the success of the company and rise to the level of our expectations.

Give everyone that you manage a thirty-minute meeting each week where they get to set the agenda. Ask them to think about what they need to be successful and engaged and assure them you want to go to work on that with them.

So you see this leadership stuff isn’t that complicated, it just takes work. It takes making it a priority and building into the culture of how your business functions.

Is it that important? Here’s my take – if your vision of success involves anything more than what you can wrap your arms around today, you need to understand how to become a better leader.

30 7 Traits of the Modern Leader

leaderSo much about the world we live and work in has changed. I suppose every generation feels that to some extent, but now it’s my turn to acknowledge it. I’ve owned my business for over twenty years and the changes in how we market, interact, collaborate, congregate, follow and lead have changed unalterably.

And with it, a new breed of leader has emerged – in part because the world is desperate for it. Seth covered this new kind of leader well in Tribes. I have the pleasure of addressing the network of Duct Tape Marketing coaches for the opening session of our conference in Boulder this morning – and I plan to challenge this group to embrace the traits of today’s leader.

1) Trust themselves

An authentic trust in one’s self allows a leader to make decisions for the right reason and not out a hidden agenda or attempt to prop up self-worth. This trait also comes shining through when risk and uncertainly knock at the door,

2) Make meaning

The greatest leaders I encounter are doing what they are doing for love of a higher purpose. This doesn’t mean a spiritual or religious purpose, although it can, but they are trying to guide people on a journey worth taking. Chris Brogan is making the world a better place by blogging about engagement. His “make meaning” why he’s found a way to turn it into make money.

3) Embrace change

Well, I guess we’ve all seen what the Internet has done to companies and entire industries unwilling to embrace change – think newspapers? Today’s leader is downright giddy about the speed at which things are happening all around them and in every aspect of their life.

4) Keep learning

Today’s teacher understands the speed of change and further understands that in order to have any reason for people to follow, they must provide a sense of what’s next, what’s ahead – the only way to do that is inquire vigorously, every day.

5) Are the example

How is it possible to lead if you aren’t willing to walk the talk, if you aren’t an example to those who would follow. Or worse, to be driven by a higher purpose and not let it shine through your actions. Do as I say, not as I do just won’t cut it anymore. The most attractive form of leadership involves no words.

6) Act congruent

I suppose this one goes hand in hand with the last trait, but it shows up in the value proposition. Today’s leader knows what value they bring, what results they produce, and what all of that is worth. They have no issues charging what they are worth and looking a prospect or customer in the eye when they educate them. What are your feet doing when you speak.

7) Practice abundance

Today’s leader gets cooperation like never before – there is so much business out there waiting to be attracted in this Internet world that we now find ourselves without competition. Let’s all play together to make a better world!

I know most of you read this blog to get my take on marketing stuff, but every now and then I just have to address the whole entrepreneur in all of us.

Image credit: Garry Knight