EP23 – Five Indicators of Exceptional Leadership – Part 2

You are a good leader: Yes or No? This is the second of a two-part conversation, about five characteristics of exceptional leaders.

Podcast Transcript

Joshua MacLeod:
I love the quote, the Maxwell quote, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can,” leaders aren’t complaining about, what they don’t have, or letting what they don’t have define their actions.

Podcast Announcer:
Welcome to the Growability podcast, teaching business and nonprofit leaders. A more excellent way to run a business. Visit growability.com for your leadership, coaching consultation and business collaboration needs. Are you comfortable in your own shoes? This is the second of a two-part conversation, about five characteristics of exceptional leaders. Here are your hosts, Joshua MacLeod, and Bernie Anderson.

Bernie Anderson:
So comfortable with your own shoes, comfortable with your style. So those are the first two. What’s the next one?

Joshua MacLeod:
Okay. The third S is comfortable with your screw-ups. Yes, probably the most important one ever. When I was in my litigation services career, I spent the first year knocking on doors, trying to go through “the front door.” I could not get an attorney that was on “the small end” of legal services to even return my call…. the paralegals wouldn’t call me back. And after a year of frustration, I was just like, this is the hardest industry in the world. I’m never going to do anything legal, but I had that mover and shaker in me that was like, okay, I’m going to just, I’m not going to give up. So I was doing a deposition, videotaping a deposition and I met an attorney and I said, Hey, you guys really need to check out the legal tech services that we offer. And so he was like, oh yeah, that sounds good. We have these weekly lunches. You seem like a smart guy. Why don’t you come out? So I got a presentation set up. It was the back door. I was at the deposition. I would have never been able to get this attorney on the phone. So he was at an uppity up partner at one of the biggest law firms in town. So I got set up, I got my projector, I got my screen. I put my PowerPoint together. So I’m going to give a presentation to a group of attorneys. And I decided that I’m going to lead off with an attorney joke. So I go up the escalator, I get to the top of the escalator and I opened the room into the conference room that I’m going to give this presentation in. And there’s a table in this room. That’s like bigger than my house. And like, we’re on the top floor of one of these skyscrapers downtown. There’s a table with like a hundred chairs around it. I set up the screen and the projector and my screen at the end and all these attorneys start coming in. It’s time to start. And I give my attorney joke… And not a single person in like a hundred attorneys sitting this room even smiled or snickered or anything. They all looked at me like you are the most pathetic human in the entire world. We are the big dog. You were an idiot. What are you doing? How did this guy get past the guard to come and give the presentation? And literally I struggled through that presentation and I left and I was just like, I quit with litigation service. I’m not going to do this. But here’s the thing. The attorney that invited me, he wasn’t there that day. He had to go out of town. So he wasn’t at my horrible presentation. And he called me and he said, Hey, will you help me with this case? I’m going to work on. Right. So I was like, yeah, absolutely. And I went over and I helped him learn a technology. He went out with this case, ane he won a $60 million lawsuit, which was the largest verdict against the state in this individual case. And then he told everybody about how amazing this tech was and how the support was great from this $60 million case that we won. But here’s the thing I’ve really screwed up. Like, I didn’t understand my audience. I wasn’t prepared. I went into this thing, guns ablazing, when I should have gone in as like, I know you all are 50 times smarter than me. If I would have let that just haunt me and mess me up, it would have just really shut me down. I think leaders and I don’t want to call myself a great leader or anything like that. But I have seen this, like the thing that leaders do that non leaders don’t do is when they mess up, they move on. It’s like, okay. Yeah, I messed up. So everybody’s going to mess up. Like everybody in their whole life is going to do something really stupid for me. I did it at one of the largest law firms in town, in front of a hundred of the smartest people in town. Okay. So what, the next year I had the cover of the Nashville bar journal. I’m on the front of the cover with like “Considering Courtroom Technology,” because I didn’t let that thing shut me down. Being able to be comfortable with your own screw-ups is fundamentally important in business. It’s also fundamentally important. Screw-ups. Most of the time in business and entrepreneurial-ism are just accelerated education. Your first business fails because you really didn’t know what you were doing. Guess what? You got a better degree than Harvard. That’s awesome. You’re ready to go. You can do some more stuff. So you’re comfortable in your own shoes. You’re comfortable with your own leadership style and then you’re comfortable screwing up. That’s what makes a good leader.

Bernie Anderson:
I tend to respect leaders who not only are comfortable with their screw-ups and seeing them as learning experiences, you know, and we did this. We’ll move on, but those who own them as well, like, Hey, yeah, I did this. Like this was a mistake guys. You know, I think none of us really expect our leaders to be a hundred percent perfect. 100% of the time, right? Yeah. None of us do. But when a leader expects of herself, Hey, I’m going to be a hundred percent perfect. A hundred percent of the time. That’s just not realistic. That’s not going to happen. So for ourselves, we as leaders, we need to make sure that we’re, Hey, I’m going to be wrong sometimes. And when you are wrong, own it, learn from it and move on.

Joshua MacLeod:
My screw-ups are not what defines me, how I respond to my screw-ups are what define me. So when I look at leaders who basically are unwilling to say they screwed up, they’re not really safe. You know, that’s not really like, … what’s going to happen is at some point in time, they’re going to point the finger at me and say it was my fault instead of their fault. Right? So I’m going to take the fall for something. They screwed up leaders who take their own fall. They’re so safe.

Bernie Anderson:
Shoes, style, screw-ups. Number four.

Joshua MacLeod:
Number four is being comfortable with your own story. We wish we had somebody else’s story. I wish I went to this school. I wish I grew up in this family. I wish that I was able to have this platform. I wish that I was able to do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Your story is your story. Your story is what is fundamentally necessary to bring the unique offering that you bring to the world. So what’s your story? Well, there’s four things that I think we should really consider when we think about our own story. The first is what have we learned? The second is what have we experienced? The third is what if we overcome? And then the fourth is who have we known? You have learned something in your life that is so helpful for somebody else. What you’ve learned you can use to help other people.

Joshua MacLeod:
So many times we ask the question, like, why did this horrible thing happen to me? Well, those horrible things that happened to us are simply platforms that we can help all of the people who have gone through that horrible thing. On the positive side, I can ask what wonder joy or life experience can I share that is inspiring to somebody else. Let me tell you when I was at the U2 concert and I got on stage and blah, blah, blah, let me tell you about going to Hawaii and seeing this, you know, this flower or the, you know, there’s all of this wonder and experience that people need. Like, we need to have inspiration. We need to have people that kind of enlighten us and pull us up. So we all have unique experiences. Leaders are people who are comfortable with their own story. You know what? I grew up in a gutter, I grew up poor. I grew up whatever. They’re comfortable with that story. And they’re able to share with other people the impacts that have happened in their life.

Bernie Anderson:
Joshua, when you interview leaders and ask them these questions, what kind of responses do you get from leaders that maybe have never been asked questions like that before? And have never actually seen that, Hey, I have a platform and I have influence, and I’ve not seen this, but when you’ve done these interviews, what has been some of the responses to you asking these kinds of questions?

Joshua MacLeod:
Tears. Typically we carry with us our history. There’s limiting beliefs that happen in our life because of things in our history that we haven’t dealt with. So I was told all of my life, like, you’re not good enough. You can’t do this. So then I have this limiting belief. I’m not good enough and I can’t do this. Or well, but there was that time when I was told I couldn’t do this…. and then I overcame that. So then you start having this belief, this empowering belief. That’s like, Hey, no, I can do that. I can overcome something. Like I look at our history is like pulling back the arrow, whether it’s good or bad or whatever it’s pulled back. And now there’s so much opportunity to shoot forward into the future as leaders draw out other people’s stories and find something beautiful and intentional about what has happened in their life to help them move forward into the future.

Joshua MacLeod:
The shallowness of our culture is so pervasive. We look at glamour and success that are just fake. And then we think that if we don’t have glamor and success, we don’t have value. And that’s just so wrong. The hustle culture is just such a bunch of crap. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t try to edge people out and just knock them down on your way to the top. What I want to know is what have you learned? What have you experienced? What have you overcome? What have you known? And I want to know that so that you can discover what’s the best way to use your skill, who needs the inspiration? Who can you help? How can you share a positive message leaders? Do that leaders draw that out of people. And then they’re comfortable with their own story.

Bernie Anderson:
We have one more. We have one more “S”. What is that one?

Joshua MacLeod:
The fifth and final S for this episode, comfortable with your status. Like, I love the quote, the Maxwell quote, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Yeah. Leaders, aren’t complaining about what they don’t have or letting what they don’t have define their actions. Right? What you have is good enough to get you, where you need to go? Like I remember meeting a leader that inspired me so incredibly. It was a musician in Malawi. I’m at this orphanage. There’s no electricity, there’s no money. Everybody only makes like $200 a year. And it’s like, you know, this kid doesn’t make anything a year eats once a day. And he’s at an orphanage with no electricity, but somehow he had a gas can and a block of wood that he had figured out how to turn into like a ukulele like thing. And the thing could play chords. So he was playing chords on a gas can and a block of wood. And I was so inspired that I sent him my best guitar. So now the kid has a $700 Alvarez because he was using what he had is doing what he could. Opportunities don’t arrive once you’ve arrived opportunities arrive when you’re making the best use out of where you are. Be comfortable where you are. Don’t try to be precocious, just be who you are. Let the thing go. You know, I think great leaders really do that. They start where they are. They use what they have. They do what they can.

Bernie Anderson:
Yeah, that’s so good. Super, super good. So if anyone wants any help with any of this stuff, we would just love to have a conversation with you about what it might look like to do some of these coaching pieces in your, in your life or in the life of your business or your organization.

Joshua MacLeod:
We are so incredibly privileged to work with so many incredible leaders at Growability. We get to hang out with incredible leaders every day, right? It’s easy to think about what makes a great leader because we get to hang out with great leaders all the time. So if you’re a leader that doesn’t feel connected to other leaders, join a Growability collaborative, and then you’ll get the hang out with some other amazing leaders. Probably I don’t know for you, Bernie is probably one of the best things in my life is running a collaborative with a group of leaders who start empowering serving teaching each other… Super killer. And I guess you have one of those coming up soon on zoom,

Bernie Anderson:
Two different Zoom ones that I’m going to be saying, if you don’t live in Nashville, and if you don’t live in Greenville, South Carolina, you could join a Growability, collaborative online, over zoom, and you will meet leaders from literally all over the world who will be a part of these collaboratives. It’ll be so much fun. So yeah, I would love to hear from anyone who is interested in doing that.

Podcast Announcer:
Thank you for listening to the growability podcast. The mission of growability is to equip leaders to flourish in their life and work by developing vision, rhythm, and community. To discover if there is a more excellent way to run your business, visit growability.com and speak with a certified growability coach. Bernie and Joshua are also available for speaking engagements, workshops and conferences. Subscribing to this podcast helps Growability, equip leaders throughout the world, and we appreciate your support.