Innovation Junkies Podcast

1.38 BONUS: Leadership Grown or Born

The Jeffs break down the concepts of nature versus nurture in leadership. Don’t miss this episode as they dig into: the importance of generating results & building & maintaining relationships, tips for balancing being results oriented & relationship oriented, & how to take feedback as a leader.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge, and this is the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategy and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour. We’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics and tips that you can use to grow your business, no matter the size, no matter the industry, and no matter the geography. Weekly, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business, and we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics, and tools that they use to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast.

Hey, guys. If you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our GrowthDX, go to Now, let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey, guys. Jeff Standridge here, and welcome to a bonus episode of the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast. Hey, Jeff.

Jeff Amerine: Hey, Jeff. How are you, man?

Jeff Standridge: If I was any better, I’d have to be twins. Too much for one person to enjoy.

Jeff Amerine: And people would probably accuse us of almost being twins.

Jeff Standridge: They probably would.

Jeff Amerine: Twins separated by about five years, which is difficult to pull off, even in the Ozarks, right?

Jeff Standridge: Separated by five years and about a hundred miles.

Jeff Amerine: And probably about 40 pounds at this point.

Jeff Standridge: Oh, dear, dear. What are we talking about today, Jeff, in this bonus episode of the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast?

Jeff Amerine: I think we want to talk a little bit about leadership. Is it something that’s innate, or can it be learned? Are you born with it, or can it be taught, and can it be nurtured as you go? So I think that’s it. What do you think?

Jeff Standridge: Well, I will tell you, I think it’s a little bit of both, quite frankly. I think there are people who are born, and my experience tells me there are people who are born with some natural relationship orientations that are conducive to being strong leaders. And so, that certainly helps them along the way. But I believe that if it couldn’t be developed and grown in people, no matter whether they started with those relationship tendencies or not, if it couldn’t be developed or grown in them, I would certainly be in a different business, because I spend a lot of time doing leadership coaching and leadership, and you do as well in leadership coaching and leadership development and what have you. So a little bit of both, but I would have to say that they’re more developed by and large, or they’re more grown by and large than they are born with all of the innate tendencies. How about you?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, I would tend to agree. I think my experience has been that there are some people that might have a predisposition, based on whatever, genetic, physical traits and whatnot, tendencies, but so much of it is parenting and education after that and the kind of relationships you have along the way and the education that you have along the way. And I think a lot of it comes to, at what point are you able to gain that level of confidence that you’re willing to put yourself out there and actually stand in front, rather than follow someone else? And so, a lot of it is about and confidence is not to be confused with hubris. It’s the confidence to not be afraid to stand in front and to take action and to try to convince other people to follow.

So I very much think it can be learned. And I think if it couldn’t, we’d have a real dire situation, because it’d be all about epigenetics and whatnot and et cetera. And we’ve seen that anointed leadership by virtue of birthright doesn’t work particularly well. I mean, just take a look at the royal family any day of the week, and we can see that that’s probably not a great model for how to lead. That’s a power based on position and assigned authority but not leadership that’s earned.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, just for all the research that I’ve done over the years, I really boil leadership success and, actually, individual success down into effectively two weights on a scale: one of those being the ability to generate results and the other one the ability to build and maintain relationships. So results and relationships. There’s no secret that each of us is born with generally a tendency one way or the other. And so, if I’m a person who focuses on results at the expense of relationships, I’ll be wildly successful very, very quickly until I alienate everyone around me who’s responsible for helping me maintain those results. And then I’ll lose them both. Conversely, if I focus on relationships at the expense of results, people will love me until they lose respect for me, because I can’t do what I say I’m going to do when I say I’m going to do it. I can’t deliver the results that I’ve stepped up to delivering. And in both instances, I lose them both.

And so, taking those people who are results oriented and helping them develop some of the relationship skills that they need to be able to get those results created and a sustainability shroud built around them is a critical point to success as a leader. Taking those people who are relationship oriented and giving them some tools, tips, tactics and tricks and methodologies that they can use to measure their results, track their results, make sure that they’re doing what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it is, yet again, another tip for helping people who have that relationship tendency.

So I think and my experience has shown me time and time again that having both of those capabilities is critical and knowing where you’re weak and building some. There was a guy. I can’t remember his name off the top of my head, but it’s the Clifton StrengthsFinder who comes forward with this bias that just focus on your strengths, just deploy and focus on your strengths, and don’t worry so much about your weaknesses. And while I agree with that to some level, my experience is if you have career-ending or career-limiting weaknesses that you have to be able to at least minimize, you’re going to struggle to be successful in the longer term.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, no, no, I would agree in large measure with a bunch of that. And I would also say that the thing about it is, one of the things that I would say about the learning process is you’re not learning to be someone else as a leader or to mimic what you’ve seen. We’ve seen, in many corporate settings, people that feel like they’ve got a playbook, and they’ve seen something that’s been prescribed in a certain way to act. And it comes off as incredibly disingenuous. I mean, it’s clear to the followers that this person is trying to play a role or trying to act, and it’s typically not effective. Whatever your style is, whether you’re more introverted, whether you’re more extroverted, whether you’re someone that speaks frequently or someone that listens more, you’ve got to kind of play to who you are, and just make sure that you’re mindful of exactly the orientation you said, that balance between results and relationships. So I think that authenticity is another key part of it that has to be reinforced, even as you’re learning the good process for being a better leader.

Jeff Standridge: So let’s take those two ends of the spectrum. And I want to just pick your brain a little bit. You’ve got somebody who’s results oriented. They could run through a brick wall to get things done, but maybe they struggle a little bit on the relationship side. What one or two tips would you give them to help them balance out that set of scales?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, I mean, part of it is to try and encourage them to be more self-aware. So part of it can be, think about what you just transmitted and said, play that back to yourself, and think about how you would react to that if you were on the receiving end of that. Because sometimes, people that are results oriented, they might be more, not more autocratic, but more get it done at all costs. They aren’t really good in terms of understanding how that is received by the people that ultimately have to do the work.

And I think the other thing that you have to remind them is that the leader is only as good as how well they develop the number one asset they have, which is the talent and whether or not that talent is going to listen. And in times of urgency or crisis, sure, you got to issue commands. It’s command and control. But in normal times, it’s a two-way conversation with the people that you’re leading, to make sure that you’re understanding where they’re coming from and that they’re understanding what you’re trying to get done. So it’s a dialogue, not an issuing of orders.

Jeff Standridge: I think you’re right. 

Jeff Amerine: So, self-awareness, I think, is a big part of it.

Jeff Standridge: I think you’re right. And for those of us who are results oriented and I certainly put myself over on that side of the scales, I had to surround myself with people to help me create this sense of self-awareness, because I was so results oriented early in my career, I couldn’t become self-aware, because I didn’t know I needed to become self-aware until I had somebody around me who said, “You need to be a little more self-aware.” And what do they say? Awareness is the first form of development or the first stage of development. So I actually surrounded myself with a couple of folks who were on the relationship side much more so than I and gave them permission to give me feedback. So vulnerability, I think, is another aspect of making yourself vulnerable. Submitting yourself to receiving feedback and making sure that you put people around you who are willing to give you that feedback and give them permission to do so.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. And on the other side of the spectrum is when you have people that are high on the relationship side, maybe do have high emotional intelligence. They tend to also want to avoid conflict. I mean, they’ll do anything to avoid conflict. And a lot of times, you can’t lead well if you’ve got to achieve the mission or various tasks. There’s going to be conflict. And so, you have to face it. You have to face it early. You have to confront it. You have to get past the fear of being disliked or having a difficult conversation. So being ready, if you’re very relationship oriented, to occasionally have those difficult conversations is something that’s hard to do. And I’ll tell you candidly, that’s something I’ve struggled with in my career, because I tend to be a people pleaser. I don’t mind making a hard call, but it’s something I had to learn, because it doesn’t come innately to me to have those hard conversations.

Jeff Standridge: You know what’s interesting, I had an experience in my career early on, I was probably about 30 and I was leading my first team in a corporate setting. And I had a person who worked for me. She was more experienced than I. She probably had 10 years on me, and she had been in the corporate world, and I had moved from a university faculty position into the corporate world. She was more experienced. She was more seasoned, probably a better leader. And she came to my office one day, and she knocked on my door, and she said, “May I give you some feedback?” And I said, “Sure, please. Have a seat. Absolutely.” And she said, “I’d like to share with you what I’m observing. I’d like to tell you how it makes me feel. I’d like to share with you the impact that it’s having. And then I want to give you a chance to respond.” Thought that was the weirdest conversation I’d ever had. And I was like, “Okay, please, go ahead.”

And she said, “When I come to meet with you on a weekly basis to do our regular touch-base meetings and I begin to share with you the status of this project or that project and where I need help and where I’m moving forward well, I began to notice a tilting of the head, a glazing over the eyes, and a frequent checking of the watch. It makes me feel like I’m not important as a team member. It makes me feel like my job’s not important. And it makes me feel like I want to look for a job somewhere else. So the impact that it’s having is I floated my resume two weeks ago, and I have an interview tomorrow. Now I’d like to give you a chance to respond.” And I went, “Uh…”

But I have thought about that over the years. And that one conversation transformed my life as a leader, because I started thinking about, what did she do? And I’ve played this out on five continents in leadership discussions, and it translates in every single language and in every single continent. Number one, she asked for permission to give me feedback, to which I agreed. Had I started arguing with her, she could have stopped me and said, “No, wait a minute, you gave me permission.” She had an agenda that she laid out ahead of time and got my agreement to the agenda. She said the word I almost exclusively. She almost didn’t even use the word you. I think the first time she used the word you was, “And now, I’d like to give you a chance to respond.” Because she said, “I observe this. I observe that. It makes me feel like this. It makes me feel like that. Here’s the impact it is having.” So, she didn’t say you, which can be very accusatory.

She spoke only for herself. She didn’t try to speak for everybody else. A lot of people will come in and say, “Well, there are a lot of people here who believe that you do this or that.” She didn’t do that. She spoke only for herself and she shared observations, feelings and impact. Who am I to argue with what she’s observing, how it’s making her feel or the impact that it’s having? Those tips and tricks or that kind of model that she laid out absolutely transformed my ability to give somebody feedback. And when I remember it and use it well, it’s always served me well.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. I mean, it’s so instructed to take ownership of that. When you have somebody that’s on your team that’s willing to confront you like that in a positive way, you’ve got to take it seriously, and it’s a moment to grow as a leader. And I mean, you can take a lot of inspiration from that. But you also, I think what it requires you to do, is you have to get over ego and any sensitivities you might have to hearing that you’re not perfect. And a lot of people that get in leadership positions, you’re there because you’ve been goal-driven. You’ve been successful. You assume that in particularly early in our careers, there’s this omnipotence, right? I’ve always been successful at everything I’ve done. I’m going to be successful at this. You’ve got to be ready to hear that kind of tough feedback at times and to be receptive to it.

And a lot of times, what I’ll say is when I have one-on-ones with people on my team over the years, I’d say non attribution, non retribution. I want them to tell me whatever’s on their mind. And when I’m coming to organizations where that hasn’t been the case and I’m sort of a fixer of the organization, you find that their biggest fear was, “I can’t speak candidly, because I’ll get fired.” That next person up is going to, if I tell them what’s really on my mind, they’re going to figure out how to fire me. Now, that’s not to say they can come in and be disrespectful, but they can certainly come in and be candid. And the organization gets so much better. And the strength of a leadership, I think, is having the thickness of skin that you can learn to develop to not take it personally, to realize,if you assume this person has positive intent, they’re trying to make the whole organization better by being honest with you in conveying their feelings. And I think that’s a learning thing, as well.

Jeff Standridge: No, I think you’re right. Just recognizing that you can be vulnerable and you are not omnipotent. You don’t have to always have the answers. I remember in and about the same time that this lady that worked for me gave me fantastic feedback, I remember at that time, I thought I needed to be omnipotent. I needed to be invulnerable. I needed to always have the answer. And I heard my leader, still to this day, I put this leader I had at the time at the top of my echelon of leaders whom I respect, I remember sitting in a meeting, and she said, something happened and something brought up where things didn’t happen the way that we intended to be. And she said, “Yeah, yeah. In retrospect, that was probably a leadership failure on my part.” And it caught me by surprise, because I had never heard a leader step up and say, “Yeah, that was my fault. That was a leadership failure on my part.” Just so boldly and so brashly, right there in front of everyone that directly reported to her. So really had an impact on me.

Today, we’re talking about leadership. Is it born or is it grown? I believe the consensus here among the Jeffs is that you might be born with some of it, but it can certainly be grown, and we become better leaders, because we choose to grow ourselves. Anything else to add there, Jeff?

Jeff Amerine: No, I agree with you. I mean, it’s a journey, and if you pay attention and you’re open to it, you can learn to be a better leader, and everybody is going to lead in some aspect of their life, whether it’s your kids, your family, your community, you’re always leading and you’re always on parade, so it can definitely be learning.

Jeff Standridge: This has been another bonus episode of the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Jeff Amerine: Hey, folks, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now. Please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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