In this Episode
In this episode of the Leadership 480 podcast, Bill Treasurer, the founder of Giant Leap Consulting, joins DDI to discuss the best ways to go about self-leadership. Learn how leaders must shift and adapt as they step into mid-level and executive level leadership roles, particularly how to cope with the burden of leading others and leading yourself by making the experience feel much more fulfilling. Additionally, discover how certain strengths can turn into weaknesses as you climb your company's ladder and how you can prevent this from happening.
Hi leaders and welcome back to the Leadership 480 podcast. I'm your host Beth Almes, and today we're going to be talking about what is maybe the most important topic when it comes to leadership, and that's leading yourself. And I know a lot of you are probably thinking that leadership is really about everyone else and how you influence them. And in part that's true, but it's really hard to do that effectively until you learn to manage yourself first.
I have an exceptional guest here today with me to talk about leading yourself, and that's Bill Treasurer. Bill is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage building company, and he's worked with leaders at organizations ranging from NASA to eBay to SPANX and so many others. He's also the author of six books, including his latest, Leadership Two Words at a Time, and the international bestseller, Courage Goes to Work. Bill, welcome to the Leadership 480 podcast.
Beth, I am super excited to be here. I'm so looking forward to speaking with you and I think really highly of DDI. I've known about it for a long, long time, so I'm really pleased to be here.
Well thanks, Bill. And I want to start today, as we talk about self leadership, by asking you about how you got into the study of leadership, because it's really a fascinating story, and what sparked you to become more aware of who you were as a leader and why you wanted to get better?
Yeah, thanks for asking the question. It goes back before I started my company 20 years ago, and before I worked in consulting with big consulting companies and small entrepreneurial consulting companies. I was a member of the US high diving team and I used to dive off of 100 foot platforms into small pools for a living, going at like 50 miles an hour at a lot of amusement parks throughout the country. And I became the captain of the team, which meant that I got to lead this troop of athletes.
All of these athletes were away from home, entertaining audiences of 2000 upwards to sometimes 40,000 people. But I didn't know who I was as a leader, and as I was in the act of leading these divers, I was heavy handed and had a short fuse and I was over controlling. And one day one of the older divers took me aside—and this was an aquatic entertainment production. It was a multimillion dollar production done in front of live audiences. Safety was a big concern and entertaining these patrons was a big concern.
So I felt a lot of pressure, but I was heavy handed, and one of the divers one day took me aside and said, hey listen, if you ever talk to us like that again, I'll walk. I don't need this job that badly to be treated poorly by you or anybody else. And I got defensive. I was like, hey man, I'm your boss, not the other way around. But as I thought about it that night, over a few beverages, I thought, he's right, I have no idea who I am as a leader.
And so I picked up a book, I picked up a book that you've heard of before, it's called The One Minute Manager by Dr. Ken Blanchard. And that book did something inside of me and I was like, wow, there's a different way of leading than adopting my own father's leadership style. I had to develop my own leadership style and here's a path.
And then I picked up another book, and I came across the term "organizational development." And I was starting to get better at leading, but I was becoming very interested in the topic. And I started reading a whole bunch of books on leadership, got fascinated with the topic, decided to put myself through graduate school, and I was on my way.
So if you think about it, it all comes back to the courage that it took one of my direct reports to give me upward feedback and for me to get past the defensiveness and the excuse-making and sit with the fact that he was right. And it set me on the course of becoming interested in the topic of leadership.
And I think what, Beth, it ultimately came down to was yes, I got interested in how to help motivate and inspire other people and get good performance out of them, but I was becoming a better human being in the process. And I think that that's what's so attractive about leadership, that while you're helping others become leaders themselves, you're holding yourself to a higher standard, elevating your own performance and you're getting better as a human. So, that's the backstory there.
And I think it's so relevant for our audience, that part of getting to know yourself as a leader, what you're likely to do before you can be effective managing anybody, you've got to know what's going on with you. And one of the things you mentioned in that story was you had some natural tendencies of just the way you had been taught to lead and what came naturally to you in terms of what you had seen before.
So I think as leaders, we all have to learn to overcome sometimes our natural tendencies. And in your book, one of the things you talk about is the power of using memorable two-word phrases that help you short circuit what you might ordinarily do. So how did these help you keep yourself in check?
Yeah, what I found over time, so I've done a lot of executive coaching both in this job and in running my company for the last 20 years. And I spent six years in Accenture, and Accenture's one of the world's largest management consulting companies. For six years I was there and in my last role, I was their very first full-time internal executive coach. And everybody I coached had a clientele of about 35 partners and associate partners, and all of them out-ranked me. And which was great for me because it helped me understand what was on the mind of these leaders that were dealing with a lot of pressure.
And I cut my teeth in coaching. But what I found was a lot of times a coachee will come in and you're having a conversation with them, and they're all confused about something, there's some frustration that they're having, a direct report is annoying them on some level or a client or a customer. There's a lot of pressure and it's all cloudy for them.
And if I could get one of those coachees, if I could just laser them in, and I often would ask them the question, "if you could laser in on the thing that's bothering you, what would it be?" Or if I said, "if you could laser in on the solution to the frustration that you're having, what would it be in the fewest amount of words?" And what I found was the fewer the words that they used, the more likely it was that they'd be able to actually implement the thing we were talking about.
So I'll give you a specific example, because it's really the one that started to set me on the path of doing this, cataloging these two-word concepts. I had a guy named Steve. Good guy, very intense and a little bit desperate from wanting to go from an associate partner to partner. And I could understand why, partners made a huge salary. They were affecting all the decisions in the company and he wanted to be a partner really, really bad. And that anxiousness was coming through in his disposition and it was really off-putting to some people.
And he came to coaching, and in coaching I asked him, "Steve, if you were reflecting what the partners are wanting to see before you become a partner, and you narrowed it down in the fewest amount of words, what is it that you think that they're wanting that you don't yet have?" And he was quiet for a second and then said, "calm, confidence," just those two words, calm, confidence. And he was exactly right.
In my coaching with him, I was like, that's exactly it. They want to see that you have calm composure, that you are composed, that you're calm and that you have confidence and, in that calmness, you don't have to have all this anxiousness, and with your sharp elbows of ambition, they want to see calm confidence. And then he started using that.
So he'd get ready to go to a meeting and he would quickly text me, "hey, I'm carrying my CC with me," that became our clue for calm, confidence. And over time I started working with other coaches and comment that we might talk about this idea of personal fidelity, that was another two-word concept. So I started cataloging these two-word ideas because I found that the fewer amount of words that a leader uses to describe a frustration or the solution for a frustration, their likelihood of actually doing the action to solve the situation goes dramatically higher.
And I thought that there's a book there... Leadership can be confusing. We want a lot, leaders do a lot of stuff, we want them to be tactical and operational, but we want them to be strategic. We want them to be really smart and have emotional intelligence. We want them to be decisive, but we want them to be inclusive of a lot of voices, we want them to be everything.
And that puts a burden on a leader. And by having them only focus on the two words right in front of them, whatever the two-word concept might be, it makes it bearable. It removes the heavy burden that sometimes comes with leadership.
I love that concept of pulling in your focus to a simple two-word phrase and using that to prompt yourself every time you maybe know you're going into a situation where you're likely to not come off as great and you have to prompt yourself, do this a little bit better, show calm and confidence or whatever your two-word phrase is.
But one of the keys to getting that to work is, of course, self-awareness. You have to know where your derailers might end up being and what might get you in trouble. You have to know how you're coming off to other people so that you know when to use those little two-word prompts to get you going.
So in your book, you talk about a concept of sunny shadows, a bit of a way of getting to know yourself and being aware of what you do well and where you get yourself in trouble.
Yeah, it's something that, I guess, I picked it up from Carl Jung, the great psychologist. This idea that yes, well now we all want to look at our strengths and that's great. Let's work towards our strengths that definitely will be your passion place.
And it's not that we need to look at our "weaknesses," or now we use the euphemism, "our opportunities for improvement." But what I like about what Jung does is he says, look at your strengths and recognize that after a certain point beyond a certain threshold, those strengths will have diminishing returns. Those strengths themselves will start to cast a shadow.
So I call it sunshine and shadows. You have to talent your natural aptitude, the thing that you are good at, your confident place, and use it because it works for you, and it's a strength that you've got. And it's not that you end up having a weakness, but beyond a certain point, that strength can be overused, and it starts to cast this shadow.
So for example, I'm in front of groups all the time. I just got back this week, I was in Monterey doing a two-day immersion program, and I'm comfortable in front of groups. I did the high diving show in front of-
…audiences, like I said. And it had been in front of probably 5,000 audiences over time. And so I'm comfortable on my feet, but if I got to be the stage on a stage, if I have to be the center of attention, if I'm always the one drawing the sunlight my way, then I'm going to stifle other people's voices. I'm going to rob them of opportunities to present and influence people and such.
So, it's the overuse of something that has become a strength of mine. I have to be cautious of it. In the workplace, I've met a lot of people who are really smart, very intellectual, critical thinkers, and they should pride themselves on that because critical thinking is absolutely necessary. But if you overuse that critical thinking, it could be intimidating to the other people around you if you're constantly boring holes into other people's work, looking for the mistakes in their work with your criticality.
So anything that you have as a strength, even from a leadership standpoint, your sunshine can be overused and you have to have enough self-evaluation, self-awareness, and self-restraint to be able to identify what those are, because the strength will help you, but the overuse of the strength will start to cast a shadow that will get in your own way.
That's really powerful advice I think for a lot of our leaders, as we think about what got us into your first level leadership position is often things like being hardworking and being so smart, as you mentioned. And then when you get into that leadership role, that's not what makes you good, it's what other people do that makes you good. And that's so hard.
Do you see that changing a lot too as there's a shift when you go to your first leadership role, as you go to your middle manager role and then, of course, at that executive level. Do you feel that shift a lot as people's strengths start to become weaknesses as they climb the ladder?
Yeah, it's insightful. Even before you get a team, you're an individual contributor and you're knocking out things productively. You're hitting items on your to-do list, you're being productive, people are seeing the quality of your work, you do an exceptional job individually, as an individual contributor. So you're successful on your own a lot, and the reward for that is they give you a team.
And so you use the same things that made you successful as an individual and you start using them with your team, which, for them, starts to feel like you're over-controlling, you're trying to do their job, you're not delegating enough, but you're just trying to do what you did before that made you successful. It's like the old proverb, right? The "what got you here, won't get you there."
And so yes, you get to these pivot points, that individual contributor to first time leader, but first time leader is very operational and very tactical, and it has to be. Now you move up to, say, a division manager or regional vice president of something. You have to be operational. You can't be distant from that. But you now have to have a much further outlook in terms of your time and your calendar.
So you have to become more strategic. You have got to be thinking things 6, 18 months from now, not just the end of this week like you are when you're leading just a single team. So what's needed of you is different at each level, which is good because it keeps you challenged as a leader if you're open to learning. But if you took what made you successful as an individual contributor and try to use that in your leadership role, at some point you're going to start to plateau.
Likewise, if you've got one team and you're great operationally and you're great at managing a single team, but you're not starting to delegate more, you're not starting to think more strategically and such, you will plateau. So the good news is the adventure of business, the adventure of learning, if you move into it, will allow you to keep developing something more.
We don't need to be always climbing upwards. I think you and I would acknowledge that, that lateral is great and the acquisition of experiences is great. We always have new things to learn. That's probably the more important point.
So as you do that, one of the challenges is certainly I think, as we look inward, we try to lead ourselves better in managing our own ego. And I don't even mean that as you are an extremely egotistical person necessarily, or that you're prideful, but most people who move up the ladder, even at that first level of leadership or whatever, will take pride in our work. We get a lot of feedback of like, that was really good, you were the best one to lead that project, or whatever it was.
And there comes a shift where it's not about you anymore, but also that your success relies on others. So how do you start to manage that ego side of how you view yourself as successful and where you look for signs of success and praise?
Yeah, so management of ego is super important. You're getting a lot of cues from others when you're in a leadership role that you're special. They start treating you as special, they start deferring to you. " I don't know, what do you think boss?" You can walk in late to a meeting and not have to offer an excuse and nobody will question you on that.
But the regular team member has to have an excuse. You can interrupt people when you're a leader and other people aren't going to call you on it generally. So you get a lot of behavioral latitude in the form of special treatment and over time you may start to like that treatment and expect that treatment, and now your ego's getting in the way. Now it's becoming more about you and your own fixation with, do I get to have a bigger office? Do I get to have another parking space? What's my raise going to be this year?
Some self-interest is okay, but after a while that ego might inflate it. And there's actually somebody who wrote the foreword to one of my books, a Pittsburgh person, or at least he lived in Pittsburgh for a while, and his name is Clint Hurdle. He was the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates for a while. Good guy. And he said, in one of my books, what he has learned is that there's two kinds of leaders, those who have been humbled and those who are about to be.
So if your ego gets in the way, you will get a humbling experience. You will get a nasty 360 degree feedback review. You might get demoted, you might have two people under your leadership quit. There will be some sort of feedback that the natural universe will give you through your obnoxious behavior of your ego if it swells too much.
Some of it is normal stuff, but some leaders take the ego and go too far with it. I remember working for one person that said, watch out for so and so, when they walk into the room, their ego walks in 30 minutes before they do. And sure enough, the person who walked in did have a big ego. So it's managing the temptation of thinking that you're special and that you deserve special treatment because you're a leader.
All of this really gets to the importance of humility. Really what it gets to is that we want leaders to be confident. We do, but we don't want them to be conceited. We want them to be confident, but we don't want them to be overconfident, which leads to hubris.
And we want that confidence anchored to humility to make sure that the leader hasn't lost sight of their roots and hasn't forgotten that they came from the non-leader ranks before they became a leader. So management of ego is super important and not always the easiest thing to do.
Well, I will say that, as a Pirates fan, there's no room for egos with the Pittsburgh Pirates. You're not walking into any games as a winner. But yes, I think that the balance there between that confidence, of course, and as well as the humility and keeping in touch with what everyone else needs and it's really well anchored.
And it leads me to one of the other concepts that's crucial around leading yourself in personal integrity, leading in accordance with our values and feeling like, you know, how do you connect what I'm doing in a way of leadership with what I believe should be done in personal values?
Yeah, personal values. I have a section in the book that is simply value values, that recognize that values are an important part, not just of leadership, but being a good high-integrity character. A person who's got good character and a good inner core. So values are important, as you know and you've seen it, and I've certainly seen it and probably done it sometimes, is when you see a person walk outside of the steps of the values that they're telling you.
So they're saying that their values are this, but their actions are doing something different. I coached a vice president at a company. Before he became a vice president, he was a division manager. And he would tell me that family is a big value of his, that it's the reason he does what he does. But what he did at the time was spend all of his time at work. And he would be there literally, in constructions, often all nights and weekends because sometimes you have to wait for access for the road that you're building.
So you're doing it on the weekends because you can't have it when there's a high volume of traffic coming through. Sometimes you're reviewing a bid late at night. Oftentimes before midnight you have to get the bid in. And he loved the adventure of that.
And he would tell me that his family was his biggest value, the most important thing, the reason he worked so hard and such. And yet his own family was starting to complain that they felt robbed from the experience of him. So in our coaching sessions I asked him, is there somebody that does a good job of this in your own world? And he said that, yeah, his executive vice president boss did a good job of it.
And so where we got to in our coaching was that he would make the request, because his own father, who also came from construction, never missed any one of his baseball and football practices when he was a kid. So the commitment that he decided to make with the help and support of his EVP, was that he was going to coach his kids' soccer game, he has a daughter in soccer, and his boys' baseball games.
And he has now done that for years. But I remember the starting point when it was his own incongruency with his value system saying it was all about family, but really actually being all about work. So you got to identify your values and then you have to say, how does this value express itself when I'm truly living it?
And I think that brings us too to the concept of leading yourself and your own personal needs as well. So, as you're talking about leaders, you're talking about my work. I put my work first and my family. And right now there's a lot of talk out there about self-care, and I think for a lot of leaders, it's almost like that's nice to have, but that's not me.
And the reason there are leaders is because it might feel unnatural and selfish to put yourself first. They're committed to their teams, they're committed to their families, they're committed to their communities, and those are really good things. But you mentioned a little earlier in our conversation the topic of personal fidelity. So you, where do you as the leader come into this equation of putting work and family and your team and others at the top of your priority list?
Yeah, so it's such a central and important concept. I had a client that I had been working with, we were doing a session on culture and leadership and in the conversation, at least three people in the room...first of all, everybody uniformly loved working at this place because they were a high growth company and they were taking on competitors that were bigger companies and they were winning work, but they were getting overextended, they were winning more work than they had the ability to actually service and deliver the work.
So they loved the revenue that they were drawing. But each person was saying that we love it here, I'm able to do stuff that I wouldn't be able to do until later in my career if I was in bigger companies. But I feel like I'm, and the term that they would use was redlining, which I never heard before other than with getting ready to blow an engine by taking the RPM so far out there. And so I started to explore this idea of redlining with this group.
And it's the idea that I'm overextended, under-resourced for unreasonable amounts of times, which many people in the workplace feel, particularly if you layer on the COVID moment in the pandemic when many of us, even if we worked from home, were out in the redline of working too hard and too long.
So this idea of personal fidelity is about making sure that you define appropriate boundaries and provide and practice self-care, not of as a matter of selfishness, but as a matter of self-respect. That if you take care of yourself by eating, sleeping, how do you start your day? Do you ease your way into your day with some moments of quiet reflection before listening to a shock jock or listening to some political radio and listening to angertainment? Are you easing your way into your day?
That's a form of self-care, because if you take care of yourself in that way, then you're going to be way better for the people that you're leading that are under your leadership, so that you're not freaking out all the time with a low fuse that you get on the redlining.
And Beth, it's important. I actually had a client that took three customers on a golf outing and this guy worked obnoxious hours, and he actually had a heart attack that day and died. He passed away while he was entertaining clients. And I had coached the guy. And self-care was something that he really had a hard time practicing in a disciplined way.
And the point that you have so little reserves left over for others as leaders, I think we all know when you're lacking sleep and you're burning the midnight oil doing extra work and all of those things, you're very short fused, you're ready to blow up at everybody. And what kind of leader does that make you when you have no emotional reserve left over because you're just too tired, you've put everyone else first. That's such a powerful thing to think about that it's a way of caring for others in some ways of making sure that you have the reserves for them.
Yeah, that's a great way of putting it. The best way to be able to care for others is to make sure that you are taking good care of yourself. And again, for people who are not used to making themselves a priority, it's not selfishness and it's not indulgent. In fact, it's a necessity and it's like it's self-respect is really what it comes down to.
So another question I wanted to ask you is about how, as we evolve as leaders and we start to associate our success with the success of our teams, and a lot of us get into leadership roles because we love to be successful, we're really hard workers, we like to win and people reward that with promotions.
And one of the toughest things then as you get into a leadership role, is that failure can hit you really hard. And most of us, again, you probably don't like failing in the first place, because you like to win. And then secondly, as you become a leader, it's not just your failure, but the failure for your team, and it feels more public and it's really hard on your image and perception of yourself when you have failure. So how does coping with failure become an important part of leading yourself?
Failure, what it takes me to is, is that I've had the good fortune of, on a number of occasions, having to have worked with Sarah Blakely, the founder of SPANX, an international billion dollar retail enterprise. She wrote the foreword to the first edition of my book, Courage Goes to Work, and Sarah tells a story that's pretty instructive, and it gets to the idea of failure.
When she was a little kid, she was about 12 years old, she grew up in Tampa. Ultimately, she would end up founding the company in Atlanta, but she grew up in Tampa, and her dad was a lawyer. And at the end of every week, he would sit her and her brother down at the dinner table. Her brother is about a year and a half younger than she is, and he'd look at the two of them and she knew the question was coming, it had been consistently asked.
And he would just look at them and say, all right kids, tell me what you have failed at this week. What an interesting question. And she learned at a young age that if you want to be successful, you have to extend yourself often to the point of failure, so that you know what you're truly capable of, and that you have this discovery of what you are willing to do to become successful.
She ran for class president when she was a kid and she failed. She did not win and she suffered through the humiliation of that, but it taught her all sorts of lessons. So she carries that ethos now into SPANX and she says, and she said it at Fortune Magazine's Most Powerful Women's Summit. She said, when somebody makes a mistake at SPANX, instead of getting upset, I often give them a high five, particularly when they have tried something that moves the company forward.
So imagine what it's like to work with a leader like Sarah. To me it's not unusual that she would have a successful company knowing her disposition and knowing her, and that she has an appetite for some degree of mistake-making, not habitual mistakes, not dunderheaded mistakes, but honest-made mistakes that are in the service of innovation.
It's going to come with the territory. But you're right, a lot of people feel a sense of perfectionism. There's a lot of perfectionists in the workplace and when we fail, we feel so self-conscious about that failure and we really beat ourselves up, often more so than the people around us.
And we have to learn to give ourselves a second chance and to recognize that oftentimes it's through failure that you learn some of the most important lessons of all. And it will absolutely help you lead on to innovation and improvement.
So, it's a necessary part of leadership and it's a necessary part of growth. And if you're a leader, you have to have that tolerance-mindset that Sarah has, recognizing that when somebody, as long as they're not breaking their necks, but you want some degree of people scraping their knees because it's how they learn and you want them extending themselves. So failure, yeah, it's a good topic for leadership.
What really sticks out to me in the story you shared from Sarah is that at an early age she got that validation from a parent, which is so unusual. Those are the first people in our lives that we try to please, our parents. And it extends into the workplace because we want to always hide our failure from these folks and make sure they're only seeing the very best of us.
And so that was such an opposite experience. And I think the vast majority of people have a parent early on saying, great job on failing, what did you learn from it, kind of thing. So it takes a little bit of rewiring, I think, for a lot of us as we step into these roles to learn to embrace failure. But what an example you can set for your team though when you do, right?
Yeah, we're talking about the very popular term right now, it's funny how we go through these popular terms, emotional intelligence, employee engagement, empowerment. Well, the term now, and it's valid and it's important, it's psychological safety. We need to be able to create an environment where people can express themselves and be themselves, particularly if we want to have innovation in the company. And that means we have to have a higher tolerance for mistake making, but we as leaders have to create that environment.
And one of the things is to make sure that...how do you handle mistakes is a good question for any of your leaders to ask themselves. Are you a short fuse? Are you heavy-handed? Are you focused on punishment? Do you take it as a learning opportunity? Do you use it as a coaching opportunity? How is it that you handle mistakes?
Because if you mishandle mistakes with explosive behavior, then you're right, the origin story of that is a puppet from the past. Often it is some heavy-handed parent being an echo in our own bodies. So how you mishandle mistakes will create an unsafe environment for people.
Yet if you handle it in a coaching-like way, in a way that you'd want the mistake to be handled with you, then you are going to create an environment where people can feel safe to be themselves.
And a lot of the discussion today, there's so much about when you become a leader, things you have to shift and put on the back burner, and starting to manage your ego and starting to learn to embrace failure and learn to find success through others and not just yourself.
And so all of these really hard things about leadership, and a lot of folks we have talked to over the years, find that they think that the trappings of leadership, the higher salary, the better office, the respect of things, are going to outweigh all that difficulty, and that's not always the case.
They find themselves unhappy if they don't truly enjoy leading others. So when you talk to leaders, how do you help them find the joy in leadership and the personal satisfaction of...take all the rest of that away. Would this be what I want to do?
Yeah, that's a good question. It's funny you mentioned shifts, because I oftentimes will say that leaders, many leaders newer in their career, feel weighed down by the burden of leadership. And a lot of times it's because they are not getting what they want as an individual.
And until they make what I call the holy shift, and the holy shift is away from my self-focus and what I'm going to get and what I'm not getting and my own annoyances, my own frustration, until we shift that from selfishness, my own self-focus on mine and me, and I shift towards what do they need and how can I help them, that holy shift from selfishness to selflessness, that's where you start, really start, to enjoy leadership.
So I remember asking the owner of a $6 billion company that I work with, and he was in front of a group of about 40 next-generation leaders, and I asked him to comment on something that this room might not fully appreciate about leadership? And he thought for a second, itched his chin and he said, leadership's a burden. It's a heavy burden that he's got 2000 mouths to feed. That's how he looked at it.
He says, I look at the parking lot and I see cars out there and I'm helping make those car payments. I'm helping put kids through college. I feel an obligation to make sure we always have a pipeline of business for this company so that people like that, that I'm helping to fund, that I feel a great deal of responsibility for, and that can be a burden. And that's true particularly in very, very senior positions, or if you're the owner of a company.
At the same time in the same class, I ask the people in the room, imagine it's the last day of your career. What will you want to have said about you and your leadership? What would make it truly fulfilling for you to be able to hear these things about you? And almost to a person, it was about how they had impacted others in a positive way and created legacy, a lasting legacy of other leaders to which they had contributed towards their development.
So I think that the burden of leadership, which is true and real, the responsibilities that it comes with, gets lighter when you shift away from your focus on those heavy burdens and focus on, how can I do right by these people that I am privileged to be able to have the opportunity to influence?
You know that. I know that. I assume this has happened for you, Beth, it's definitely happened for me, that someone at some point in your career took an interest in you where you felt a little bit invisible up until that point. They gave you a shot, they gave you an opportunity, they took you under their wing, they gave you development and it made all the difference, not just in your career but in who you are as a person.
They set you on a trajectory of improvement and you are forever grateful when you think about that person. When you're in a leadership role, you have that kind of potential impact on somebody. And that's a privilege to be able to positively impact a person, a human being, for the duration of their life by your intercession of giving them opportunity, growth, development, mentoring. It's great...
So, sure, does leadership come with responsibility and sometimes a burden? Yes. But think about what a great joy it is to be able to contribute to the betterment of somebody's life.
I love that story of how, that zooming out of when you get out of the everyday of, I've got these million emails to answer, and I've got these metrics we've got to hit. What have I really accomplished here as a leader? And that impact on other people, that can be what makes it all worth it at the end of your career, because regardless of how much money you made or all of the things along the way, that's one of the joys about taking that away from how you have spent your time at work.
And it brings me to the last question I have that I ask all of our guests on this show. Can you share a moment with me about leadership that changed your life, whether it was for good and you said, that's why I want to do this, or it was a moment of poor leadership where you said, I'm going to never do that and here's what I'm going to do instead.
Well, Beth, I'm really glad you asked that question. What comes to mind for me is that I went through graduate school, I looked at a lot of theories on leadership, did a lot of reading on leadership. I was very interested in the topic, and I even had, at one point in time, two different teachers, each one giving me a paper to do every week for 13 weeks so I had 26 papers that I had to write. And I came out with really high expectations of what it means to be a leader, and nobody lived into those expectations. And so that made me disgruntled, it made me jaded.
And then I started working for a Gentlemen named Heinz Brandon, Heinz like the ketchup, and he was a managing partner at Accenture, and he plucked me from my middle management role and now I got to work with him basically in a role which was essentially like a chief of staff. So I got to interact with a lot of people more senior to me, and now I was at the table.
And suddenly this middle manager guy was now at the table with his other senior executives. And in the rooms oftentimes, by the way, initially just taking notes. I was the fetch in the room, note-taking the summarization of the meeting. But I got to hear about what was on the executive mind. And eventually he came to trust me and I certainly came to trust him, and he moved me into this executive coaching role. And he remains a mentor to me today, 25 years after having worked with him. And today, if I come into a challenging situation, I'll absolutely call him.
And one of the greatest moments in my career was last year in December, watching Mississippi State University honor him on stage while they gave him a doctorate degree for the contributions that he has made to his university. He's the chairman of the Mississippi State University Foundation now, but I was the only non-family member there. It was his family and me. And here was my mentor being honored that way.
Without him, I wouldn't be on this podcast with you today. I wouldn't have written any of the six books that I have written if it wasn't for the actual true real life example of Heinz Brandon and getting to work with that guy. And I've worked with thousands of leaders since, maybe not all of them in the same level of depth, but he remains the best leader I ever worked for. I'm so fortunate to have worked for him. So thanks for asking that question.
And I'm sure that story, that he had an impact on developing you, changing your career, is really what this is all about. And in finding that joy in leadership, and the place of learning to lead yourself and find this, how you can create a life out of leadership that really matters for others and build that beautiful career.
Bill, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. You shared so much wisdom with our listeners and I think a lot of folks got a lot out of it. So thank you for joining us.
Oh, it was a tremendous experience, Beth. I had a terrific time chatting about an important topic like this, and thanks for inviting me to be part of it.
And thank you to our listeners who took part of their 480 minutes today to be with us and remember to make every moment of leadership count.
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