Craig Groeschel - The Power of Positive Leadership (with Jon Gordon)
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It's really hard in many ways. One, there's just so much negativity, and it seems like you can't please everyone. You have to be willing to be unpopular to make the hard decision. And leadership is based on principle, not circumstance.
— Get ready to take some good notes. This is a good interview with a good man. His name is Jon Gordon. Let's welcome him now. Hey, Jon, I've been looking forward to this for a long time. Welcome to the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast.
— Craig, great to be with you. I've been looking forward to this as well.
— I've really appreciated your friendship, and you just inspire me. You've always got a growth mindset, you're known for positivity, which I think is a gift to us in our leadership community, and you're always pushing yourself and asking good questions, adding value. And so I'm really excited to introduce you to anyone in our community that doesn't know you, and a ton of 'em are gonna be super excited because they do know you, love you, and follow you. And so I wanna get a little bit of background before we dive into some of your kind of areas of expertise and talk about your new book that's coming out very, very soon, "The One Truth: Master Your Mindset, Live with Power, Heal Your Soul". Can we go back a little bit, Jon? You've been known in the leadership field for years and years, but when did you first discover that you were a leader, that you had leadership gifts?
— I can go back to college. I was on the Cornell lacrosse team, and I wasn't named a captain, either was Mike Levine. Mike Levine is now the head of CAA Sports with Howie. And so Mike and I were brought into coach's office and he said, "Hey, guys, you weren't named a captain by the team," 'cause it was more of a popularity contest 'cause the team voted, "but I need you guys to lead". "I see you guys as leaders and I need you to help lead this team". And I think it was in that moment that I realized that leadership is not about a title, it's about making a difference, making an impact. And I don't think I was the greatest leader at that time, but I knew I led by example, I was good in leading by example. But I wasn't really selfless at that time. I wanted to have the success, I wanted to play great on the field, it was about my performance. It really wasn't as much about the team at that point for me. But I did want to lead by example, and for me that's where I learned first and foremost about, "Okay, I could impact people around me by making good decisions and modeling that for my team".
— Well, I love that you said that you don't need a title to lead because I think a lot of times, we'll someone even maybe new to our community and they'll think, "Well, I'm not a boss and I don't have a title". And the truth is, leadership is influence, and we all have influence and you can influence from anywhere you are. And so there you were a college lacrosse athlete and without an official title, but you were leading by example. Can you remember a time maybe that your example helped change the tone of the team, the direction? Does anything come to mind about how you were able to actually lead by example?
— I think it was a game against West Point. We go to overtime. I'm the face off guy. And if I lose the face off, we might lose this game, and I lose the face off. And the guy is running down the field and I got so mad, I was so frustrated that I lost, I just sprinted as hard as I could to catch up to this guy. And some how, some way I was able to catch up, and I hit him, and we both went down. I got up, picked up the ball, I got shoved out of bounds. But before I got shoved out of bounds, I jumped in the air and I threw it behind my back. My good friend John Busse caught the ball, threw it to Joe Lando, and he scored, and we won the game in overtime. Now, that was a play on the field, but I know after that guys took me more seriously 'cause they saw, "Okay, this guy will be willing to do whatever it takes, to sacrifice his body, to go for it, to help this team win". I think that was a a moment for me where I learned about sacrifice, about commitment, and making sure that you may lose in the moment, but if you don't give up, you can win in the end.
— Well, any time a leader does kinda lead the way with self-sacrificial actions, that goes a long way. And by the way, your accent works so much better lacrosse story than someone like from Oklahoma with... If I had this southern accent telling a lacrosse story, it just wouldn't quite be as good. So I just wanna say, I'm glad you're the authentic thing. Bring it on.
— That Long Island...
— It comes out when I tell this story...
— It just sounds right. Yeah, I think you keep a little more of the accent on there in that story, so I'm gonna bait you with this. You're the author of 27 books, over 5 million copies sold. I think the one that long before we became friends, I think "The Energy Bus" was the first one I came across years ago. Maybe your best selling book. It certainly is up there. But then the one that I just love, stands out of all of them, and I love them all, "The Power of Positive Leadership". I'm kind of baiting you with that one. In fact, I've got the book here. This is so good. If you're known for one thing when it comes to leadership, what's that one thing?
— I would say, optimism and belief. And research from Duke University shows that optimist work harder, get paid more, and then more likely to succeed in business and sports. And what these researchers found was that these optimists, 'cause they believed in a brighter and better future, they took the actions necessary to create it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And so often, what we believe determines what we create. And, Craig, what's so interesting about this for me is that, you know, I'm not naturally a positive person even though I'm known for optimism, belief, and positivity. But I've had to work really hard at it because I grew up in Long Island, New York, Jewish Italian family, a lot of food, a lot of guilt. My dad was a New York City police officer, undercover narcotics. And so my dad was not a very positive person. He was a loving dad, but one of the most negative guys on the planet. Craig, I remember when I first started speaking, my dad said, "I can't believe people pay you to speak. When you were a kid, we'd pay you to shut up". I mean, that was my dad, that was the mindset I grew up with. So I really struggled with it in terms of my own belief, my own optimism. My wife almost left me when I was 31 years old. I'm fearful, stressed, negative, I lost my job during the dot-com crash. How am I gonna pay the bills? How will I support my two little kids? And it was during that moment though, when she almost left, where my optimism, my belief, my faith was actually beginning. That's where my faith was born, where I really turned to God in that moment and say, "God, why am I here"? "What am I born to do"? Like, "What is my purpose"? And it was in that moment, writing and speaking came to me, and then I found my purpose in wanting to be more positive, I've realized my whole quest has been, "Okay, how can I get more positive and be better myself, and then help others get better"? And whenever I would talk about optimism and belief, I just lit up. I got energized by it. And then working with leaders like Dabo Swinney and Eric Spolstra, Alan Mulally who turned around Ford. I'm actually talking to him today, and he defined his leadership style as positive leadership. And now working with In-N-Out Burger and they're using the power positive leadership for their entire company. Every leader's reading that book, and I spoke to them several times now, like, I know firsthand and I know that this is like the way forward in terms of leadership. So for me, positive leadership is not Pollyanna positive, it's not ignoring reality, it's about maintaining optimism, belief, and faith in order to create a better reality. And our belief as a leader leads the way. Like, leadership is a transfer of belief. And if you don't have it, you can't share it. So you gotta feed yourself every day in order to feed others, and that's what I know about positive leadership.
— Okay, so you have no idea how happy I am to hear you say you're not naturally a positive person. And I can imagine there's a lot of leaders out there right now that do wake up and they're gonna see what could go wrong often before they see what could go right. If you grew up in more of a negative environment and maybe your parents, they loved you a lot, but they were hard on you, or maybe had some coaches that were maybe weren't as positive, was there a moment or was there an evolution, how did you start to discover that a different mindset could be way more helpful in your leadership?
— Such a great question. I know for me, I saw how I started to change my mindset by taking these walks of gratitude every day. 'Cause here I was wanting to be more positive, so I started to research all the ways I could be more positive. This was during the emerging field of positive psychology. And so this is 2001, 2002. So I'm writing these ideas down that I'm reading about. I'm now practicing some ideas. I'm an application guy, so I'm actually taking some of these concepts, and then figuring out ways to apply it to my life. And next thing you know, I started to share this with others. I had a newsletter all the way back in 2002. Five subscribers, Craig. My mother, my brother, my best friend from college. I'm sending these tips out to people and they start doing them. But more importantly for me, I'm like, "Oh wow, they're working". Like, the walk of gratitude every day, research shows you can't be stressed and thankful at the same time. So if you're feeling blessed, you won't feel stressed. So I'm taking this walk every day and I'm literally feeling different. I'm feeling better. My wife starts to notice the difference in me immediately. Like, within within a week, she sees a difference. So now I'm changing how I'm thinking, how I'm feeling. So I'm seeing this impact firsthand for me, I start sharing this with others, and I see how they're now being impacted by it and they're saying it's working for them. I started a success journal. So every night you go to bed, you share your success of the day. What's the one great thing that happened today? Not all the things that went wrong, what's the one thing that went right, and you focus on that. It's like golf. When we play golf, we don't focus on all the bad shots, we focus on the one great golf shot we had, and it makes you wanna play again and again. So this causes you to take on life instead of retreating from life. And so that was an idea as well. So I started putting these ideas into practice, and then literally from the inside out, I started to change. My wife noticed, my kids actually noticed. But most importantly, like after a few years of doing this and my kids being athletes, I was a negative leader and a negative dad. And as I became a more positive dad and more positive leader who encourage, 'cause I used to be very critical. I'm that guy that you don't want to be as a parent on the sidelines. I now help those guys 'cause I was that guy. But I changed, started to really encourage my kids, especially my daughter, and I saw them transform because of how I changed as a leader.
— First of all, I wanna tell you that I 100% agree with what you're saying that gratitude is a game changer. For the sake of some people out there going, "Ah, come on, Jon". I mean, like gratitude walk, I can almost feel it. And what I want you to do is I want you to try to answer the why and the what. First of all, what I want you to do is tell me why would going around thinking about what I'm grateful for, why? Like, deeper than just, if you're blessed, you're not stressed, but like neurologically and what's happening in your body. And then secondly, I'd like to hear the what, like, specifically, what'd your family noticed or what became different in your leadership? So if I'm going back like, "Gratitude walk, come on man, I mean, that's just like some cheesy positive thinking, whatever". Why does it make a difference and what was the specific, some of the specific differences people saw in your life?
— Okay, so you said we're gonna go deep, we're gonna go really deep right now.
— Let's go deep, come on, come on. Give me some of that lacrosse deep.
— This is based on "The One Truth," the new book coming out. And I've done a lot of research, I've done a lot of thinking. One day I'm walking, and it occurs to me, I get this insight, the brain is an antenna. It's literally an antenna. Not an analogy, no, it's an antenna. 86 billion neurons and we have a transmitter and receiver on our neurons. Well, guess what? Every day you're tuning into a frequency, you're tuning into a positive frequency or a negative frequency. There are two main frequencies that we can tune into. There's the old Cherokee story of the two wolves inside of us. And the one that you feed, that's the one that grows. So feed the positive instead of the negative. We know in the garden, there were two main frequencies. There was the voice of God and there was the voice of the serpent, the voice of the enemy. And so every day you are living your life, you're tuning into these negative thoughts or positive thoughts. And here's the deal, negative thoughts are always coming in. And I ask people all the time, especially professional athletes when I work with 'em, do your negative thoughts come from you? And they always go, "Yeah, yeah, they're in my head". But here's the next question. If you believe your negative thoughts come from you, who would ever choose to have a negative thought? Would you ever choose a negative thought? And I know you've written books on this, Craig, and I've talked a lot about this. Negative thoughts are always coming in, but no one has ever found a thought inside of the brain. I've asked neuroscientists, they haven't. They exist in a spiritual place. So we are tuning into those thoughts in a spiritual place from a negative standpoint or a positive standpoint. If your brain is an antenna, you can tune into a more positive frequency. So years ago when I was doing this, I didn't realize this is what I was doing, but I was elevating my state of mind. There's a high state of mind, and there's a low state of mind. Negative thoughts will lower your state of mind. They will separate you and divide you. The root word for the Greek word for anxious means to separate and divide. And so negative thoughts separate us, fear divides us. Negative thoughts separate us from ourselves, from others, and also from God. So we feel disconnected. And if you look at all mental health challenges and mental health issues, they all include separation, a feeling of disconnection, aloneness and isolation. So we move towards separateness, and the more we do, we move from positive to negative. But as we tune that dial more towards the positive and the positive frequency, we begin to unite. We elevate our state of mind. So tune is an acronym, trust and truth. So while you're walking, you practice trust, you're trusting God, and you're speaking truth to those lies. And so instead of the lies that you're listening to, you speak truth to them, talk to yourself, don't listen to yourself. So the gratitude is a great way to do that, trust and truth. Then U is unite with love. I'll get to that in a second. N is neutralize negativity. So you're practicing gratitude, you're neutralizing the negativity, you're appreciating. And when you appreciate, you elevate. You elevate your mood, your performance, the people around you. You feel your body and brain with these hormones that uplift you rather than the stress hormones that slowly drain you and slowly kill you. And I'm convinced, these hormones, I'm convinced that this frequency, all of that is a byproduct of the result of tuning into that higher frequency. So our body feels better, our brain starts to feel better. Our antenna literally starts to operate at a higher frequency, tuning into those more positive thoughts. This is where a revolutionary idea, people haven't talked about this before, and I'm sharing this in "The One Truth". And then we neutralize that negativity, we elevate our thinking, and that is the E. We elevate our thinking. And this is what gratitude does. It elevates our thinking to a higher level, thinking those positive thoughts. Abundance flows into your life when gratitude flows out of your heart. And I think about my wife, Craig. I've been telling this story just recently. My wife is 55. She was complaining that she was getting older, she's not feeling the same like when she was younger, she's sore all the time, she's not gonna be like when she was younger. I said, "Honey, come on, we gotta stop this thinking". I go away for a speaking engagement, I come back, she's like a different person. She's now walking around the house, she's all energized, she's light and free. I'm like, "All right, what's going on here"? Like, "What happened to my wife"? "Did you get a boyfriend or something"? She's like, "No, no, no". She goes, "I just talked to the health coach". She did this intensive testing where they look at your genes, your DNA, your blood work, everything. She goes, "They said I had something really rare". They told, "You know, this is unique. We don't see this often". They told my wife, you have the genes of an Olympic athlete. So now she's walking around that house going, "Ah, an Olympic athlete". "You wanna play tennis tomorrow? I'll crush you 'cause I'm an Olympic athlete". And she's literally thinking differently. I am powerful, I am strong, I am a champion. She's now working out a whole lot harder. She's not sore anymore, the pain went away, I kid you not. What changed? Her thinking. And when we think differently, neurologically we have neuro pathways that are created, but I'm convinced, I'm convinced what we're gonna find out in the future is that we literally will elevate the frequency of our antenna, and a healthy antenna will tune in to a higher frequency and more positive thoughts. A damaged antenna, which is what negative thoughts do and all the substances that are affecting our brain in many ways and also read brain energy. A guy talks about the metabolic process that's affecting the mitochondria of our brain. We lower the frequency, and as you do that, you'll tune into more negative thoughts. So gratitude elevates your frequency, elevate your thinking, elevate your state of mind. Next thing you know, you start to feel different, you start to act differently, and then you start to literally draw more things to you in a positive way.
— So I think the quote was, I tried to write it down, "Abundance flows into your life when gratitude flows out of your life". That's...
— Out of your heart.
— Out of your heart. Okay, very good. You know, from a Christian perspective, I kind of think we were talking about, you know, do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So changing how you think. And we're even taught to capture any wrong thought. And the way it's phrased in the Bible is to make it obedient, make it obedient to Christ. So if there's a thought that's in the wrong direction, we're gonna grab it and say, "No, that's not the right thought and we're gonna replace it with truth". I wanna ask a little bit of clarity because, and you alluded to this, but let's say I'm leading something and we've got, the culture's not great at our organization, expenses are out the roof, revenue's down, and I'm looking at a lot of things that are negative. How does a positive mindset change that? What do I need to... How do I need to think in order to lead our team out of what maybe is a very realistically bad situation into one that's better?
— Positive leaders don't attack people, they attack problems. So we look at the problem, we say, "Okay, this is a challenge, we have to address this," and then we talk about it. And we have a real conversation about the challenge we're facing, the adversity we have to overcome, and then we look forward. We have to find a way forward. Positive leaders are always looking forwards, not backwards. We were here yesterday, but here's where we're going now. Yes we had this setback, but here's where we're going now. And so you're very honest about your challenges and the realities of what you're dealing with, but you have to look towards the future in an optimistic way, and then rally your team towards that. And as a leader, you gotta provide clarity. Clarity leads to focused action. So what's the future and what's the clarity of the future that we are trying to create? and then each person has to understand the vision, the mission as we move forward to achieve it, how we're gonna overcome the negativity and the adversity to to make it happen, and then each person's role along the way where they have a clear understanding of what they can do to contribute, to achieve what you wanna achieve. And so to me that's leadership, really addressing the issue but understanding how we're gonna do it. Alan Mulally, who I talked to a lot for the power of positive leadership, he turned around Boeing and Ford. Both were literally massive turnarounds. They say some of the greatest leadership feats in history, not just like in this decade, but in history. And what he did was got his team rallied together, pointed 'em towards this vision and mission and purpose, and then from there, use positive leadership along the way with belief and optimism. And he told me, "Jon, positive leaders always find a way forward".
— So you work with some of the best out there, big companies, pro-athletes, leaders that most of us, many of us would know who they are. I'm gonna timestamp this interview. It's the middle of 2023. As you're working with people right now, what is one of the most common problems that you're seeing from organization to organization that leaders are trying to solve right now?
— A big problem they're facing right now, again timestamped, is post-COVID, it's how are we leading our team when some people wanna still work from home, many wanna come to the office, how do we deal with a remote workforce that is working remotely around the world or even around the country? And how do we engage these people? Like, how do we really build a strong, connected team when we're working remotely? I get that question all the time. How do we keep the division from dividing and separating us as a team and keeping us off track? How do we overcome that and become more united, more connected, more committed, more engaged. That's what I do mostly now. I work with leaders and organizations and teams to become more connected, more committed, more engaged, to have that common vision and purpose and to work together. And one of the solutions, for instance, if you are remote, it's not a perfect solution 'cause in-person's always best, but I truly believe we have to make time intentionally and get together and do some team building exercises to help the team become a stronger, more united, connected team. Just simple exercises like, who's your hero? Tell me about a hardship you faced that made you who you are today. Tell me about a highlight about your life. What do you hope for if you wanna add another age? Or what's hilarious and have some fun with this exercise. And you do this as a team, it's a great way to bond the team together. Or, what's your word for the year? Give me one word that's gonna drive you to be your best this year. Everyone on the team picks their word, you have a team word, and each person shares why they chose that word. That's a powerful exercise for that team to come together and be a stronger team. Or as a leader, here's a great tip. Connect with one person every day on your team, in-person or remotely, and take the time to engage with that one person every day. At least one. 'Cause we can all do that. 'Cause here's the deal, we're overwhelmed, we're busy, and we're stressed. And research shows when we're busy and stressed, we activate the reptilian part of our brain. You know anything about a reptile, it's never gonna love you. It's all about survival. So when we're busy and stressed, we're all about survival. We're not thinking about, "Oh how can I help my team thrive"? "How can I help my team be their best"? No, we're just trying to survive the day. And here's the deal, we have this part of the brain. This is the positive dog part of the brain, the loving, unconditional nature of a dog. And we can override the reptile with the positive dog. Quarter a second is our time to do it, override that reptile. So every day as a leader, you have to be intentional and say, "I'm gonna override the busyness, the stress, the reptile, with this positive dog. And I'm gonna be intentional and I'm gonna love, I'm gonna engage, I'm gonna connect, I'm gonna care, and I'm gonna take that moment to do that". One person a day at a time, we can do that, and that really helps the relationships on your team. And we know relationships are the foundation upon which winning teams are built, and connection leads to commitment. So you'll never have commitment without connection. So you've gotta develop that connection to have greater commitment. And you know, Craig, if you've ever said something you wish you didn't said or hurried through a meeting, your reptile ate your positive dog, and we've all been there.
— Your answer to that question is exactly what I guessed that it might be, and I think it is a real issue. One of the things we're seeing is that when people are working remotely versus not, guarding the culture becomes really, really difficult because when you're together, the culture is pretty obvious. It's a combination of what we create and allow. But when you're in separate places, you tend to create your own culture. And without a common culture, it's really hard to move things forward. But how would you suggest people do both create and guard the culture when they're working in different places?
— Such a great question. Culture's the living, breathing essence of what an organization values, believes, thinks, says, and does. And so we've gotta discuss the values often, we've gotta discuss the vision often, we've gotta talk about what we believe often, we've gotta talk about what we're saying and what we're doing, 'cause culture's not static, it's dynamic. So every day we are creating our culture by what we think, say, and do. And once you understand that and you understand that culture is not one person, it's everyone. Everyone on your team creates the culture. We've gotta include everyone, we've gotta engage everyone, and we've gotta talk about our values. And when you know your values, you show your values. All right, we know 'em, let's show them. And I often say, everyone has a mission statement today, but only the great companies have people on a mission. So what are we doing on a daily basis to be on a mission? How are we bringing this to life? And you know this well, tell stories. Tell stories that bring the culture and the values to life and reinforce those values. So when people are remote, let's share the stories that are bringing the culture to life. "Who's doing what"? "Oh, Jane did this, and it was amazing". "Great job, Jane". "Hey, Bob did this, and wow, it worked really well when Bob did this. And, man, he was exemplifying the culture and this value when he did that". So you start to highlight it, you reinforce it. And what we reinforce, we start to see a lot more of. And so when you're remote, people need to feel like they're part of the team and part of something bigger than themselves. And that's where we talk about, "Okay, what's our vision, what's our mission"? Doug Conant told me that every meeting when he was leading Campbell Soup, he would talk about the vision and mission first and foremost. That's the first thing he said at every meeting, here's our vision, here's our mission, to build the world's most extraordinary food company by nourishing people's lives everywhere, every day, and what does it mean to you? And I think that's the key. Here's our vision and mission, let's remind each other of what it is. What are you doing to live and breathe it and what does it mean to you? And I'm a big fan of symbols and icons and things that allow you to really reinforce the vision and mission along the way.
— Yeah, I like the question, what does it mean to you? That's a good way to take what is seems like a big mission and personalize it. I'm curious, Jon, again, you're out there on the front lines all the time. I've heard a lot of leaders say that, at least in our lifetime, it seems like leading right now is more difficult than it's ever been before. Agree or disagree?
— I would agree. It's really hard in many ways. One, there's just so much negativity, and it seems like you can't please everyone. You have to be willing to be unpopular to make the hard decision. And leadership is based on principle, not circumstance. So these are our principles, and, yes, this circumstance or this popularity will result from from this, but I've gotta make that hard decision anyway. You asked me a problem earlier. Another problem is that people have trouble having difficult conversations these days because we don't know how to address problems without attacking people or about being perceived as negative. And so like I'm working on a book with a colleague about difficult conversations, and they don't have to be difficult. And we have a Star Three model I'll share with you real quick. Star Three, the S stands for small ego, big mission. So as a team, let's get together and let's have a difficult conversation. And again, this is team conversations, not individual conversations. So as a team, let's come together and let's have small egos, big mission. What's our mission? Let's remember that, lose the ego, as we talk about what's important. T, tell the truth. This is really hard because sometimes we don't wanna tell the truth or we're scared to tell the truth. We don't wanna rock the boat. So we have to make sure we're telling the truth. Seattle Seahawks have Tell the Truth Mondays. Pete Carroll implemented that. I love that. Every Monday after Sunday, churches might do the same. Hey, what did... I know, that's why you're smiling. What did we do well, what could we approve on, who messed up? And when they talk about it, no one gets upset because they have a rule and it's part of their culture. We're gonna tell the truth and no one takes it personal, right? So that's important. Then there's the A, assume positive intent. With so much negativity and issues going on, a lot of times we're not assuming positive intent. So that's important. And then R is R3, R cube, respect. Let's respect each other. Even though we could disagree, I'll still respect you. I may not agree with your opinion, but I'll respect you. It's about the relationship. Don't sacrifice the relationship with one argument. Maintain your relationships. During COVID, there were a lot of people who disagreed about a lot of things. I had friends I disagree with. We had incredible conversations and debates, but we always said, "Let's maintain our relationship and not lose our friendship over this". And finally the last R is rules of engagement. You've gotta decide, and this is great for families, how will we have our difficult conversations, what's our rules of engagement? Don't get emotionally charged. This is a great one for churches. There's no meeting after the meeting. And this happens a lot of companies too. Everything you say has to be said in the meeting. You can't walk outta the meeting and go, "That was stupid". You cannot do that. You have to say it in the meeting. There's no gossiping, I wrote the no complaining rule. You're not allowed to do those things. If I'm running the meeting or it's my company, that's one of my rules of engagement. You've gotta come up with your own, and that will help you have difficult conversations. When everyone understands at the cultural level, this is how we do things here, this is how we have difficult conversations, and this is how we put it into practice. What does it look like? My team and I will say, "We gotta have a difficult conversation today, you ready? Let's go. And let's talk about it". And we know we're gonna have one, but we also know we're gonna work through it.
— That's very, very helpful, especially I think today, because there are a lot of people in organizations trying to work through difficult issues and they'll end up attacking people rather than attacking the issues. So that is like, that's one answer to the question that I wanted to ask as a follow up. I'm gonna go ahead and ask it 'cause I pull more out of you. In culture today outside of positivity, and then I would add to it, and the ability to work through difficult conversations, what are maybe one or two of the other qualities that you're seeing more necessary today to lead well than maybe five years ago?
— It's gotta be love and accountability. Like, that is the hallmark of positive leadership. It's optimism, belief. And if you ask me the next one, it's love and accountability. So I've gotta hold you accountable to the standards, the values, the culture, and the principles. But along the way, I'm gonna love you, support you, care about you, encourage you. And I don't believe in tough love. Tough love no longer works. It did in the old days when I was being raised, it was tough love. My dad was a New York City cop, as I said. Tough love. But that doesn't work anymore. It's love tough. If your team knows you love them, you earn the right to challenge them, to push them, to help them be great. And, Craig, when I wrote the "Power of Positive Leadership," I gotta just tell you, I measured against Jesus as a leader. Every principle I wrote about, "Did Jesus lead this way"? And as you know, he led with grace and truth and with love first and foremost, and then he could actually call you up to greatness and challenge you. And guess what, we have to do the same as leaders, and that's key. Dabo Swinney is one of the greatest, the greatest in the world at this. And everyone has come and met him. Ed Mylett, our mutual friend, visited him and was like, "Wow, you're right. I'm blown away". Seeing him in person, those players know he loves him, but, man, he's gonna hold you accountable and he's gonna drive you to be your best. And here's the thing, if you love someone, you're not gonna settle or let them settle for anything but the best. You're gonna push them to the potential they can have, you're gonna challenge them, you're gonna love 'em along the way. But if you love someone, you've got to challenge them. As a father of a son and a daughter, I did it the wrong way initially, turned it around, and as I start to love more, but still challenged, I saw them rise up. My daughter works with me now, she's a speaker. And so what we do is we have a boss hat and we have a dad hat. And I got this from Trent Dilfer, which is a great idea. And so she'll call me up, "Hey, I just wanna talk to my dad". "Can I talk to my dad"? "Yes, sweetie". And it's a lot of love. And then boss is still love, but she'll, "All right, dad, I need help with this. All right, you wanna talk to business? Let's talk business". All right, "Hey, I think you need to do this. You're doing this great, but you gotta work on this". And I'm a little more, you know, I'm challenging, I'm a little more driving, but still a lot of love, but we have these two hats, and it helps a lot.
— So let's do this. We could have a friend hat or we could have, let's say, you're my boss. I'm gonna let you put your boss hat on and I want you to demonstrate how you would do this. Let's say you are my boss, I admire you, I look up to you, I respect you, we got a good culture. I'm a talented player, but I'm a little bit lazy right now. And instead of tough love, you're gonna love me tough. And so let's say I am hitting most deadlines, missing a couple, I'm coming in later, leaving earlier, and I'm not as engaged as you would want me to be. Can you kind of just talk through what would the beginning of that conversation look like? So our listeners can kind of get an example. What would you say to me? So, okay, Jon, I'm doing great, right?
— Well, hey, let's talk about that. You know, I've noticed, and I've been watching you, I've noticed that you seem to be struggling in some areas or not living up to your full potential. And I wanna tell you, I think you have amazing potential. I've seen you at that level and I know what you're capable of, and I know what the standard is 'cause I've seen you meet that standard, but right now you're having trouble meeting that standard. And so let's talk about what's going on. Like, is something happening in your life? Because so often, fear is disguised as laziness. And so you look lazy but you're actually fearful. And as I wrote in the one truth, there's a separation going on. And often there's a wound, and that wound causes you to act in subpar ways. You don't live up to your potential, you're allowing laziness to step in, you have anxiety, you have stress, you have a lot of fear, you have have insecurity, worry, doubt, you got a lot of clutter going on in your mind. So I would wanna help you and talk about what's going on, what's your thinking process lately, how you're struggling, and what's happening? And then from there, as you start sharing that with me, I'll be able to help you have a higher state of mind, to help you look at the hole in your soul and become more whole. I'll look at you and help you realize what your challenges are. And you may not even realize that you're facing these challenges, and this is what's holding you back. But then once we have this conversation, you'll see it very clearly. And then together, we can talk about what greatness looks like, what your best looks like. And I can show you the difference between the expectation and also where you are. Just like coaches do. They show the tape. This is a great play, this is not a great play, they always say. The camera in the sky don't lie. And so when I'm looking and I'm sharing this, I've gotta give you examples. So I'm giving you examples, I'm showing you what I've noticed, I'm demonstrating it to you, but I'm coming with the love, helping you realize there's probably something holding you back. Let's find out what that is that's holding you back, and then let's move forward as we overcome it together, and let's create a vision and purpose, let's create a map and an execution plan of what you're gonna do to get there. And it's that kind of conversation. And, Craig, I talked to three teenagers over this summer about "The One Truth". It's when I knew I needed to write it. And they were suicidal, and they were struggling. They had so much fear, so many negative thoughts. And after talking to them and sharing this with them, this process, helping them realize what was going on in their head, and then helping them have more positive thoughts and understanding how they can elevate their mind, everything changed. I reached out to 'em just recently. "How you doing"? "Doing great, Mr. Gordon". "High state of mind". And I know people can change. I know you wrote a book on that. I know people can change 'cause I can change, 'cause I changed. I can change and I changed, I've seen my kids change. And when we see people improve like this, it lets you know there's a way to approach it that we're talking about like right now.
— So I took some notes on what you did there, and I wanna say thank you for that example. And again, you were saying, and I haven't heard that before the way you said it, that tough love isn't as effective today, but loving tough is. And so what I like to do, Jon, I like to always observe something that works well, and then try to dissect it. I think it was Andy Stanley who said, "If you don't know why something is working when it is, you won't know how to fix it when it's not". So I don't like something that's just effective, I like to diagnose why it's effective. And so I wanted to kind of explain what you just did in the conversation, our imaginary conversation, so our listeners can see the kind of step by step process. What you did is you first actually spoke well of me, not flattery, but you said something like, you're capable of lot, I believe in you, you're talented. And so you did state what I told you, is I am a capable player, and you started with a very genuine belief in me. Then what you did was you didn't play around. And a lot of times, what'll happen is, in a meeting like this, people will wrongly small talk and, how's it going? Oh, Blah, blah, blah, blah. And then right after you affirmed me, immediately you said, but you're not hitting the mark. And you didn't hem, haw around, you didn't pull punches. You said it very, very directly, which is actually kind. And then at that point, you said, "I would ask you questions". So you affirmed me, you stated the truth, and then you wanted to not just make accusations, but find out what are some underlying issues that may be holding me back. Then what I like is you said you're going to create a difference between where I am and what's expected, so there'll be a clarity of what's missing. And a lot of times they're like, "You just need to work harder". "You need to have a better work ethic". "What does that mean"? You are gonna be specific. Maybe it means you need to show up at this time, or maybe the project needs to be done at this level by a certain time or whatever. But you're gonna be very, very clear on expectations, and then you created a map or a plan forward. And all those things you did intuitively, naturally, because you've done it forever. But I just wanted to kind of walk through those for our audience because I know there are a lot of people having difficult conversations right now. The first thing is of whatever is good and true about the person, I believe in you, we're having this conversation, not because you're in trouble, but because you're valuable, because I wanna help you get better. But you're not getting there, number two, the truth. Here's where you're falling short. Three is, what's going on? What I've found is a lot of times, there's an underlying issue that is very real that if I knew about it, we could actually help the person get through something difficult at home or extenuating circumstances or a mental block or an insecurity, or like you said, a fear, and then a clarity of where we need to get, and then the map forward. So that's what you said. I thought that was very, very helpful, and I just wanted to bring real clarity to what you did so our listeners can do something with it. I'm curious, every time I'm with you, you're like, you're a little bit better. Even before we were talking about you're in your fifties and you would say you're probably in the best shape of your life. As you're helping others get better, what do you do for personal development? What's Jon Gordon's personal leadership and self self-development look like?
— That's such a great question in terms of like how am I growing. 'Cause I often don't even think about my own journey, I'm just doing it on a daily basis. But one, physically, I'm working out, I eat really healthy, I have a mindset. I just celebrated my 50th birthday even though I'm 52, but we celebrated my 50th, and it was because we'd never celebrated my 50th during COVID, so a group of friends out in LA got together and celebrated. And in my mind I said that day, "You know what, I'm not gonna have a 53rd birthday. I'm staying at 50 from now on, is what I'm gonna do". So I try to think young. In terms of self-improvement, self-growth, I'm always learning from great leaders like you, listening to your podcast, listening to Irwin McManus and his sermons really inspire me and encourage me, so I'll listen to him. I'll listen to different sermons all the time. I'm growing the most spiritually right now, like, in amazing ways. Like, Romans, "A mind governed by the flesh leads to death, a mind governed by the spirit leads to life". When you would talk about taking every thought, captive, and the renewing of your mind, that's in "The One Truth". I realized like, "Wow, the Old Testament is the ultimate separation story, and the New Testament is actually the oneness story," coming back to oneness with God, restoration, redemption. Jesus making us whole. Like, I'm growing so much spiritually now. I feel like I'm growing more in one year than I have probably in the last 20 years. And the more I feed my spirit with the word and with listening to great preachers like you, from that standpoint, that's actually helping me grow the most as a leader. Like, by being stronger and more connected to God, I'm actually becoming a better leader, a better human being. I'm becoming smarter, I'm renewing my mind. So I think that's a huge part for me. I've got a stack of books right here in terms of just books on neuroscience because when "The One Truth" comes out, I know people are gonna challenge me on the antenna, so I've gotta have that conversation and be able to explain it in their language. Just was on with Dr. Amen and presented that to him. Several key doctors in neuroscience, some of the greatest. I presented that too just recently in the podcast, and no one could refute me on that, but I wanna be able to understand that and know that. And I'm always just learning from all the great leaders I get to work with. When you get to work with great leaders and you help them through their problems and their challenges, you see what they do, you see how they do it, and that becomes another tool that you can help others use. Like, here's one that's real simple. Tell me something good. I love this exercise, and I know your listeners will benefit from it. Tell me something good. So you got a negative person that's always negative all the time, you see them, tell me something good, like the song says. All right, what's not good? Let's get real. I wanna hear you. I don't wanna be Pollyanna where everything has to be good all the time. What's not good? But then, how are we gonna make it good? How are you gonna make it good as we go forward? So now you're taking the problem, the challenge, and turn it into an opportunity and a solution. So it's simple exercise to get better. I learned that from various leaders.
— So one thing I've noticed in a lot of our mutual friends, some leaders that I'm honored to learn from, it seems like they're often improving in what would appear to be random areas that would not help your leadership, but they do help your leadership. For example, a lot of my friends are working on a really healthy diet or physical exercise or taking on some new kind of hobby, or like you said, you're growing spiritually. Like, that seems unrelated to your leadership, but why is it, Jon, that learning in other areas compliment and make you better as a leader?
— Because it's almost like when you play different sports and you play a combination of all these different sports. Right now there's a lot of specialization. But by playing all these different sports, they all actually associate with the other. They all help you develop skills in different areas that actually work towards your ability as an overall athlete. And the same thing as a leader. For a leader, you've gotta be focused on your team. You gotta be selfless. Well, guess what? The more spiritual you become and connected to God, you become more humble and more selfless. That makes you a better leader. If you're a great leader, you don't see the greatness in you, you see the greatness in your team. And so the more you see the greatness from Jesus and realize how great God is and how insignificant in many ways I am, that allows me to see the gifts of others and the talents of others that I know I'm here to serve them. So that makes you a better leader. Also, when you are renewing your mind, you're gonna get more wisdom, you're gonna get more ideas. As you're tuning into God and connecting with God, he's gonna reveal to you insights that you can't come up with on your own. 'Cause I was meeting with someone, and as I'm meeting with them and they were facing a struggle, God literally gave me an insight on that person. And I shared with them and they're like, "How'd you know that"? I'm like, "I just knew". But that comes when you're connecting with God, so that's gonna help you. And then being a better parent. "Okay, I'm working with my kids". Like, "Oh, being a better dad helps you being a better leader at work"? "Oh yeah". You know, raising my kids taught me so much about leadership and having to deal with them and all their struggles and their insecurities and their negativity, a lot of my ideas came from having to be a better parent, tell my kids, their challenge, and it makes you a better leader at work. So there's a lot of crossover in terms of talents, gifts, and abilities.
— I like your teaching. You tell people to think like a rookie. And I would encourage, if there's someone listening right now that does feel stuck in their leadership, I would encourage you to find something new and unrelated and go attack it. Take on a new hobby. I've talked about it a lot because I feel like I've learned so much, but I got my private pilot's license last year, and then this year I got my instrument rating. And it's totally unrelated to leadership, you would think, but is unbelievable how many crossovers there would be. And like for me, I'm rushed, don't have time to dot every I, cross every T. Well, when I'm flying a plane, I dot every single I twice, cross every T, and what it's done is it's made me way more deliberate and intentional, and then just the principles cross over. Think like a rookie, why is that such an important principle in leadership?
— 'Cause there's a curse of experience, and the curse of experience longs for the good old days, it complains about the way things are, and becomes very unadaptable to change. Your knowledge, your wisdom is a gift, but if you're looking at the past and you have this experience that is holding you back, then it can become a curse. But a rookie doesn't know about the good old days. Rookies put their head down, they work hard, they believe anything is possible. And so with that rookie mindset, they're just going for it. And this came to me during the Great Recession years ago when I saw all the rookies winning all the awards and all the real estate companies I was gonna speak to. No one was buying real estate, yet the rookies were selling real estate. And what happened was the veterans were like, "Oh man, the past. And it was a great market back then. And, man, those were the times that I was just killing it". The rookies didn't know any better. They were working hard every day, building relationships, developing a following, helping their customers, and creating their good old days right now.
— Well, author and well-known leadership consultant, Jon Gordon, is our guest today. The new book coming out is "The One Truth: Master Your Mindset, Live with Power, Heal Your Soul". You can pre-order the books now. And, of course, if you listen to this later on, you can get the book whenever sale. Lightning round just for fun. Some quick questions that you do not know are coming, so I'm taking you completely off guard. Do you have a favorite leadership quote?
— Well, by the way, you've knocked me off guard this entire interview, so this is an incredible interview and I would expect that from the best. So that's awesome. A favorite leadership quote. "Leadership is not about what you do, it's about what you can encourage, inspire, and empower others to do".
— Powerful. Do you have an annoying habit, a leadership habit that you wish you could break?
— An annoying leadership habit. I think that, from my own journey...
— I'll tell you what mine is. Mine is speaking over people.
— Yeah, from my heart.
— That's a joke right there. I was just speaking over you. I was actually giving you a second to think about it, and then I was speaking over you. Mine is speaking over people. I was hoping to break that.
— I love it, Craig.
— Yeah, go ahead.
— That's awesome. No, from my heart, again, to be real vulnerable and transparent. Here, I write about positive leadership. I know that one of my challenges, I get frustrated when people aren't thinking like I'm thinking. When they don't get the vision that I have, when things are taking longer than they should. Even though people think I'm this positive guy, I'm a driver, and I've gotta really work at slowing down and helping people get on the bus with me, and guide them along the way. And I get frustrated, and I wish I did not get frustrated as much.
— I'm the same, but we try to say that we never say our people won't, but we say we have not led them to.
— So if they don't get it, just because we haven't helped them to get it. Of all your books, you've written a lot of books. If you had one besides the new one, "The One Truth," if you had one book you'd recommend, which book is that?
— I always tell everyone, read "The Energy Bus". It's where it all started. It is my most popular book. And people really seem to resonate with the message of, you becoming more positive, helping your team through adversity, and no energy vampires allowed on the journey, deal with negativity, and moving forward as a positive team.
— So you helped tons of leaders, world-class, very successful leaders. If you could spend a day with any leader just for fun, and you'd walk away inspired, engaged, and challenged, who would that leader be?
— Could it be Jesus?
— I would definitely not be a pastor and say, you can't say Jesus.
— I would say the greatest leader of all time. The world keeps time based on his birth. Talk about influence. That's influence, that's leadership. And for me, I know it's like... Most people would say that, but for me, it's Jesus. I would also like to spend a day with Elon Musk. I'm not sure that I would be inspired by that in many ways, but I think I would love to learn about what his leadership philosophy is like and how he's built the companies he has and spent some time doing that. I spent time with Evan Spiegel in Snapchat. I've actually worked with his leadership team. That was very insightful and encouraging getting to work with his team.
— I can almost guarantee a day with Musk would be very interesting. I think it would be. So final lightning round question, proudest moment of your life that we might not expect.
— During COVID, my son was really struggling during that time. He was going to Clemson and dealing with some mental health stuff, like a lot of kids during that time, a lot of teenagers and college students. And he came home, and I was not traveling. And so it was during that time that we spent a lot of time together. And I was always on the road and he was a competitive tennis player, and so we didn't spend as much time as I would've liked. I would go down and see him at IMG and try to spend some time with him, and he'd be like, "Yeah, okay, dad, see you later". "Here's my food, and thanks for my food". "All right, see you, dad". So we never really get to spend a ton of time together. And it was during COVID that we did, and I knew that was an important moment to spend a lot of time with him and invest in him and pour into him and just listen and not push, and just love and support, and just be there for him during his most difficult time. And I think that was my proudest moment because we grew so close together. And to see the darkness pass through, to see him find his light, to find his faith, to really find God during that time, to have a strong faith now, to see him grow, I know that God was calling me to be a better father during that time and to be there for him and to not make up for all the times that I was on the road, but to really, truly just love my son and be there. And I think for me, that was the most special time in my life in many ways, the most redemptive time. I saw God work in incredible ways. My faith grew so much during that time, how he will take your pain and turn it to a greater purpose, and that's honestly what I'm proud of. It's not speaking at all these big events and doing this work with all these teams and work with the Dodgers and the Rams and the Miami Heat and all these organizations. It was spending time with my son knowing that I was able to help him through that time. And he graduates next week, so miracles can happen, Craig. Miracles can happen.
— Congratulations. And just to our leadership community, I hope you'll hear and feel what Jon just said, and that is, if you have all the success outside the home and you're missing the relationships inside the home, you're missing what matters most of all. And the fact that you're proud of time with a family member over business accomplishments, I think that that says a lot of your character. And I hope that... I hope that our community would take what happens with those closest to us and value that most. I think that's a great lesson for all of us. Jon Gordon, you're a good friend. I'm always inspired by our time together. The new book, you can pre-order now. It's called "The One Truth: Master Your Mindset, Live with Power, and Heal Your Soul". If someone has not heard of you yet and would like to connect with you more, learn from you, what's the best way to do that, Jon?
— Just go to Jon gordon.com. J-O-N Gordon.com, or Instagram, Twitter. I'm always on there. @JonGordon11, J-O-N Gordon11. And Craig, one thing I still do to this day, my mission has always been to encourage and inspire as many people as possible one person at a time. And so if someone has a kid that's struggling, a teenager that's struggle and needs some guidance, some help, that's something I will always do and make time for to be able to help how I can. And so I wanna encourage people, you can reach out to me on those channels, and I will do my best to respond or have my team respond to be able to set up a time to help in any way possible. Now, if someone wants to write a book, that's a whole other story. I have a free webinar for that 'cause I get asked that all the time, writing 27 books. But if you ever need encouragement, that's what I'm here for.
— Well, that's an amazing, generous offer and I've known that to be true. You've been there for me and many of my friends many times. So thank you for that. Hope that you guys can grab the new book when it comes out. All of Jon's books are helpful to you. And I wanna say a big thank you to our leadership community. You guys are loud on social media. It's always fun to see you out there promoting an episode that's helpful to you. Go ahead and tag Jon if you do that and he may repost you. I'll do the same. And be sure and get The Leader Guide. Again, we're gonna put information on Jon. With more questions on The Leader Guide, go to life.church/leadershippodcast. I wanna encourage you, keep growing, and your leadership keep getting better because we know that everyone wins when the leader gets better.