Episode 071: The Shocking Similarity Among Great Leaders

Since the dawn of time, most great leaders have had one thing in common. It’s not often highlighted in the annals of leadership. It’s rarely written about or listed as a strategic advantage. It might surprise you, but it’s responsible for freeing nations, leading movements, and inspiring generations.

Episode 071: The Shocking Similarity Among Great Leaders

The shocking similarity among great leaders is that they were angry. More importantly, they used their anger.

Episode 042: 12 Steps – 10 Lessons I Learned from Being in a Recovery Program [PODCAST]

A few years ago, I spent time in a recovery group. My goal in the group was to learn more about why I was often so angry and to learn how to avoid it turning into the rage I so often felt. What I learned along the way was surprising, though. I learned ten amazing lessons about living with passion, leading with purpose, and ultimately leaving a legacy of which I could be proud.

Leadership lessons from the 12 steps

Through the process of attending the meetings and getting to know the members, I learned the most important lesson of all that I want to share before I share the other ten lessons.

When I attending my first meeting, I will admit that I entered with the attitude that my problems were not as bad as everyone else’s problems. In other words, my poop didn’t stink as badly as the rest of them people there.

If I am abundantly clear, I looked down on everyone else there.

People Have the Right to Insult You. You Have the Right to Ignore Them

“You make me so mad.”

Have you ever said something like that? Of course you have. So have I. At one point in time (or in my case approximately 108,283 times) we’ve all said those words.

Here’s a translation of that phrase you might not like: “You control me.”

Ignore your critics Letting someone else “make” you mad lets that person control you. You give away your power to choose your actions. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

When you let what someone else does or says “make” you mad, you let that person control you. You give away your power to choose your actions.

You give up your right not to be offended. You give up your right not to get angry. You give up your right to be at peace, to be happy, and to focus on your calling.

You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Change the World

“How can I change the world when my life is so messed up?”

So, your life isn’t perfect. Join the club.

This is something I hear so often. People who question their ability to be a world changer just because their lives aren’t right out of a black-and-white sitcom from the 1950’s. Their lives aren’t bright, shiny, sterile, and wrapped up in a pretty little bow.

In other words, their lives are real. Their problems are real. And yet, somehow, they can’t change the world? I don’t think so.

You don't have to be perfect to change the world
You are a world changer. Right now. In the midst of your own struggles. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

The notion that you have to be perfect to change the world is ridiculous. In fact, no world changer in history (save for one) was perfect.

3 examples from history

Abraham Lincoln

If he were alive today, Abraham Lincoln would probably have spent the past twenty years watching soap operas in a Snuggie while popping anti-depressants. He was prone to severe and debilitating bouts with depression that often led to suicidal thoughts. But he described his depression in a letter to a friend as “a misfortune, not a fault.” That is the attitude that allowed him to be a world changer.

True Love and True Leadership Sometimes Means Being a Fake

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

That, if you didn’t already know, is from the 4th verse of the 13th Chapter of First Corinthians, better known around the world as the Love Chapter.

All of those traits make for good spouses, good parents, and good leaders. But there is more to love, more to life, and more to leading others than those things.

Sometimes, you have to fake it.

Man Shopping with his Wife - True Love True leadership, like true love, often means doing things you don’t want to do. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

Sometimes, you have to fake patience.

With some people, you have to fake kindness.

Some days, when envy is coursing through your veins, you have to pretend that you are happy for someone.

The Shocking Common Trait of Great Leaders: Anger

Since the dawn of time, great leaders have had one thing in common:


But not the kind of anger you probably thought of immediately.

5 Days to Your Best Year Ever Michael Hyatt Great leaders hate mediocrity. Average makes them sick. They use their anger to drive them. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

Great leaders are angry.

Angry at the status quo.

Angry at average.

When Dreams Begin to Fade Away | Help Poor Kids in America

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“That dream is going to slowly start fading away.”

Those are the words of a 14-year old child living in poverty. They are the words of a child I watched recently on a Frontline documentary, Poor Kids, about children in the United States living in poverty.

It’s a heartbreaking 54 minutes, but also full of hope. The children know it’s tough but they also desire for and believe for a way out.

Poor Kids
Here’s what that 14-year old said about his dream:

All I want is to play football, but football is expensive. If I don’t have the opportunity to show somebody that I can play football, football won’t exist four years from now for me. If I don’t get to play on a team this year, that dream is going to slowly start fading away.

That’s what happened to somebody’s dream, to a kid’s dream. They want to attain something and they couldn’t afford it.

When Your Team Says You Suck | Leadership Feedback

As a leader, have you ever been punched in the gut by feedback from your team?

I have. And I am much better for it.

Feedback for Leaders

I wrote about this almost a year ago and chronicled my transformation as a leader. The interesting thing is that I still struggle with all but one area that I did seven years ago.

Feedback and improvement is not a one-time thing. It’s not a six month process. It’s a lifelong commitment, come hell or high water, that you will get better every day as a leader.

Top Three Things I Would Do Differently as a Leader

What three things would you do differently as a leader?

Hourglass - Things I Would Change as a Leader
If you could go back in time, what are the things you would do differently as a leader (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

That was the question posed to me from a good friend of mine, Three years into our business, we had more than fifty team members and were on pace to have more than $18 million in revenue in year four. It was a wild ride but I left knowing that I had made numerous costly mistakes. So when he asked me this question, I had no shortage of things I would have done differently. The hard part was narrowing it down to three.

Within seconds, though, the answers became clear…and surprising to me. They had nothing to do with strategy or specific moments in time. Nothing to do with bad hires or bad financial moves. Nothing at all to do with marketing or our IT infrastructure. Those were easily identifiable areas where we made mistakes and that had tangible monetary losses attached to them.

My three things all go back to the very beginning. As a future leader of the company, I would have done these three things differently.

  1. I would not have become a leader when I did. How is that for a leadership decision? We went from just three of us (two partners and me) to four other people. Real people with real problems, real needs, and in need of real leadership. And I was the one expected to lead them. Ha! I was not prepared for leadership. If I could go back in time, I would have demanded that I not be in put in a leadership role then. If that meant we didn’t hire anyone for a while, so be it. If it meant that the owners had to step in and work part-time from our office, so be it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that I would have stayed out of leadership forever, but when I was a 26-year old punk with no prior leadership experience and no training at all, I was clearly the wrong choice.
  2. I would have gotten a lot of training and passed it on. If I could go back in time, I would have made sure that all of us leaders would have gotten more training. I would have become a dedicated student of leadership long before I ever became a leader. Instead of struggling to keep up and always working from behind due to the mistakes I had made, I would have made sure I was fully prepared to be a great leader. Then, and only then, would I be in a position to lead effectively and pass it on. I would have made sure we developed leaders around us as well.
  3. I would have gotten help in my personal life in order. When I assumed a leadership role for the first time, I was a wreck personally and it handicapped my leadership abilities. My anger problems did not magically disappear when I walked through the office doors each day. My rageful acts nearly destroyed our company early on and nothing short of the hand of God held us together in the first year. If I could go back in time, I would have focused on getting the help I needed then, long before I assumed such a high pressure role. The lesson I learned here is that I should never have waited until my rage had shown up five times or even one time in the office. I should have addressed before it showed up.

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Feedback for Leaders

Leaders must get consistent feedback from their team members and peers…and they must act on it.

The first time I asked for feedback, it really sucked. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I thought maybe I should just walk away from the company that I had helped build. I didn’t see a way out of the hole I had dug. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for me.

Asking for and receiving Feedback for Leaders
Leaders must get consistent feedback from their team members and peers…and they must act on it. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

I gave my team and peers an anonymous evaluation form, encouraged them to be honest and then spent two days being hurt, angry, and in denial, Then I put on my big boy pants and decided to take each fault, each area of improvement, and order them based on two things:

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