Hubris, according to author and leadership coach Bill Treasurer, is the single most lethal leadership killer. But how do we as leaders find a balance between building confidence in ourselves and staying humble? A ‘boomeranger’ on the podcast, Bill returns to the TalentGrow Show to share his advice on cultivating humility and deflating hubris as a leader. How can we create an atmosphere in the workplace where our team is comfortable sharing honest feedback with us? What are some hubristic behaviors we should watch out for? (Even Steve Jobs exhibited some of these!) Tune in to find out and get Bill’s advice for becoming a leader people want to follow. Listen and don’t forget to share this episode with others in your network!
ABOUT BILL TREASURER:
Bill Treasurer is the founder and Chief Encouragement Officer (CEO) of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company, and the author of five books. His courage-building programs have been taught in eleven countries on four continents. Bill designs, develops, and delivers comprehensive leadership development programs for emerging and seasoned leaders, and he has personally facilitated over 1000 leadership workshops for organizations such as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, eBay, Lenovo, UBS Bank, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and many others. Prior to founding Giant Leap, Bill was an executive in the Change Management and Human Performance practice at Accenture, a renowned management consulting company, where he became the company’s first full-time internal executive coach.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
Why does Bill say that hubris is the single most lethal leadership killer? He starts by defining the highest leadership ideal (6:22)
Bill draws a lesson about leadership from the first story EVER written, predating even the Bible (8:02)
Halelly and Bill discuss what the words selfishness and hubris really mean (9:10)
“Leaders need followers more than followers need leaders” (10:19)
What Bill wants readers of his book to learn about themselves (11:00)
How do you know if you’re a good leader? Bill offers a number of things that leaders should do (11:32)
Something Bill learned from John Ryan, president and CEO of the Center for Creative Leadership (12:42)
Halelly shares a story about a woman she helped in one of her workshops who struggled with the idea of humility in leadership (14:30)
How can you balance cultivating humility with building credibility and respect? (15:22)
Bill delves into the real meaning of the word humility, touching on its etymology (16:37)
Should you focus on compensation or on destination? (17:25)
Hubristic behaviors to watch out for. (One of them is a simple term you can remove from your vocabulary!) (18:05)
Bill shares leadership advice from former President Obama (20:25)
How can leaders create an atmosphere where their team feels comfortable sharing feedback? (21:02)
Everyone needs to have a Chief Ego Deflator! (22:52)
Bill and Halelly discuss examples of hubristic leadership behavior (26:01)
What’s new and exciting on Bill’s horizon? (28:18)
One specific action you can take to upgrade your leadership effectiveness and avoid the dangerous trap of hubris. (For this, Bill pulls from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography!) (29:21)
Episode 118 Bill Treasurer
TEASER CLIP: Bill: The easiest way to think of hubris is dangerous overconfidence. We want leaders to be confident. In fact, when a leader loses the confidences of the followers, that’s bad for them, because you need followers to get things done. Leaders need followers more than followers need leaders. But hubris is where it’s dangerous overconfidence, where I slip from me being confident in the direction, in the mission and how I’m leading this group of people to now being where I’m sure that I have all the answers.
[MUSIC] Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.
Halelly: Welcome back TalentGrowers. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow and this is another episode of the TalentGrow Show where I develop leaders that people actually want to follow and help you grow your own leadership skills. This episode lets me bring you back a guest from the past, Bill Treasurer, with whom I speak about how to have the kind of leadership that people want to follow by not being a hubris-driven leader but also a humble leader. We talk about his latest book, The Leadership Killer, and he shares some great insights about how to reclaim humility in the age of arrogance. We talk about what hubris is, why he says this is the most lethal leadership killer and all kinds of hubristic behaviors that you might be doing and probably unintentionally so that you can be more aware of them and stop them. He shares a couple of examples, and we talk about how to be the kind of leader that doesn’t fall into some of those traps where you’re focused a lot on being right and looking right and looking good, and not so focused on doing the right thing. I don’t think this is you, but every single leader has the potential to fall into this trap. We talk about the difference between emerging leaders, very young leaders, and also very seasoned leaders. Each of us has possible traps to fall into and so we have to develop our awareness and be proactive. I hope you enjoy this episode. Let me know what you thought afterwards. Here we go.
All right TalentGrowers, Bill Treasurer is on with me. He is the founder and Chief Encouragement Officer/CEO of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company and the author of five books. His courage building programs have been taught in 11 countries on four continents. Bill designs, develops and delivers comprehensive leadership development programs for emerging and seasoned leaders, and he has personally facilitated over 1,000 leadership workshops for organizations like NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, eBay, Lenovo, UBS Bank, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, and many others. You might also recall that he is another boomeranger, a return guest to the show. Bill was on episode 33, where we talked about courageous leadership, but today we’re going to talk about his newest book called The Leadership Killer. Bill, welcome to the show.
Bill: Halelly, it’s so great to be back with you.
Halelly: I’m really happy that you’re here. I don’t want to assume that people remember something that happened probably a good three years ago, so even if they listened to episode 33, I always ask my guests to give us their professional journey in a short bite form. Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?
Bill: It may be easiest for me to go back, because I don’t want to shock your listeners too much, but I’ve had my business, Giant Leap Consulting, for 17 years now. We’re a courage building company. We help people and organizations be more courageous. Before this, I was with a company called Accenture. I was their first full-time internal executive coach. There were two boutique consulting companies I worked with before that. Graduate school before that, and then part that would shock your readers is, I used to show up to work every single day for seven years dressed in a speedo. I am a former member of the U.S. high diving team, and I would dive from 100-foot platforms into small pools that were 10-feet deep, traveling at speeds in excess of 50 miles an hour, protected only by a speedo and that was the start of my leadership career, because I did a really bad job of leading people. I got called on it by one of my divers when I was a young captain of the team and I was embarrassed. I started reading books on leadership and got interested in the topic and decided to go to graduate school, did my thesis on leadership, and that sort of set me down my path, that courageous feedback that one of the divers gave me about how lousy a leader I was.
Halelly: So you’re the first guest who has ever given me his journey backward, so that’s a number one, thank you. And, of course, also the first guest who has ever spoken about wearing a speedo, so you’re getting into the book of records of the TalentGrow Show in a couple of different ways! Very good. Now, of course too bad it’s just an audio podcast, because I’m sure the visual would be very striking and lovely.
Bill: Oh yes, because I’m wearing it now, the golden speedo.
Halelly: You wear it in all of your radio interviews! Well, congratulations on all of your success, of course, and congratulations on publishing your fifth book. It’s called The Leadership Killer, reclaiming humility in an age of arrogance, which is your first co-authored book. You co-authored it with Captain John Havlik, who is a retired Navy Seal. By the way, the book that came between this and that one had an award that might get bleeped out. I might get in trouble on iTunes if I say it, but it was called A Leadership Kick in the Ass. So you’ve been really thinking about both courage and humility, it sounds like, your whole leadership career. You say that hubris is the single most lethal leadership killer. Hubris damages – I’m quoting from your book – hubris damages both the leader and those being led, and is the prime instigator of other subversive leadership behaviors that stunt progress. Please, tell us more about this.
Bill: I think it first helps to think, “What’s the leadership ideal? What’s the leadership we most aspire to that is sort of at the furthest end of positive evolution for leadership? That’s what we would call transformational leadership. If you think about Mahatma Gandhi, for example, how they reclaimed the independence for India through non-violent protest, or Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement. When a leader calls forth the best of a group of people, and elevates our performance and elevates us as individuals in the process, to me, that’s the highest leader ideal. If that’s the starting point, if you rewind and look at the long path of leadership over time, a lot of writers – including myself – we’re always sort of telling people how to become a leader and we put leadership up on a pedestal. But the fact is, just as there have been Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the worst tragedies in that humanity has ever known, that included genocide, have included bad leadership and misleading others. Leadership in the wrong hands can be massively damaging. I think while it’s great to study good leaders, and we can learn a lot from that, we also have to be really mindful about the potential that any leader has to misuse their leadership and misuse their leadership power.
One of the things that I write about in the book, as you know, I talk about the first story every written. It’s the first written word story that we ever find, and it’s the Epic of Gilgamesh. Comes before the Bible. It’s like 5,000 years old and they find this written word, this full story, and the first story is about the misuse of leadership. They give us this idea of primae noctis, which means that it’s the Lord’s right for the King to sleep with the community’s virgins, because he’s the King. So like right from the very first, the birth of leadership, we have the misuse of leadership, and hubris is when I am using my leadership not to better the lives and conditions of those being led, which is transformational leadership, but where I now start using or misusing my power to acquire more things for myself. So it’s about leadership selfishness, narcissism, versus leadership service which is servant leadership. So hubris, we find, tracks over time. It’s the through line for bad leadership.
Halelly: Gotcha. I’m glad that you’re clarifying what you mean by hubris, and you mentioned a word that actually has come up on my show. If we had a lot of time we could probably argue about the meaning of the word selfishness, but I definitely agree that in the commonly used way that people talk about selfishness, especially this kind where you’re really only looking out for yourself and you don’t care about the people that you lead, then it’s very destructive. We’ve talked about there’s an enlightened type of selfishness where you take care of others but not at your own expense. You don’t sacrifice yourself for others, but you think about how actually taking care of others who you lead is in your own self interest, too, and therefore you’re not being selfless when you’re leading. But the hubris, as you described it, that is a leader that is really only focused on themselves.
Bill: What’s interesting is the original lexicon of this word, hubris. The most common understanding, the easiest way to think of hubris, is dangerous overconfidence. We want leaders to be confident. In fact, when a leader loses the confidences of the followers, that’s bad for them, because you need followers to get things done. Leaders need followers more than followers need leaders. But hubris is where it’s dangerous overconfidence, where I slip from me being confident in the direction, in the mission and how I’m leading this group of people to now being where I’m sure that I have all the answers. The original Greek even included this idea of gaining some pleasure from humiliating the person you were leading, or the victim. So when leaders need to destroy or vanquish their enemy, or even the people they’re leading, by using threats to get things done, in fearing people instead of encouraging people. Now you start shifting toward hubristic behavior, which is focused on me and not focused on you.
I think it’s very common for people to see leaders outside of themselves who they think are arrogant and point to that leader. Even on the world stage. We’re like, “Oh, that person, they’re really arrogant. That’s a hubristic leader.” They may in fact be right. But what this book really wants the reader to do is to point to themselves. In what way am I managing or not managing myself? How might I have some hubristic qualities? When am I operating out of selfishness? And what might the impact be having on the people? How do I know whether I’m being a good leader or whether I’m misleading the people I’m charged with leading?
Halelly: How do you know?
Bill: I think there’s a number of things that a leader needs to do. The first would be, if you ask a leader, “Are you doing a good job of leading?” A lot of leaders will be like, “Oh, yeah, I’m a good leader,” and my question would be, “How do you know?” Because I think the first thing a leader needs to do, you in your work with TalentGrow know that a 360-degree feedback, there’s controversy about 360 feedback. No doubt about it. But I think my experience, and I’ve done a lot of them over time, is that it can be a useful means of getting anonymous feedback about your leadership. If I ask myself, “Am I a good leader?” I can say yes, but what really matters is the perspective of the people I’m leading or influencing. It has to be honest feedback. The first thing a leader needs to do is to make sure that they’ve got a check on their leadership. That they’ve got people who can give them honest feedback about how they’re showing up, and how they could show up better, what strengths they have and what latent strengths they might not even know that they have. But getting honest feedback is one thing I think is critical.
I also think it’s critical, this idea – you and I have a mutual friend, John Ryan, who is the head of the Center for Creative Leadership, CEO and president there – he’s also a former Vice Admiral of the Navy. He was the superintendent of the Naval Academy at Annapolis and he was the Chancellor of all the state University of New York schools, the there are 64 campuses. So this is a learned guy. He says before you lead others, you have to lead and manage yourself and it requires self-governance and self-discipline. And you can easily slip into hubris if you don’t do that. You’ve got to have a certain degree of self-management and getting feedback about yourself, and doing things where you are forced to be humble. If you keep acquiring new skills and learning new things and have this beginner’s mind, where you don’t have all the answers, where you need to learn and rely on other people who have more seasoned experience than you do, then it forces a certain humility.
Finally, I’d say, I like this clue that my friend Patrick Decker – he’s the CEO of Xylem, a billion-dollar water solutions company. And he says that when you put a person into a new leadership role, do they grow or do they swell? Do they adopt a beginner’s mind? Do they seek out and ask questions of people that they admire that are in leadership roles? Do they listen to the people who are reporting to them? Or, do they swell? Is it all about them and sort of where their next rung on the ladder is and such? There are clues that we might be moving toward hubristic behavior and then things we can do to sort of manage it so that we cannot become a mis-leader.
Halelly: A mis-leader, I like that. You know, I was just talking to a woman in one of my workshops last week and she was, I guess I would say, a Millennial, on the younger side of things. And she was feeling challenged by the requests for humility and we were talking about maybe using self deprecating humor to sometimes overcome challenges and so forth. She said, “You know, I already feel like I’ve got one leg down because people I’m working with are older than me, some of them, and they may question my competence and I feel like if I was too humble or too open or self deprecating, I would lose any amount of respect that they would even have in the first place. I know that the Millennials are the fastest growing group of new leaders in the workplace and that’s a big challenge, having a younger leader or a less-seasoned leader. What can they do to balance not being pompous or too full of themselves or over confident, but also creating that sense of credibility that they’re seeking?
Bill: Credibility matters. That’s for sure. I think that when it comes to sort of the emerging or early leader, we all want to get there fast, right? We want a seat at the table. We want to be able to sit on the stump at the fire very quickly. There is a certain seasoning process, though, that becomes sort of helpful. There’s an old saying by Mark Twain that good judgment is the result of experience, and experience is the result of bad judgment. There are merit badges that I think help because as you earn the merit badge, you do gain competency, and people start to see you as more credible over time. So I do think there’s a certain degree. You don’t want to be humble to the point of being a lap dog. You don’t want to be humble to the point of being weak, where it’s always about me serving others and never adopting a sort of leadership stance or a confident stance. I think, though, early on in the career, it’s helpful to put yourself in positions where you are learning from others that have more seasoning and more experience, and ask those people about it.
The word humility is really about earthiness. It’s almost about authenticity. It’s this idea of being grounded, this idea of hummus, of hum, is earth. It’s like terrestrial. This idea that humility means a grounding, that I’m grounded and I’m confident in my own skin and that I am authentic as well. I’m not having to put on airs. I’m not displaying that I’m something that I’m not. I think if you authentically and with humility go to people that may have some more seasoning than you, and show an eagerness to learn and an eagerness to show that, “Look, I know I’m not perfect, and here are some questions I have and I’d like to learn from you,” people are really receptive to that. I think it’s adopting a position of authenticity. I would also say that I think a lot of people younger in their career focus a little too much on compensation and not enough on destination. They focus on, “What will I get if I get to this next rung?” as opposed to, “Where am I going in my career?” I would offer that advice to any sort of emerging leader. Be focused on where do you want to be? What’s a day in the life of you look like, two or three years from now, when you’re adding more impact or having more value in the organization and you’re leading a really fulfilling life in this organization. What does your life look like a year or two from now, a day in the life of you? Not how much money am I going to get when I get to the next rung.
Halelly: In the book you list a whole slew of hubristic behaviors and we just talked about a couple. Any others that are maybe common traps people should watch out for as they’re thinking about dancing on that very thin line between confident and over-confident?
Bill: I think if you are in a leadership role, or a role of influence, and that you add an “or else” at the end of your directive, like if you’re leading people and you say, “Hey, I really need you to get this thing done and we need to get it by next Tuesday and if you don’t do this, X is going to happen to you.” Like if we use threats and use intimidation, that’s kind of a subtle form of bullying. In fact it can become outright bullying. It’s do you use fear in order to motivate people to get things done? I think it’s pretty common for people to do that, and yet I think it’s not very artful. I think any cheap two-bit leader or dictator can use fear to get things done. I think it’s when you can encourage people instead of putting fear inside of people. That’s what I would say for any leader, don’t use intimidation to get things done your way.
For the later stage leader, and I’m a 56-year-old guy, where we become pretty competent and pretty confident in what we’re doing, complacency can set in. When we get to sort of a cresting phase in our career, where we think we have all the answers. So we become complacent or in fact reject newness and reject new, other methods that might be more contemporary like, “Oh, yeah, sure, that’s flavor of the month. We did this way back when,” and then we become resistant to newness. I think on either end as an emerging leader or as a seasoned leader, there are dangerous things that can get in the way. Hubris connects to a lot of these kinds of behaviors, but staying competent is really important, making sure you’re constantly in a beginner’s mind, willing to learn new things, and when you’re older, to be willing to learn from the younger person. Suppose I’m a leader, a seasoned leader, and I’ve got a group of people at the table, and I am making a decision. Instead of unilaterally making that decision, ask the group – what do you think we should do?
Consider the idea of everybody in the room – you and I, I saw former President Obama speak at a conference, and he talked about making sure you don’t just ask the table, but you ask the outer ring of the table, too. In other words, in his case, he knew if he asked his cabinet members while making a decision, that wasn’t enough. There were people sitting next to the cabinet member, behind them, who had done all the research for things and he would go to that second circle. I think that’s a sign of humility, a willingness to learn from the younger people in the room who have a different perspective and it goes back to that kind of beginner’s mind. I think that’s helpful too.
Halelly: Thank you for those ideas. So, what other ways do you think that leaders can create an opportunity for people to give them feedback, to help them help themselves, to not step into that dangerous place where hubris takes over?
Bill: One of the things that my Navy Seal buddy, John Havlik, talks about in the book, based on his own experiences as a Naval officer and been in the Navy 30 years and most of that time in the Seals, he talks about walking the deck plate. Have enough humility to, instead of just sitting in the room where all the leaders are talking and deciding and making the decisions, get out of that cloistered, very-protected, rarefied air, and go and walk the deck plate. That’s what he talks about. When you walk the deck plate on the deck of a ship, you’re dealing with the rank and file. The rank and file people have a different reality than the people who might be in the upper echelons of the organization. Go to the hinterlands. Go to the far reaches where the work is actually being done or the money is actually being made, and get the perspective of those people and ask a lot of questions. For one, it’s good for them, the people that are closer and may in fact be in lower-level positions, because it shows that you as a leader care about them, and that you care to learn what their actual reality is, and that you don’t think you’re special or above them. They’ll come away from that experience with a much deeper sense of loyalty to you. But it’s also great for you as a leader, because it keeps you from being cloistered, it keeps you from being insulated, it lets you take the true pulse of the organization of what’s going on. Walking the deck plate is a really good sort of piece of advice for anybody who is moving into a leadership role.
I think to go back to that idea of having a check, everybody needs what I call a Chief Ego Deflator. We all need that one person who can pop our bubble. We need that one person who has permission to call us on our own BS when they see ourselves start to move in that direction, and when they see our ego getting too inflated, can take the pin out and can pop it for is. One of the people we interviewed for this book, although it’s not an interview book, as you know, but we spoke to a bunch of people.
Halelly: You have a lot of good stories, really good stories.
Bill: It’s got cool stories, and this one woman we interviewed, and she’s fantastic. Her name is Kristie Kenney and Kristie was the ambassador to three different countries and when she was in the Philippines, she made sure – I believe it was her first assignment – she had a deputy. She would take the deputy, basically the person in the assistant role or chief of staff role, and say, “Listen, I have plenty of yes-people around me and I don’t need you to be one of them. In fact, I want you to be able to hold up the mirror to me and let me know when I’ve been too harsh or when I’ve not been harsh enough or when I might need to rethink something.” That give her a great sense of balance. Because when you’re in a role such as an ambassador, everybody is bringing you news that you want to hear, but you need the people who are going to be able to bring you news that’s really happening, and to bring you beyond the reality, to let you know how you are really showing up and what people are sort of truly thinking about you. Not just what they say they think about you. You need to know this information. So she would deputize a person to be able to be her check. It goes back to that idea of making sure everybody – particularly the more you go up in the organization – you need to be at least one, but hopefully more than one, critical truth-tellers around you. Those trusted people are the ones you really need to lean on and value because they’ll keep you from running into yourself. They’ll keep you from doing danger to yourself or doing danger to others through your own narcissism.
Halelly: Daniel Goleman I think coined the term CEO disease, which is when you’re surrounded by yes-men and yes-women and you’re insulated from bad news and insulated from things that can help you avoid mistakes because nobody wants to tell you if you’re making a mistake or if there’s something that’s not going well or your ideas stink. So having people that can be courageous enough to speak up to you around you is one thing, and then of course I’m sure you would agree, Bill, it’s all in how you react that will teach them whether that was something they should keep doing or whether it was a terrible mistake they should never repeat.
Bill: Totally. I mean, if you become heavy-handed when a person does make a mistake or says the impolite thing or the indelicate thing and you just fly off the handle as a short-tempered, unpredictable fuse, people are just not going to come to you and give you the real information that you’re going to need from harming yourself. This idea of the pampered CEO or anybody in a senior leadership position, the more you go up in the organization, the more pampering you get. The more people start to send you cues that you’re special. Steve Jobs would take up two handicapped parking spaces at Apple offices. I have the pictures of them. I use them on a slide. He wouldn’t just take one handicapped space, he’d park sideways in two handicapped spots and nobody would call him on it. He didn’t even have a license plate on his care and he used to get tickets all the time because he was just too busy for it. So we start excusing ourselves from common behavior and as we go up. Like leaders, you’ve been in the room when a senior leader shows up to the meeting 20 or 15 minutes late and they have some veiled quick apology and boom, we’re into the meeting, but the lower-level person can’t show up 15 minutes late and get away with it like that. A leader can interrupt people and get away with it. There’s this subtle common, they get a lot of latitude and over time the danger is that a leader starts to believe they’re special.
One leader that I worked for, a guy named Hines Brannan. He remains a mentor to me, to this day. Mostly because he was a truth teller. He leveled me with some harsh truths along the way. What I loved about Hines, frankly, he’s a wealthy guy. A lot of partners at Accenture were making a boatload of money. But when he would say, “Hey, Treasurer, you want to go to lunch with me?” And I’d go to lunch with him and he’d go to this place called Harold’s. Harold’s was a barbecue place by the prison and you had to take your tie and sling it over your shoulder while you were eating this barbecue slop which was so different than some of the other partners that would take me to have Crème Brule for lunch. You’ve got to be able to make sure that you stay real and grounded and don’t forget your roots. Don’t forget that you, as a leader, came from followers too. You were them once and you’ve got to be able to lead on their behalf, and don’t believe the marketing material about yourself as a leader. Regardless of how special everybody tells you you are, you’ve got to hold that stuff at bay and be suspect so that you don’t get seduced into thinking that you’re better or more special than the people that you’re leading. Because that’s when hubris can set in and you become a danger to yourself and others.
Halelly: So true. So, we’re starting to get to the point where we want to wrap up and I know you are going to share an actionable tip with us and tell us how people can be in touch with you, but before that, what’s new and exciting on your horizon? I know you’re in the throws of book launching and book marketing. I’m sure that’s got your attention. Anything else?
Bill: You know, obviously this book, it’s also the re-launch of my courage building training program, which I had the rights reverted back to me from the publisher after some back and forth, so I am now the proud owner of material I created called the Courageous Leadership Facilitator Training program. That’s all now available to the public and we’re re-launching that. In 2019, early on, it’s the 10th anniversary edition of my book Courage Goes to Work, and that is published by Berrett-Koehler, and I have a new forward to the book and it’s written by our friend John Ryan.
Halelly: Wonderful. Exciting. Good. You’ve got a lot cooking, of course. That’s what makes you successful.
Bill: You do too!
Halelly: It’s fun to hang out with and to be connected with productive people. We both like to work hard and get stuff out there. So thank you for that. What I like also about your book, in addition to all of the great insights and stories and examples, you included a bonus section at the end that has these 10 actionable tips. We always end the podcast episode with one actionable tip, so you can choose one from those 10 or any other, but what do you recommend that listeners can take action on right away, this afternoon, this week, that can help them upgrade their leadership skills or humility skills, whatever attack you want to take?
Bill: Sure. One tip that can help a reader frame their day and keep themselves into a humble mindset, remember, we think that the highest form of leadership is transformational leadership, or this idea of servant leadership. Leading with my good is for the good of others. I go back to one of my favorite historical figures in the United States is Benjamin Franklin. The guy invented bifocals and the Franklin stove and started the public library system and the fire department. I mean, the guy is a giant, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. I mean, this guy, the Constitution – the guy is a giant! His autobiography, he talks about the two questions that he would have this day be oriented by. In the beginning of the day, before he would set out for the day, he would say, “What good shall I do today?” And it wasn’t a question about productivity. It wasn’t, “How much will I get done today?” It was what’s the goodness I’m going to bring to the world today? What good shall I do today? Then at the end of the day, he would bookend the day by simply asking the question, reflecting back on the day, “What good have I done today?” If you want to put your goodness into the world and your positive leadership influence, and if this is the highest ideal of leadership, leading for others, be thinking in the beginning of the day, “How will I apply my leadership for the good of others today? What good shall I do today with my leadership?” And at the end of the day, think, “What good have I done today with my leadership?”
It reminds me of a friend of mine who is a sales person. His name is Bruce Countryman, a good guy, really rock solid, salt of the earth guy. I went on a sales day with him one time and as he was interacting with his clients, he would ask them that question. He’d say, “What good are you doing today?” And he’d say it in sort of a colloquial, collegiate way and they always had an answer for him. But I think those two questions – what good shall I do today and what good have I done today – are really worthwhile questions.
Halelly: I really like that. Thank you. I totally admire Benjamin Franklin and all the good he has done for the world and over time and overall. But those are really easy and simple, but profound questions. I bet that they help you be more – what’s the word – proactive and intentional if you just keep them in check.
Bill: Exactly. Instead of just opening up the day and running into your to-do list, do your day with some intentionality behind it.
Halelly: And not being reactionary. I love it. So, Bill, I know people are probably going to want to follow up with you, learn more about you and from you. What are the best ways they can stay in touch?
Bill: To get the new book, LeadershipKiller.com. To learn a little bit about me and my speaking and my leadership development work, BillTreasurer.com and my company, the easiest way, is CourageBuilding.com.
Halelly: Cool. Do you hang out on social media? Should they follow you anywhere?
Bill: Yeah, follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m not so big on Instagram, but the usual stuff.
Halelly: Good. We’ll link to all of that in the show notes as we always do. I appreciate your time today, Bill, and sharing your insights with the TalentGrowers. Thank you so much.
Bill: Thank you so much for having me.
Halelly: My pleasure. Gotta love those two questions from Ben Franklin. I hope that you will take action based on Bill’s advice and that you will work on figuring out how do you want to show up in your day so that you can have the kind of day you’re super proud of and bring your goodness to the world? I hope that you enjoyed this episode, TalentGrowers. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow. And this show is for you. I want your feedback, I want your comments, and I want you to help me figure out what else would you like me to bring onto the TalentGrow Show to help you be the kind of leader that people want to follow. Thanks for listening. I really appreciate you and until the next time, make today great.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.
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