How do great leaders succeed? Why do they inspire those around them to perform at their peak?
To answer those questions, I spoke with leadership expert Jon Gordon in November 2021.
There have been a number of organizations put to the test by Jon’s leadership principles, including NFL, NBA, MLB coaches and teams, Fortune 500 companies, schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations.
Jon Gordon is also the author of 24 books, including six best-sellers: The Energy Bus, The Carpenter, Training Camp, You Win in the Locker Room First, The Power of Positive Leadership, and The Power of a Positive Team.
With those accomplishments, it is impossible to find a better person to discuss what it means to follow your calling, why traditional leadership isn’t effective anymore, and how to create a legacy that will last.
Leadership starts at home
There’s a T.S. Eliot quote that I love. “Home is where one starts from.” And this definitely applies to leadership. After all, leaders build deep roots for the leadership roles they will have in the future within their families and communities. To lead themselves, children need leaders at home. Taking charge of one’s own life comes before leading others.
But being a parent can also teach you about selfless leadership.
“I would say the job of a parent is actually harder now that my kids are older,” he says. “You have to be more of a leader. You have to be a coach. You have to guide them. You can’t tell them what to do. You want to offer suggestions and advice, and you have to sit back and wait for them to come to you with questions, with an ask for help, and then you have to guide them along the way.” Therefore, you need to be more patient, calm and collected. Embrace the wisdom you’ve gained over the years after making all those mistakes.
“And even when you do good things, you’re not getting the recognition,” he adds. “You’re not getting rewards.” In fact, you’re probably holding yourself accountable and challenging yourself.
“So, as a parent, it really is about being a selfless leader,” Jon states. “I tell leaders all the time, that’s my work in leadership. If you want to be a great leader, you must study parents because parenting is all about selfless leadership because you’re giving everything you have to help them become all they’re meant to be. But you are getting beat up in the process.”
“When you appreciate, you elevate. When you appreciate, you elevate your mood, your performance, and the people around you,” Jon explains.
In short, leadership requires appreciation.
Additionally, feed yourself daily so you can feed others because you can’t share what you don’t have. “So, a lot of our work is about being gritty,” he continues. “It’s about being resilient. It’s about being mentally tough.” And, to help you become more resilient and mentally tough, he suggests you answer the following questions:
- What does your daily routine look like to feed your mind so that you can lead others in a positive manner through the challenges they face?
- As an organization and as a team, how do we overcome negativity and obstacles?
- To be the best team and leader possible, how do we build great relationships?
“And so, it’s understanding that negativity is real,” Jon says. “We’re going to face all sorts of adversity and challenges, and it’s how we overcome as leaders in order to make a positive impact and also achieve greater results.”
Do what you were meant to do and love.
“If someone gave you $100 million, what would you do with it? For me, it’s the same thing I’m doing now,” Jon asserts.
“I wouldn’t change it. I’m doing what I’m meant to do. It’s not about the money. It never has been, and it’s not now. It’s what I’m meant to do. It’s what I’m called to do. So, even if you gave me all the money in the world, I would still do this work.”
People follow you when you’re doing something you love because they see the direction you’re heading in and want to follow you too. Keep doing what you love when you start getting attention for it! The key to leadership is to do what you love, no matter how much success or attention you receive.
It’s time to end the ‘tough love’ approach.
“We call it ‘love tough’ instead of ‘tough love,’ and we call it love and accountability,” says Jon.
“Great leaders lead with love and accountability. They get to know you love them. And if you develop the relationship and you really invest in that person, and you really get to know them, and you care about them, and they feel it and know it, you then earn the right to challenge them, to push them, to make them uncomfortable. ”
In order to grow, we need to experience discomfort. “So, I have to make you a little uncomfortable at times,” he adds. “I have to challenge you. And if I truly care about you, I won’t let you settle for anything less than your best. If I care about you, I’m not going to let you be average. I have to push you.”
“So, you earned the permission to challenge and push, but love must come first,” Jon states. “If they know you love them, you earned the right to challenge them and be tough with them. So, ‘tough love’ no longer works. It’s ‘love tough’ that works.”
How to harness the power of positive leadership.
According to Jon, throughout history, the greatest leaders have always been optimists, believers, dreamers, and doers who pushed past obstacles to achieve remarkable things. Creating a world-class organization, creating a successful team, or changing the world requires a positive mindset.
Jon also says that positive leaders energize their workplaces, increase team performance and attract high-quality workers, according to research.
A positive attitude extends beyond ignoring problems and refusing to see them. In order to implement positive leadership, you must follow nine principles:
- Drive positive culture
- Create a positive vision
- Lead with optimism
- Remove negativity
- Create united teams
- Build relationships
- Pursue excellence
- Lead with purpose
- Have true grit
“Being positive doesn’t just make you better; it makes everyone around you better,” Jon says.
The importance of building a legacy.
“To me, legacy is continuing to do the work that I’m doing and impacting lives,” states Jon. “I live with the end in mind, and here’s my legacy. Here’s my definition. My kids will meet someone, and they will say, ‘Hey, your dad made a difference in my life.’ Something that I said or wrote in one of my books. They read it, or they heard me talk, and they will tell my kids that I impacted their life.”
“For me, that’s the definition of leaving a legacy,” he adds. “And somehow, some way, I will have done that in numerous lives, and I would say this leadership program, this training program and the mentoring I do, the people that partner with me that I work with, the consultants, the trainers that they become better for having worked with me.” They become difference-makers or impactors. “So, then I’m a multiplier of that,” he explains.
“A life touches a life that touches a life. So, at 50, I have an optimistic goal. It’s to go for 100.” To quote the great American philosopher Jon Bon Jovi, “I’m halfway there.”
Featured Image Credit: Photo by RODNAE Productions; Pexels; Thank you!