Steve Farber re-defines what it means to be a leader of substance, significance, and success. The Huffington Post named Steve the #1 Business Speaker To See and he’s one of Inc. Magazine’s Global Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts.
Steve is a multiple bestselling author including his first smash hit “The Radical Leap”, hailed as one of the 100 Best business books of all time. “Greater Than Yourself” is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller. And in 2020, he released his latest critically acclaimed book, “Love is Just Damn Good Business”, which is endorsed by Jack Canfield, Stedman Graham, Sally Hogshead and more.
These bestselling, award-winning, critically acclaimed books put the principles of Extreme Leadership into easily understood terms and show us how to take the LEAP in business using Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof.
For more info on Steve, or to book him to speak, use this URL: speakers.cal-entertainment.com/profile/5320
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Steve Farber: Inc. Magazine Top 50 Says Love Is Just Damn Good Business – Virtually Speaking
Joining me is Steve Farber who redefines what it means to be a leader of substance significance and success. The Huffington Post has named Steve as the number one business speaker to see. He’s listed as one of Inc. Magazine’s Global Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts. He’s a multiple bestselling author, including his first smash hit The Radical Leap, hailed as one of the 100 Best Business Books of All Time, and Greater Than Yourself, a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller. His latest 2020 title is Love Is Just Damn Good Business. These bestselling, award-winning and critically claimed books on leadership put the principles of extreme leadership into easily understood terms and show us how to take the LEAP in business using Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof. Please join me now with Steve Farber.
Steve Farber, thank you for joining me. How are you doing?
I’m doing great, Chris. It’s great to see you again, albeit virtually.
It’s the new wave. It’s all the rage, virtually speaking.
At first, most of us looked at Zoom as a necessary evil. Some interesting things are coming out of it in terms of people are ironically connecting more by being distant and seeing each other on Zoom, and being able to look into each other’s eyes.
It may even be setting the standards and some trends for the future right now in business because many people are connecting now more than ever. I have a group of friends from high school that we’ve stayed very close. We have this group meet chat room. We all live all over the country and we decided we’re going to do a poker game via BlueJeans and then using a poker app. It’s BlueJeans on the phone or on the screen, and then you have your poker table and you’re virtually playing. We hang out with each other now way more than we ever did.Love is not a sentiment. It's a discipline and a practice. Click To Tweet
We bring our kids together. Between my wife and me, we have 6, 3 and 3. They’re all older. They were never all under the same roof. It’s funny you say that because when you get them all on Zoom, it’s like the beginning of The Brady Bunch. We bring all of our kids together and their significant others much more than we used to.
I’ve said this on other episodes that it almost feels like you hung out. It does feel like you hung out with that person. It’s cool. I know you’ve done a lot of speaking virtually for conferences and events, and you’ve done some cool interactive workshops with people. I know that you have one of your acronyms or your main acronym is LEAP, which is Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof. You’ve got to lead with those things. You’ve got to take the LEAP. You had a workshop where you had each of those words of the acronym explored by the groups, and it went well.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of that stuff. I finished the series that you mentioned. It was the fourth in a series of four. Each 90-minute session was built around one of the elements of LEAP. It’s cultivating love, generating energy, inspiring audacity, and providing proof. What makes these sessions ironically effective is how well people can connect with each other when they’re not sitting in the same room, breathing the same oxygen. There’s a balance between presentation, provocative thought, good ideas, and then some breakouts where people can talk to each other and can interact in the chat. You put all that together, and 90 minutes goes by like that. The uptake and the behavioral change that comes out as a result of that is pretty significant, especially when they know they’ll be coming back in 1 or 2 weeks. I gave them homework or field note as I like to call them. It sounds much better. It’s like, “Can we talk about this and go try this, and when we get back together in two weeks, we’ll compare notes.” It’s wonderful.
I look at this whole Zoom thing, and we all know that it’s been around for a long time, Zoom, Skype, etc. What’s happened here, and I’m wondering if you’ve seen this Chris. To me, this has been the greatest, most successful, and fastest technology rollout in human history. I’ve worked with a lot of companies and I’ve seen all the challenges that come along when you’re rolling out a new CRM for example. You enlist people. You have to educate people. You have to convince them. You have to have plans and all that. This was like, “Let’s give them a virus and then everybody will use it starting tomorrow.” I’m reluctant to say that there’s an upside to this whole thing.
You have to have that attitude. I’ve been working with a lot of people who don’t have that attitude. I’m like, “It’s all in your head because if you want to be taken down by this thing, you can be. If you want to find your solutions, your goals and optimism, and the things that you know can work or are working, you’ve got to try.” You talk about trying things that make you scared. That would be extreme leadership, which is one of the monikers of your major bestselling book, your first book, The Radical Leap, one of the 100 best business books of all time.
That book was read by the guys who used to run 800-CEO-READ, Todd Sattersten and Jack Covert. They’re in the book business. They pulled that list together based on what they’d seen in terms of book sales and the content of that. I was honored when they named The Radical Leap as one of those books because it was right there next to legends like Peter Drucker, and some of my mentors who are also legends like Tom Peters, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. To see my little book in there was gratifying.
You’ve sold almost 250,000 copies of that thing. I know you’ve done well with it. You have three other great books, The Radical Edge and then Greater Than Yourself, which I know is a Wall Street Journal bestseller. You had a book come out. It’s the perfect title for 2020. You must have been not so happy, but it’s appropriate for the times we’re living in, Love Is Just Damn Good Business. That’s got to be everybody’s mantra. That was also called one of the best business strategy books of 2020 by The Book Authority.
Here’s the thing about Love Is Just Damn Good Business. The reason I titled that book is because love is just damn good business. This has been the core of my work for a very long time. It started with The Radical Leap, which came out in its original edition of 2004. It’s been out there for a while. As you mentioned, LEAP stands for Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof. I’ve been teaching and consulting around operationalizing love as a business principle for quite some time. I know for most people, we’re not accustomed to using the word love and business in the same sentence. That makes some people squirm. A lot of that is because of a bit of misinterpretation as to what that means.
People are afraid to fall in love with somebody at work because they’ll get in trouble. You’re not allowed to flirt. You’re not allowed to do anything at work. That’s probably what the fear is, and yet there have been a couple of other authors who’ve talked about this. It is rare and it’s a very risky word to use in business, in a meeting or as your book title. Certainly, it’s very interesting. I see you have your love heart in the background there, so you are all about love, which you’re such a sweet guy. It makes sense.
I’m also a business guy. There is a stereotype around the word and it’s tragic. Here’s why. What I’m about to say, I cannot prove. My theory is this. Most people already believe that love is just damn good business. The problem is that most people don’t believe that most people already believe love is just damn good business. There’s a stigma and we back off of that.
Why don’t you explain to everybody what the meaning of the book is? What do you mean by love is damn good business? You’ve got to love your customers, yourself, your employees and team members.
When you say it like that and if I listen to it with cynical ears, it sounds like California touchy-feely ho-ha crap. I can say that because I’m in California. In this context, love is not a sentiment. It’s a discipline and it’s a practice. The question that we got to answer as human beings in general, but as business people is, what should love look like in the way that we do business? Here’s the way to think about it. Our competitive advantage comes from a product, service and experience that our customers or clients are going to love. If they don’t love what we’re doing for them, then there’s no brand loyalty, there’s no word of mouth, there’s no guarantee they’re going to stick around. They’ll go somewhere else that’s okay if they can get a better price.
We should all know this by now. This should be conventional wisdom by now. The problem is that that’s usually where we leave it. We understand that we want our customers to love us. We want to get a ten on the Net Promoter Score. We want all that, but we have to break it down and ask the question, how do we get there? It’s not about printing banners and buttons that say, “We love our customers.” If you back that off one more step, the only way to make that happen for customers in a meaningful and sustainable way over time is to create an environment or a culture that people love working in. If I don’t love working here, it’s very difficult for me to create that experience for customers. If we back it up one more step, as a leader, I can’t create or contribute to that kind of environment unless I got it on myself first. If I don’t love this business, if I don’t love the employees, if I don’t love what we’re trying to do, if I don’t love our mission, it makes it very difficult for me to create that ripple effect as it were.
What does love look like when you are using it as a tool or as a personality trait with the people you work with or with the people who are your customers? What are some of the examples of how that looks?It is entirely possible to make a lot of money and have a very successful career and still not love it. Click To Tweet
That is the ultimate question in this. We have to answer it behaviorally. What should or does love look like in the way that we do business? Let me acknowledge first of all that love is a ginormous word. It means a lot of different things to different people, and we use it in all kinds of contexts. For example, it’s fair to say I love pizza. I also love my wife. I love them very differently. What I shouldn’t love and what I should love? We still use the same word and we do this all the time. It’s about getting more conscious and intentional about it. It’s not just throwing the word around. Let me start with how we could pose the question. I’ll give you some specific examples of what that might look like. If you bring your team together as a leader, and you ask the question, “What can we do to improve our customer service?” You’re going to get some good answers. It’s the classic brainstorming sessions. We should all know by now that the people on the front line have the best ideas, so we bring them together, “How can we improve our service, guys?” They’ll come up with some ideas. If you asked the question differently, “How can we create an experience that our customers are going to love,” or a related question, “How can we better show our customers that we love them?” You get a very different answer.
The stereotype says, “If I start using the word love, everything is going to get soft and squishy. Everyone’s going to be about making people happy. We don’t want to piss anybody off. We want everybody to like us.” It’s all that soft stuff, but nothing could be further from the truth. That question raises the bar. It raises the standards. If we’re trying to get people to love what we do for them, it’s not enough to do the same old stuff. If you apply it internally, how can we create better employee engagement? Great question. How can we create an experience that our employees are going to love working in? It’s an entirely different answer because we’re raising the bar. This is the thing that I want people to understand. This is not about lowering standards. It’s about raising them to a level where we have to stretch, grow and take risks in order to meet that.
I’ll share with you one of my favorite case studies from a little company in Jacksonville, Florida, it’s called Trailer Bridge. Not as an overt commercial for the book, but just so you know, Love Is Damn Good Business is case after case, example after example of stories like this. There are lots of things to do and try and all that. This is one of the stories featured in the book, and it’s an ongoing story. I’ll give you the update after I tell it to you. Trailer Bridge is a shipping and logistics company, not a particularly sexy business. They ship goods via barge primarily from Jacksonville, Florida, to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other places. They literally ship. They’ve been around now for 30 years I’m not speaking out of school when I tell you that the history of this company was not good. They sucked.
They weren’t good at shipping?
They were terrible on every measure including customer service, employee surveys, and most important when it comes to business. Ultimately, they went bankrupt. It came down financially. It reminded me in the moment of my mentor, Tom Peters. One of my favorite quotes from Tom and he said it beautifully, “If your company is having trouble attracting fabulous people, it’s because your company sucks.” That was the case with Trailer Bridge. They were spending a ton of money on recruiters because they had to entice people to come work there. They went bankrupt. They burned through four CEOs in two years. They burned through four heads of HR in the same period of time, and the place was toxic.
Finally, the board came to a guy named Mitch Luciano who was on the management team already. They tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Mitch, it’s your turn. You’re the next CEO, how do you like that?” Here’s what he did. First of all, what you need to know about Mitch is that he’s a love guy. Mitch had been a student of my first three books, The Radical Leap, The Radical Edge, and Greater Than Yourself, which is all about operationalizing love in various ways. He said to his board, “I’ll do it but there are a couple of conditions. First of all, I don’t want the title of CEO. I’ll take the title of President. I’ll earn the title of CEO. When the employees tell me that I’ve earned it, I’ll take that title. You have to let me do this my way.”
The other ways didn’t work. Here’s what he understood, that formula or that little process that I laid out for you which is if we want to make money, we have to have clients that love what we do for them. We have to create a culture that people love working in, so he has to take steps to make that happen. He looked around the company, and this was a small company. At the time, they were 120 to 130 people. He noticed a couple of things. He said, “If I’m going to create an environment that people love working in, I need for them to begin to get to know each other.” The first thing he did that was maybe a little bit more symbolic than anything else. They had a process or a policy that everybody should wear a name tag all the time, 130 people walk around with name tags. He said, “We’re 130 people, we should know each other’s names.” He banished the name tags. It’s symbolic, “We need to know each other, rip off the name tag, I’ll do the same,” which meant that he had to learn everybody’s name in the place.
He then looked at the physical environment. He said, “This is cubicle city. Floor to ceiling cubicles, people sitting next to each other, working together for ten years, and never see each other.” They lowered the heights of the cubicles so people can look into each other’s eyes. He told his managers to get the hell out of their offices and walk around and get to know people. It’s an old concept. We need to learn who each other is so people will love working here. They’ll look forward to coming to work with their friends. He did the Silicon Valley stuff where he looked at the break room and he brought in a foosball table, ping-pong table, popcorn machine, the whole thing. Every Thursday and still to this day, he brings in a food truck and feeds the whole company, and everybody has lunch together. Things started to change. The dynamic started to change.
They did hundreds of things like this. They looked at their HR policies. They looked at how they hire people, the kind of people that they hire. The question was always this, “Does this create an experience that people will love?” They also looked at the customer side of things. They had a longstanding policy that they would not ship a barge until it was at least 75% full. If it’s scheduled to go on Tuesday and it’s only 60% full, it doesn’t go until they sell at least another bit of space to get up to 75%. Why is it that? You look at the balance sheet and it says, “We’re going to lose money. We’re not in the business of losing money, so isn’t it obvious then that you don’t sail until you could sell it?” Why they can’t sell it? Because their service sucked, their people were cranky, the whole thing.
They looked at it and they asked a question. This goes back to the question that I posed a couple of minutes ago. They asked the question this way, “If we loved the customers under that same circumstance, what would we do? We ship no matter what because that’s what we told them we would do.” That’s what they started doing. At first, it was a little bit of a gulp factor because they lost money on that shipment. Example after example, very similar to that, now here’s what happened. In 2017, 2018, they were voted number 1 and number 2 best place to work in the City of Jacksonville. They were two years in a row. The last two years of this company, last year they had their best year ever. The two years before that, their revenues in those two years exceeded the previous 25 years of the company combined. They’re winning all kinds of customer service awards. Guess how much money they spend on recruiting now? Zero. It’s all word of mouth. Their employees are their best recruiters because they love working there, they want to see their friends there. What they’ve done is they’ve redirected some of the money they used to spend on recruiters in teaching people how to interview and the kind of people they were looking for.
I’ve had the chance to go out there and spend time with them. I’ve gotten to know them well. It’s story after story. We did a case study on them. The first time, they were voted number one best place to work in the City of Jacksonville. The following year, it was number two, which pissed off their employees because they felt that they should be number one. In 2020, once again, they were voted the number one best place to work in the City of Jacksonville and all over the country. If you ask Mitch, “How did you do it?” He will tell you, “I didn’t. We did.” The next thing he’ll tell you is, “We created a culture of love.” Is that soft, fluffy stuff? Absolutely not. It’s the most profitable years in the history of the company. You know why? It’s because love is just damn good business.
The whole book is chock full of stories and examples like that, which is great. It brings up to me a question now that I have for you about this word of love. Can you take somebody who doesn’t love what they do and turn them around on it? I know that you owned a company. You didn’t love what you did. That was the beginning of your business life and business career. You decided you were going to get more into the leadership and the world that you’re in now, a thought leader. You put some workshops together. You liked people. I guess you found out you didn’t like running a company, you didn’t like the business you were in, but you liked people, so you wanted to help people.
This is this a long time ago. As a young man, I discovered very early on that I was an entrepreneur. I started out wanting to be a musician, thus the guitar. I had been a musician my whole life. I got married and had a family young. I came to discover that being a musician and feeding people are mutually exclusive ideas. I got into the business because I had a friend who had a business. He was in the commodities futures business. I went to work there because I needed the money, not because I was turned on by this whole concept. I discovered I was an entrepreneur because within a few years I had my small brokerage firm.
It’s not that I didn’t love running a business. It’s that I didn’t love that business, that industry because it’s very speculative. People lose their money all the time, and I had a moral dilemma with that. I love business. I love the people. I love the game of it but that’s as far as it went in that business. It very quickly became all about the money because I didn’t feel like I was giving any value. I hated it. It’s a weird place to be when you hate your own company. Could I have stayed there and made money over time and prospered? Yes, maybe. I just don’t know how long I would have lived in the process.Sometimes, you have to do things you don't love to do the work you love. Click To Tweet
It makes sense that entrepreneurs have to love their business. They have to love their job. They have to love what they’re doing, but I’m also thinking about the employees and the managers and the people who don’t own the companies, who aren’t entrepreneurs. Is there ever a shift with them? Maybe this example of the shipping companies where some people didn’t like their job, the CEO made some changes, the president made some changes, and then they liked it a lot more and maybe they loved it. There is a way to get people to move from not liking to loving their job.
Here’s what I’ve found with this. There are a lot of nuances to the answer here, so bear with me for a second. First of all, let’s acknowledge that it is entirely possible to make a lot of money, have a very successful career and not love it. I see it every day. I know lots of people who are miserable making the money that they make. If we look at it from a leadership perspective, to what degree can you effectively create an environment that brings the best out of everybody, that high engagement, high productivity, high innovation, high results environment? Can you do that without loving some aspect of it? I’m not so sure you can.
It’s an ideal state to be. That doesn’t mean that everybody’s there. To your question, can you take somebody who doesn’t love this and have them go through some epiphany or revelation? Yes, but there has to be a willingness to get there because it’s going to require some self-reflection. I wrote a blog post about this quite a while ago and the question was, “What do you do if you don’t love your job?” The simple place to start is to ask yourself, “What is it about this work that I do love? What is it that I’m grateful for? Who is it that I’m grateful for?” I hear this a lot, “I was all starry-eyed and I love this place ten years ago, and then it got beaten out of me over time.” Is there some spark that used to be there that you could bring back? Sometimes it’s a matter of reflecting on it.
I was giving a speech once to an association of paint manufacturers. These are hardcore, blue-collar manufacturing environment. We’re having a conversation about love, which is not the stereotypical environment you have with a bunch of old dudes. This guy came up to me afterwards. He was the president of this company. We were having this conversation about losing that spark sometimes. He said, “I wanted to say thank you.” I said, “You’re welcome. What are you thanking me for?” He said, “I realized I forgot. When I first started with this company, I loved it, I was passionate about it, and then over the years, I lost the steam. When you asked that question, it reminded me and it turned all my lights on again. That’s why I’m saying thank you.”
For some people, it’s just a matter of posing the question. Is there something about this work that you do love? Is there something that you did love that you can bring back? At the same time, I want to acknowledge that this doesn’t mean that we need to love everything about our work. I’ll speak for myself. I love my work. This is my work. This is the thing that I love to do. I don’t love everything about this business. I don’t love marketing. I don’t love expense reports. I don’t love airports. I don’t love hotels night after night, but there are things that I have to do that I don’t love in order to do the work that I do love. The technical term for that is called being an adult. If you don’t have that spark, there has to be a desire to get that spark. If you’re dismissing this out of hand and saying, “It’s a bunch of crap,” okay, fine. That’s not who I’m talking to.
Most people already know and already have that desire. They just have been conditioned to believe that they shouldn’t in the context of business. Sometimes it’s just a matter of me or you mentioned, Tim Sanders, Love is the Killer App, or Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. One of their practices is encouraging the heart. I didn’t make this stuff up. Sometimes it takes somebody like us to come along and pose the question or give permission of what it feels like. You know that impulse that you have, that instinct that you have. That’s the right instinct. Act on that and see what happens. As I’ve spent the last several decades working with about every kind of industry, in about every kind of company, and having this conversation with people and seeing so many people light up, and then seeing people like Mitch. It goes on and on, example after example. There wasn’t any deep transformation that took place other than it was like, “I should be doing that,” and then getting after the work of making it real and operationalizing it in the way that we work.
Also in this pandemic, it’s easy for people to succumb to the fear and the negativity in the news, the despair, the worst-case scenarios, and all of that. Why I thought your book was so great to come out in 2020 is because if you don’t love yourself and your business, and if you don’t find the love that you have for your customers and for what you’re doing, it’s almost like you have to look at the world you’re living in right now and focus on caring for people. When you’re on the phone with people and you understand that everybody has a different way of dealing with this pandemic, everybody has a different way of dealing with being furloughed or being fired. They’re making a quarter of the money they were making the year before.
Whatever their situation is, starting with that love and that empathy when you’re having those conversations with your customers or your peers, being a human, and then loving yourself, knowing that you’re going to be okay. This isn’t your fault and that you can make your way through this, and you can find solutions. If you look at that word of love as being a goal word for you, it can get you through a lot of this. If you care about who you’re dealing with and you care about your business, you’re going to find new ways to do your business. You’re going to find people with who you want to connect and who want to do business with you.
They appreciate the empathy and concern. They know you care about them, and you’re trying to find solutions for them through business. This pandemic is maybe the perfect time to refocus ourselves on a lot of things we can do better, a lot of things we put off, a lot of better ways of doing business, but also learning to do some of the things we’ve wanted to do like better management, better marketing, better sales. You can start that during the pandemic, and your book is a great guideline for that.
There are a couple of things there. First of all, you mentioned other words that are if not exactly synonymous with love, they certainly live in the same neighborhood like kindness, empathy, etc. One of the formulas that I laid out in the book is that for people who are struggling with the word love, you don’t have to use the word love. It’s not about using the vocabulary word. Deeply care about is acceptable. The behavior, what does it look like? At business, one of the formulas is kindness plus high standards. It’s what love at work looks like. I can have very high standards. If you don’t meet those standards and I have to fire you, I can do that with kindness. I can do everything with kindness. There is such a thing as tough love. There are times where we have to do that.
To your point about the pandemic, here’s what I’m hearing a lot. It’s the phrase, “Now more than ever.” The way that I hear it’s used is like what you said. Now more than ever, we need love. Now more than ever, we need a connection. Now more than ever, we need kindness. Now more than ever, we need empathy, we need connection, we need a relationship, we need to support each other. Now more than ever, we have to think outside the box. Now more than ever, we have to be innovative. I’ve listened to that and I get it. My response to that is that’s always been true. It’s not suddenly true now where it wasn’t before. It’s just that the circumstances now are making us more aware of it.
You can practice it now and get good at it now, and you’re going to be better in business for it, and hopefully, it becomes a habit moving forward.
Forever moving forward in any circumstance. That gives me great hope. I’m a natural optimist. I will admit that I get frustrated, I get antsy finding myself beginning to miss hanging out with folks, being in a group with my clients face-to-face, hanging out with my friends, playing music. I’m feeling that and I know most people are. Depending on where you live in the world, you’re experiencing varying degrees of isolation. We have an opportunity to build that connection regardless of our circumstances and it’s very simple. It takes time. It’s a simple thing to carve it out of our schedule. I would do personal Zoom calls with everybody on my team, one-on-one, just to check in and say, “How are you? How are you doing? Let me figure out how I can help make things better and help you feel like you’re part of the team.”
We need to go out of our way to do that, and the other thing that we need to do is to remind people. I don’t like the phrase the new normal because we tend to interpret the word normal. We define it as eternal, “This is the new forever.” This is not the new forever. This is a temporary circumstance. The problem is we don’t know how long it’s going to last, but it will pass. The one way that we can show our love to our teams is by reminding them of that, but then also engaging people in a conversation about the future. What do we want our team to look like when this is all over? How do we want to emerge from this?Extreme times call for extreme leadership. Click To Tweet
Isn’t that the perfect time for extreme leadership? Isn’t this the perfect time for taking a radical leap?
Extreme times call for extreme leadership. When I use the phrase extreme leadership, all I’m saying is that real leadership by its nature is extreme. Leadership is not about your position or your title. It’s very easy to call ourselves leaders. It is extreme because it’s about the act of transformation in some way or another. It’s about creating a new reality. It’s about taking nothing and turning it into something. It’s about stretching and growing our skills and capabilities and those people around us. That’s extreme. Extreme leadership is my way of saying real leadership, but it’s also about a conscious intent to change things for the better. That’s the practice that I refer to as audacity.
It’s a bold and blatant disregard for normal constraints in order to change the world for the better. However we define the world, we could define that with a small W as in the world of my team, or a capital W as in the very fabric of human existence. That’s entirely up to you, but that’s extreme. If we’re not making use of our talent and enlisting the talent around us to change things for the better, and we’re calling ourselves leaders, and we’re not doing any of that, I don’t think we have the right to call ourselves leaders. We’re more in the poser category than we are in the leader category.
You also talk about leaders being not by title leaders, people who are employees or the everyday working man who decides to be a leader and do the best they can. Talk a little bit about that because there are a lot of people out there who may not have good leaders or have good leadership, but they can change their world by doing things a little differently.
It’s easy to listen to a discussion like this and say, “It’s my boss that needs to be listening.” Read the book and then drop it on somebody’s desk and say, “You can use this.” Let’s be clear, leadership has nothing to do with your position or title. With a couple of caveats, but first, to clarify that point, I’ve met plenty of people over the years in my work, as I’m sure you have, Chris, and everybody reading this has. They sit very prominently at the top of their company’s org chart, have very lofty and impressive-sounding titles, yet still have a bit of work to do as far as the leadership goes.
The flip side of that coin is even more important, which is what you were saying. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that have no positional authority whatsoever. They’re nobody’s boss, nobody’s manager, nobody’s supervisor. They’re right there on the frontline doing the work. They’re great leaders by virtue of who they are, what they do, how they approach their work, how they live, and their ability to influence people around them to change things for the better. This is the person that I call the extreme leader. It doesn’t matter what your title is.
Having said that, this is the caveat, if you do have a title or a position, what I’m saying is the practice of leadership does not automatically come with the territory, but the expectation of leadership does. The expectation for everybody else down the line that you will lead is automatically there from day one. What that means for all of us is that this is a constant ongoing learning trial and error process. Some people are natural-born leaders, no question about it. For most of us, we have to work at it. It doesn’t mean that for the rest of us, there was no hope. We can all get better at this just like anything else. We just got to focus on it and practice it. We’re going to screw it up and we’re going to learn from those mistakes. We’re going to get feedback from people, and we’re going to try it again. That’s the only way to do it.
As with everything and that’s why it’s great that there are many great books out there and great authors out there like you. If you find those authors in those books, they can be very useful and very helpful. If you pay attention to them, if you want to listen, if you want to learn, if you care about self-improvement, if you care about growth, if you want to be educated. Most of the leaders I know read way more than the people who aren’t leaders. They know they have to be reminded. They have to be educated. They have to hear other points of view, but a lot of it is just being reminded.
There’s that old saying, “Readers are leaders,” which I get the sentiment of, but I think it’s the opposite. It’s leaders are readers. In other words, just because you read books doesn’t automatically make you a leader. If you want to be a better leader, you have to be a part of the conversation. Whenever we get to the point where we think we got it all figured out, we’re screwed. I’ll quote Tom Peters one more time with that old saying, “You should never rest on your laurels.” He once said, “Today’s laurels are tomorrow’s compost.” That means we have to keep growing. As leaders or aspiring leaders, regardless of position or title, there’s a lot that we can learn from each other. There’s a lot that you can learn from your team. When I go in and work with clients, I’m there because I’m a subject matter expert in this. I’ve had exposure to many leaders and many great ideas. I have helped people put it into practice and I put it into practice myself. It doesn’t mean I have it all figured out, I’m not the guy with all the answers.
The great joy is in learning from my clients, and the great joy that every leader has is learning from his or her team and their colleagues. It comes back to, do I have a love for this practice of leadership? Do I have a love for the future that we can create together? Do I have a love for the values that we say we stand for? Do I have a love for the mission of this company? If I do, then I want to do everything that I can to make sure that we’re as successful as we could possibly be. That means keeping myself open to being a student, as well as a teacher. It becomes two sides of the same coin.
If you are focused on love and all the things we’ve been talking about here, doesn’t that defeated fear, which is the main thing holding most people back?
It depends on the kind of fear. Love is what emboldens us to step up in the face of fear. There is another flavor of fear that is very natural. In other words, if the love gets me to step up to take a risk, to change something, by definition, if I’m trying to change my piece of the world for the better, I’m taking a risk. We’re trying to do something or create something that does not currently exist. There’s no guarantee in anything. Taking that risk is scary. That’s the part that we tend to forget about. Love is the impetus that gets moves us forward. The right kind of fear is what the experience feels like. This is what I refer to as the pursuit of the OS!M, and that stands for the Oh, Shit! Moment. That’s the feeling that we have when we’re taking a risk in order to accomplish something great.
The love gets me to step up the experience of the OS!M. If I’m conditioned to believe that I should be fearless, then as soon as I have an inkling of that OS!M, I think something is wrong. Therefore, I stop or I turn and run, or I don’t act on that great idea that I had. What I’m suggesting is that in the right context, fear is a good thing because it’s an indicator that we’re doing something. Perhaps it’s an indicator that we’re moving in the right direction. To use the old pop psychology, we have to reframe the experience so that when we have the fear of trying something new because I believe that this is the right thing, there’s no guarantee, I step into it, I have that difficult conversation, I tried that new process, I launched that new product, I make that sales presentation, and I’m feeling that OS!M. I can then at that moment say, “There it is. That’s a good thing. That means I should continue.” To quote, Monty Python, “Not run away.” It means to move towards love in fear, but that’s a positive kind of fear. There’s the fear of rejection and the fear of those other things that are damaging to us. Therefore, we tend to lump all fear into the same category and treat it all as bad, and it’s not all bad.
The best way to defeat fear is with love, gratitude, empathy and caring. If you focus more on those things, you’re going to be okay. You are a man who teaches us how to do that.The practice of leadership does not automatically come with the territory, but the expectation of leadership does. Click To Tweet
The classic scenario that’s often quoted when talking about fear is the fear of public speaking.
It’s supposedly the number one thing people are afraid of.
I’ve never seen the source material on that. I wonder if it’s literally true but we certainly hear that a lot. Here’s the other thing we have to remember. The OS!M, that fear is a relative thing. One person’s OS!M is another person’s walk in the park. Speaking in front of people is not my OS!M, but was it ever once upon a time? Yes, to some degree. The love for something drives us to work through that fear. If you’re one of these people with the classic fear of public speaking, but you love the idea of being able to do it, it’s that love that will impel you to experience that OS!M to get up there and do it time after time. Before you know it, it’s not an OS!M anymore.
I was speaking at a conference of orthopedic surgeons. The guy who was heading up the conference, I’ll never forget this pep talk he gave me right before I went up to speak. He said, “Just so you know, you’re about to speak to 300 of the biggest egos you’ve ever known. If they don’t like you, if they don’t like what you’re saying within the first couple of minutes, many of them will get up and leave.” It turned out they were great and had a twisted sense of humor like I do. When we got to the conversation about the OS!M and I’m explaining about fear, and it’s relative and all that, it suddenly occurred to me that I’m talking about the OS!M to people who cut people open for a living. That is the most terrifying thing that I could ever imagine.
To them, they’re whistling, singing a tune, talking about their golf game and sports, and all that while they’re cutting into people. Yet for a lot of those guys, according to what that pep talk I got, the idea of doing what I was doing at that moment, speaking to 300 massive egos, is the most terrifying thing they can imagine. Why do you do that? Why do you learn how to cut into people as a doctor if you don’t love the challenge, the possibility of being able to save lives, and all the ideals around being a surgeon? That’s what gets me through the first time I ever did that. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. It’s not an OS!M anymore.
Steve, I’m definitely going to have to go back to this again because it’s all usable content that we can all benefit from. These books are awesome. You’re awesome. You’re always one of those speakers who everybody knows is great. One of the top leadership speakers out there. Thank you so much. It’s an honor to have you on the show. I appreciate it. We could talk for hours, I’m sure. There’s so much content here. I want to read it again. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Chris. It has been a real pleasure to hang out with you, and thanks for asking such great questions. It’s not an easy thing to do, but this was a lot of fun. I hope it’s helpful for people.
I know it will be. Thank you so much again. You are the man. We’ll talk to you soon. Take care.
- Steve Farber
- The Radical Leap
- Greater Than Yourself
- Love Is Just Damn Good Business
- The Radical Edge
- Love is the Killer App
About Steve Farber
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