I am in recovery.

Not from an addiction or abuse, but from a lifetime of anger. I have touched on the subject in four posts before (the four links are at the bottom of this post). What I may occasionally lack in content, I make up for in transparency.

After years of trying to figure it all out on my own, I finally entered a 12-step recovery group at our church. And my life is changing dramatically.


Here are three powerful leadership lessons from a recovery group. (Click to Tweet)

Through this process, I realized there were ten valuable leadership lessons from a recovery program. But before I share those, I want to share one of the biggest life lessons I learned there.

When I first entered, I admit that I walked in with the attitude that my problems were not as bad as everyone else’s problems. I went in with the belief that my poop did not stink…or at least nearly as bad as everyone else’s. To be blunt, I looked down on others.

What I saw at first was a bunch of drug addicts, alcoholics, and weirdos. What I have found are some of my best friends.

The majority of the people there have been attending for five-plus years. They are long past their days of drinking, drugging, or whatever else lead them to attending in the first place. Recovery from any major problem is not a one-time event. You cannot find it in a weeklong seminar or from reading a book. You find it by committing to a lifetime of support from others, learning, and asking God for help. And it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I’ll discuss this more in Step 10 tomorrow.

With that said, I learned three leadership lessons from the group and seven lessons from the 12 steps themselves. Below are the first three lessons I learned from the group.

Tomorrow, I will share the seven lessons I learned from the 12 steps, so stay tuned for part two. Subscribe to my RSS feed or get posts via email so you don’t miss it!

Three Leadership lessons from a recovery group:

1. I learned to listen really well.

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One of the rules of the group time is that when one person is talking, no one else is. There is no “fixing.” We all just listen. There is no interrupting to offer a suggestion. The person speaking has the floor. It is his time, not time to play therapist. This is so hard for me, but I have learned how to do it and it is spilling over into all areas of my life. As a leader, what would it look like if you didn’t always try to have the answers but just listened?

2. I learned to be available.

In a recovery group, you need two people at least: your sponsor and your accountability partner(s). You must be available to them at all times. That means answering the phone when I don’t want to. It means reaching out to others proactively. It means getting out of my self-centeredness. What would it mean as a leader if you were truly available and took a genuine interest in your team members?

3. I learned to open up and be real.

In a recovery group, if you don’t open up your life to the group, you go nowhere. I admit that I have lived most of my life behind a mask, in a fake “perfect little world” bubble. By doing this, I stunted my personal growth, limited my learning, and failed to get help when I couldn’t do something myself. But, as I have learned to open up, I started receiving help from unexpected places. I began to understand my own weaknesses and find solutions in the strangest ways. And I was free. What would it look like if, as a leader, you were more open vulnerable? Would you have more time? More joy? Deeper relationships? 

Come back tomorrow for part two. Subscribe to my RSS feed or get posts via email so you don’t miss it!

I’d like to hear your answers to the three questions I asked:

As a leader, what would it look like if you didn’t always try to have the answers but just listened?

What would it mean as a leader if you were truly available and took a genuine interest in your team members?

What would it look like if, as a leader, you were more open vulnerable?

Here are the four posts I mentioned earlier: Top Three Things I Would Do Differently as a LeaderLearning to Not ListenFeedback for Leaders (Or…You Suck. Sincerely, Your Team) | How to Offer Destructive Criticism


Matt helps online business owners and brands, small and large leverage the power of partners to grow their businesses. He teaches you how to make money as an affiliate and how to work better with affiliates. Entrepreneurs and companies such as Shark Tank's Kevin Harrington, Zig Ziglar, Ray Edwards, Brian Tracy, Lewis Howes, Shutterfly, Jeff Goins, and Michael Hyatt have trusted Matt to run their affiliate launches.

12 thoughts on “12 Steps: Leadership Lessons from a Recovery Group

  1. Lily Kreitinger says:

    Wow is what I first would like to say to this post. Thanks for writing for me today.
    I definitely need to listen more and talk less, that seems to be the theme for this week. I am sure my team members (spouse, kids, friends…) will appreciate me being available and fully engaged in conversations with them instead of running through my to-do list in my head when we are talking. I am sure being open and vulnerable instead of falsely confident will change the way I lead and the way I build relationships.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thank you Lily.

      #2 has probably been the hardest for me. Having to be available for others is not my natural style. But it makes for powerful leadership.

    2. Can’t agree more. I have been hesitant to do this level of sharing on my blog. But it’s so powerful.

    3. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      While you’ve focused alot on thinking you need to listen more and talk less this week. I think you’re a great listener already Lily. You’ve certainly been willing to listen when I’ve had something to say! Don’t beat yourself up too much, you’re pretty awesome 😉

  2. Jon Stolpe says:

    In James chapter 1, he tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. If we would just shut our mouths and listen, we could learn a lot. Great post today, Matt!

  3. Jon Henry says:

    You should rewrite this post someday in the distant future and substitute the world leader with husband, wife, or spouse where appropriate. Repurposed content is all the rage, I hear. Basically, these “leadership” lessons seem to penetrate many more areas of life.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is very spot on Jon.

      Every lesson I write about today and tomorrow is applicable to leaders, coaches, husbands, pastors, you name it.

  4. Dan Erickson says:

    Now that’s what I’m talking about, Matt! You’re writing about your issues, opening up. That takes guts and it’s what helps us to heal, change, recover. Great post, man! Keep it up!

  5. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    In short to answer your questions, I’d be a better leader. I’d be someone that people trusted, looked to for advice, and had confidence following. I mean, I could spend an hour answering those questions in essay form. (I’ll spare you the torture), but suffice it to say, I would be a dramatically different person.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Well you’re a pretty swell guy as you are, for the record.

      But progress is always good.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        awww shucks….

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