Here’s the final installment of my interview with Dan Forbes from Lead With Giants, exploring leadership in the 21st century.
10. When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
I look at the potential upside for professional growth, reflect, and then trust my intuition.
11. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Authentic empathy. If you don’t truly care for others in a manner in which they can “feel” it as well as think about it, why would you expect them to care about you or the firm? It’s the seed for building trust, engagement and creativity.
12. What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?
Passionate. Persistent. Visionary.
13. What do you see as the single-biggest stumbling block(s) for leaders?
A lack of awareness and emotional intelligence competencies. For all of us, our greatest stumbling blocks are often erected by ourselves. Engaging in personal development, elevating self-awareness which enables self-regulation, dialing in one’s sensitivity to the needs of those we lead (social awareness) all contribute to our ability to lead authentically.
The challenge we’re facing is we’re operating in a knowledge age while still clinging to transactional leadership optimized for the industrial age. Creativity is the key driver of value creation today, and that requires a new approach to leadership; transformational leadership. That’s a wide chasm to jump if you’ve been working from engrained management habits for twenty or thirty years. Leaders, and companies, that make this quantum leap will be the winners in the 21st century.
14. Are their people in your life, or in general, whom you particularly admire?
That’s a big question! I recently took the fifty most influential books I’ve ever read and arranged them on a large, empty floor, trying to capture how one idea led to another. How one author brought me to the next. So, there is a long list of authors that have helped shape my philosophy (Christian de Quincy, Joseph Campbell, Daniel Goleman, Amit Goswami, Dan Ariely, Mark Twain, Susan Scott…I could go on).
More personally, I admire my wife and her commitment to continuous growth and compassion for all. I admire Gail Clifton, who, for 25 years, has created and sustained a remarkable therapeutic riding center for disabled children (SMART) in Sarasota. I admire the pioneers that set the foundation for realizing the transformational power of the horse/human relationship; Barbara Rector, Linda Kohanov, Lisa Walters, Carolyn Resnick, Arianna Strozzi.
Most of all, I admire every combat veteran and their spouses that come through our Warriors in Transition program. Their presence never ceases to humble me.
15. Which book or books have influenced you the most?
Writing my own book was probably the most influential! More than books, it’s the authors’ body of work that often moves me. Anything by Joseph Campbell, Christian de Quincy, Dan Goleman, Amit Goswami, and Dan Ariely. I also go to classic literature for an exploration of the human condition. Literature holds wisdom. For me, the essential reading list for leaders should include:
“Primal Leadership” by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (The best book on leadership I’ve read).
“Leadership on the Line” by Heifetz and Linskey (They foresaw today; ten years ago).
“Fierce Leadership” by Susan Scott (Brilliant and to the point Fiercely honest voice).
“Churchill on Leadership” by Steven Hayward (Who doesn’t love Winston?).
“Patton on Leadership” by Alan Axelrod (Snippets of insights from his journals with insightful commentary from Axelrod…fascinating).
“Tao Te Ching” Lao Tzu (Ancient wisdom of the leader as sage…great, reflective read that perhaps applies more today than when it was written).
“Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely (If you’re not aware of applied behavioral economics, it would serve you well to do so).
“How Quantum Activism Can Save Civilization” by Amit Goswami (Accessible explanation of quantum physics that pulls everything together).
“The Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley (Really up to date, great tools, a nice addition to Goleman’s, et. al.’s work).
“Pathways to Bliss” by Joseph Campbell (If you’re leading a multi-cultural, multi-generational organization then this is a must read! Mr. Campbell enables us to look at the world through the lens of comparative mythology, isolating the folk from the elemental human condition. Campbell also provides a very accessible introduction to the insightful work of Carl Jung).
16. What do you see as your greatest strength as a leader?
My transformational mindset. I’m here to serve those I have been given the privilege to lead and those that are paying for it; our customers. If I take care of my people, they’ll take care of our customers. In turn, our customers will take care of our investors and stakeholders. It’s truly that simple.
17. What do you see as your greatest weakness as a leader?
Finding and practicing balance. I must make time for being as well as doing. Wisdom rarely appears through bleary eyes.
18. What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I’m so fortunate my work immerses me in the exploration, experimentation, and validation of thought leadership. Coaching and developing leaders requires I continuously seek to improve myself. Doing the work, traveling to meet kindred thinkers, it all pulls me forward.
19. What have you learned the hard way? Or, What role has failure played in your life?
To see failure as opportunity. When I look back at my failures and connect the dots I can see how failure often was just a bit of housecleaning, clearing the space for something much more rewarding and important to come into my life. I didn’t always see it this way.
20. If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?
I have to refer to Joseph Campbell’s advice, “Find your bliss.” It’s everything, and if you are chosen to be a leader, leading from the heart and being of service to others will continuously renew your spirit and energy. It keeps you going, even through the challenging times.
© 2012, Terry Murray.
© 2012, Dan Forbes.