Effective Leadership In Today’s Business Environment
Featuring: Amy Riley
Welcome to the HIVE. I’m your host, Larry Durham. In this episode of the hive, we’re tackling a topic that many of you requested and that is the topic of leadership and more specifically the challenge of being an effective leader in a fast-paced ever-changing business environment. Today we’re excited to have as our guest, Amy Riley. Amy is a recognized expert author and international speaker on leadership, so Amy, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Larry. I appreciate the thought leadership that you provide to the community through this podcast. Glad to be here.
Struggling With Leadership
Great. Well, like I said, I know our listeners are excited to hear from you, hear your insights. As I was preparing for this podcast with you, and I know you’ve got some things coming up that we’ll talk about here in this podcast. The one question that came to my mind first was why do you think that leadership is always high on the list as it relates to topics that people struggle with or want to discuss?
Hmm, that’s a good question. I think there are a few reasons and they’re pretty big ones. First leadership is this term that we have that encompasses so many activities like inspiring others, engaging people, setting expectations, coaching, creating strategies, plans and more so it’s an all-encompassing term and next leadership involves people. People make things nuanced and complex and interesting. And then finally I’d say, I think it’s because when leadership is done right and people are really rallied around important work, truly amazing results can be achieved.
Yeah, you hit on a couple things there. I think the fact that one, everyone has impacted or utilize effective leadership to be more productive and like you said, I think the reason it’s so complicated, there’s many aspects to that.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
One thing, I know you’ve got a book that’s coming out relatively soon entitled the courage of a leader, how to inspire, engage, and get extraordinary results. What inspired you to write that book?
Ah, yeah. I found as I’ve been working with leaders over the years, I’m inspired by those every day courageous actions of leaders. I’ve gotten to witness this in the work that I do. Leaders who try again and again to find a meaningful way to connect with an employee who’s been disengaged or ignored for too long or leaders who do their due diligence to deliver tough messages, compassionately, leaders who are doing everything they can to protect their teams, go to bat for their team members, leaders who disrupt absolutely everything they’ve worked so hard to create in order to transform and make sure that they stay competitive and meet future customer needs. And I could go on and on. I want to tell their stories. In fact, I’d like to tell you one of the stories right now, this is probably the story Larry, where the idea of writing this book took hold and wouldn’t let go of me and I clearly thought people need to hear this story.
I worked with a production supervisor several years ago and when I first met him he was extremely frustrated with one operator in his group. He told me he had tried everything to get this guy to change, told them the new expectations, ask the operator what he wanted, put him in charge of the area and so on. He kept going round and round and trying new things, and yet the operator continually reverted to his difficult ways and the production supervisor felt like he’d exhausted everything possible here. And I asked him, what do you think about this operator? Honestly? And the response was immediate. No, he’s old and stuck in his way. He’s resentful that I’m younger than him and he’s playing me. And I nodded. I got it. I totally understood why he thought that. And I looked him in the eye and I said, here’s the thing.
You’ve tried everything. Everything except changing YOUR outlook. And there was silence for a bit. He knew what I meant and I saw him taking it in. He was going to have to do some more work. So I want to digress from the story for a moment to make a point. There’s a well-known quote from Peter Drucker that says, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Many of you will know this one, and I don’t think this could be more true, and I believe similarly that belief eats behavior for breakfast. Having the appropriate beliefs or outlook is way more important than perfectly executing the seemingly appropriate behaviors and this operator could perceive this production supervisors beliefs about him.
So the production supervisor who believed he tried everything, he went back and he did some more work. You looked for new evidence, realizations, anything that could shift his outlook. We had a coaching call and he said he was ready. He said he was feeling a little bit differently about the operator and I told them not yet, go do some more searching. I didn’t feel he had made that genuine shift, so he reflected more and later he told me he apologized to that operator for not acknowledging the full value of his experience and the supervisor had plans to back up redesign the changes with the operator’s input, have the operator decide the implementation steps in the pace and the operator stopped him and said, while he appreciated all of that, all he really wanted was that acknowledgment and to tweak one piece of what had been previously introduced. This tweak made all the difference in his mind and it did. The process change was implemented in half of the planned execution time, which the production supervisor said was an aggressive timeline, to begin with. So heartfelt apology enabled that. And so I’m writing this book because I want to share stories like that one and share the messages about leadership being about so much more than charisma and doing all the right moves publicly that it’s instead about trusting and transforming our own cells so that we can transform out there.
Yeah, that’s, that’s a great story. I think many of our listeners will, it will resonate with them. It almost takes me back a number of years to some of Daniel Goldman’s work in terms of the two main competencies that leaders require. One being self-awareness, what you do well, what you don’t do well, which is amazing. You know, as a leader sometimes you, you just don’t appreciate what you do and don’t do well. And the other being empathy, a large part of what you were just talking about there, which is appreciating and understanding what those that you lead are going through and being empathetic to their circumstances, their situation, their capabilities, all those types of things. And so while those don’t solve all of those, I think that story really highlights the need to one, understand what you do well, but you know that area of empathy and really may be putting yourself in a different position because it sometimes changes your mindset and your thinking about how you address and interact with leaders, but also with those that you lead.
What are the Changes in Leadership?
One thing I wanted to follow up on, I understand you’ve been focusing on developing courageous and effective leaders for a long time, over two decades now. I’m sure you’ve seen changes in what’s required of leaders in today’s world. You know, 20 years ago we didn’t have many of the things we have now in terms of social media and the cultural dynamic. There’s just a number of different things. But from your perspective, what’s changed and what’s needed in leadership today given some of the changes that we’ve seen?
Yeah. So many changes. It’s almost what, what hasn’t changed? I think about when I started my business as external leadership development consultant, coach and speaker about 18 years ago now if you just consider the role of a consultant and how the marketplace has changed its view on consulting. When I first started out, many thought consulting was only something that fortune 100 companies would have enough money to invest in, and now it’s often seen as the most cost-effective approach to work because you can bring those in with specialized skills or short periods of time to do exactly the work they’re most skilled to do. So yeah, we’re in the gig economy. We see people coming together all the time for definitive periods of time to work on specific initiatives, decentralization, matrix organizations, the influence of social media and platforms. Like you said, it just all leads to an increased rate of change.
So what does that mean for leadership? The important part of your question? Well, I think first fear-based leadership that might’ve worked in pockets in the past is no longer going to work. Leaders need the ideas, the commitment, the passion, the attention of team members on those with the title of leader can’t be the only ones leading. Leaders need to create leadership everywhere in order to be flexible and responsive in this dynamic environment. I think a key thing leaders need to build trust fast. You can’t spend six weeks getting to know each other and trust each other when you’re coming together for a six-week project. Right, right. So how do you extend that trust right away? Leaders need to share information, say what they know and don’t know, times be vulnerable and immediately extend that trust so that they can get it in return.
Yeah, I think that’s an excellent point. In some ways, as you were talking, I was thinking, you know, part of being a, a good leader in a dynamic environment may just be to be more dynamic, shorter cycles, quicker empathy, you know, building trust quickly. Everything is accelerated and it’ll be interesting to see how leadership continues to evolve. At its core, it’s still the same things, but it’s the environment and the speed at which it happens are likely to change very quickly.
Discoveries From The Interview Process
One thing that I really like, I know your book hasn’t come out, but you and I’ve talked about it on a few occasions and one thing I like about this type of book, I know you’ve been interviewing CEOs and executive-level leaders for the book and it’s always very insightful when you bring a wealth of experience and stories and things like that from various leaders, but I’m curious, what are the most important discoveries so far from your interview process? Having the opportunity to meet with so many great leaders. What have you found?
Yeah, it’s been a really enjoyable and insightful process. I think I would share three findings from the executive level leaders. First is the importance of authenticity. Next, having a leadership legacy. Describe what I mean by that, and third examples of engaging others through vulnerability. So first, authenticity with every executive I’ve interviewed, a clear leadership style has come through. I’ve actually gotten to writing in the upper right-hand corner of each interviewee sheet leader as coach, fostering innovation, people developer, thought leader. That was yours, Larry. Leveraging technology, creating community. Yeah, without exception, there was a leadership style and theme that shined through. Some folks even said to me things like, for better or worse, you know, I’ve learned this is who I am. No sense fighting that I have the most impact when I focus on this and surround myself with people who can handle the rest.
The next finding. Yeah, I’d say it’s having a leadership legacy, a leadership legacy being an aspiration about how you want to be known or about what you want to create. A leadership legacy is something you’ve been start living into right away. It could be an initiative, a set of products, improved processes. It might also be a leadership trait for which you want to be known and foster in your organization. One of my, keynotes, is entitled to the courage of a leader, the power of a leadership legacy. And I encourage every leader in the room when I give this talk to declare a leadership legacy and I let them know the superpowers they’ll get as a result. I’ll tell you one of the superpowers is you are bold and create the extraordinary because when you commit to a legacy, something that’s bigger than yourself, you act bigger than any normal human considerations that come up.
You set your doubts and sometimes your ego aside and go for it because you’re committed to something that’s more important. And I’ve been absolutely delighted to hear from those that I’ve interviewed for the book, that they have leadership legacies, I might not have called it that. Yet, they’ve had a clear purpose or going to make the most of their seat at the table. I heard that a few times. Or they had an overarching commitment that really guided their work. So that’s been exciting to see. And then I said engage others through vulnerability. Every interviewee has had an example of doing so. Every single one, I’ve checked. There’s a lot out there about the importance of being vulnerable right now. and I’m on board. I also think it’s important to know it’s not vulnerability for vulnerability’s sake. It’s vulnerability to engage people connect, which is so important in this age of lots of information and lots of choices, right? Each interviewee had an example of sharing of themselves or making connections, being willing to try other’s ideas, admitting what they didn’t know, asking for input and help in some way that they engaged others through vulnerability. So I thought that was interesting.
Yup. Yeah, like some of the things you’ve got so many good topics and thoughts in this book. I think a couple of things that you said that struck me, the one about a legacy is really one about being deliberate about how you want your leadership to look both now and in the future and very few people really give much time to thinking about what that looks like. I think the vulnerability piece is becoming more important, and I think you touched on it in my experience, it’s not just putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to be vulnerable in all ways. I think it goes back to that self-awareness aspect that especially as fast as things are changing, which we talked about earlier, the ability to recognize your own strengths, your own gaps. And the fact is, I find it more and more younger workers, especially in a tech or a digital economy, just by the way they’ve been brought up are more tech-savvy at times. And that doesn’t mean that they know everything better. It just means that they have some insights that you may not have. And I think to be, you know, if you think about the vulnerability aspect, it may be open to using the strengths and weaknesses of others. And I think just bringing together those ideas of your own self-awareness and that others may have great ideas and how you bring them into the fold is really, really helpful on that front.
The 4 Pillars of Leadership
Now you shared with me, Amy, that there are four pillars of courageous leadership that are going to be covered in the courage of a leader book with our listeners, maybe give us a little taste of what that is. Can you share with us the four pillars and what makes them so important for leaders?
Yes. Happy to. The first pillar is the courage to be authentically you, so I’ve already shared how all the executives I’ve interviewed for the book have demonstrated and talked about their authentic leadership. You’re stronger when you lean into your natural strengths and interests. You come across as genuine and by not trying to be all things to all people, you create trust. People believe you when you say, this is what I’m about, and not these 4 million other things. The second pillar in the courage of leader book is the courage to say what needs to be said. When I share this one with live audiences, I get a lot of nodding. I can see the immediate agreement. I think everyone can think of a time when a leader should have said and done the seemingly risky thing or they should have done it sooner. I think that’s why this pillar is important.
We want our leaders stepping in and taking on the important stuff. Right? Whether it’s taking risks or moving swiftly or doing right by people, not letting things fester, you know, not letting the opportunities pass us by. The third pillar is the courage to trust the legacy, and this is referring to your leadership legacy. Each leader’s legacy. It’s inspiring when you’re committed to something that’s bigger than yourself, and others see that and they want to get involved. And when you ask yourself, what does the legacy want? What does the legacy need from me and others? Right now? You’ve got to step through fear, trust yourself, and trust those around you. And then the final pillar is the courage to be bold and create the extraordinary. So the stepping out of the busy-ness, stepping out of the cynicism, it’s easy to get bogged down and doing what’s in front of us to do or in thinking that circumstances are too far gone.
Right? When that we can’t make a difference. So this pillar is really about going for it and getting the really important work done. And I want to let you know that if you go to the courage of a leader homepage, courageofaleader.com scroll down just a little, you’ll see a summary of the four pillars of courageous leadership and a download now, button? Obviously, if you click there, you’ll receive a summary with more information about each pillar including practical techniques and real-life stories.
Awesome. And for our listeners, we’ll make sure and put that link in the notes page so you can just go down to the notes, click and it’ll take you straight to Amy’s page there.
The one thing that makes me, as I listened to those four, all really important elements and pillars that you articulated them as you were talking about what needs to be said. I was shaking my head here as well because I, you know, it’s one of those things that people want to believe in their leader and they want to have faith in their leader. And the fact is sometimes as a leader it’s saying the things that are difficult when you know, it may be articulating when a mistake has been made, sometimes there’s nothing more endearing about a leader than when they’re willing to admit fault on something. And so I think saying what needs to be said for the organization individually because you’re right, over time that begins to fester and it can really have a negative impact on their leader and their leadership capabilities. If they don’t address difficult issues, people feel like they may just sweep that under the rug. I think that’s great insight. Well, every time I have a guest on, I ask a one what I call a summary question and it’s never easy. So I just give that caveat before I ask it. But what’s the most important piece of advice that you would give and given that your expertise and your history with leadership, what’s the piece of advice that you would give to all leaders given what you’ve found through your interviews so far?
Ah, yeah, that’s a good question. I would come back to the leadership legacy. Declare your leadership legacy right now, not waiting to figure it out. Some of you will know it right away. Some of you have already known your leadership legacy for a long time. Others might need to determine or fine-tune your leadership legacy. If you look to the times in your life where you one, know you’re providing value and two are enjoying yourself and feeling energized, that’s the arena in which your leadership legacy resides. And I say this for all leaders, even emerging leaders, when you use a term like leadership legacy, it can be easy to think about. You know, that’s something that you get to in the last chapter of your career. Yet, I would encourage everyone to go ahead and declare their leadership legacy right away. Emerging newer leaders might not get it exactly right the first time and I think that’s fine. Well, you’ll figure out that much more quickly by declaring it and fully stepping into it, what it is and what it isn’t and you can tweak and reinvent from there and you’ll be in the game of making a bigger impact right away.
All right, well, Amy, you’ve provided us with some great insights. If our listeners want to get in contact with you regarding the upcoming book too, inquire about you being a keynote or other questions on the topic of leadership, what’s the best way for them to contact you?
Oh great. I will gladly notify anyone who wants to know when the book is available. Again, visit the courage of a leader website, courageofaleader.com and check out the products page at the top. There’s a click here button to be notified when the courage of a leader book is available and I’ll give an offer to the hive listeners. If you put the word courage in the subject line, then when you do purchase a book, when it’s published, I’ll make sure you get a signed copy of the book.
Awesome. That’s fantastic. I know our listeners will greatly appreciate that. We will work with our team here to put all that information in the notes on the podcast so anyone listening, if you didn’t catch that, just make sure and check the notes and we’ll let you know exactly how to sign up for a copy or be notified when it’s released and also taking me up on her offer of getting a signed copy. Well, great. Thank you, Amy. Again, we really appreciate your insights, your influence and your point of view on leadership. I know it will be useful to all of our leaders, so thank you again for being on the podcast.
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
All right. As always, if our listeners, if you have any questions, if you have recommendations for what you’d like to see on future podcasts, please feel free to send us an email. You can find that in the podcast notes as well. That will do it for this episode of The HIVE. So until next time.
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