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How To Become An Effective Leader: Cracking The Code On The Future Of Leadership with Alain Hunkins

LBL Alain Hunkins | Effective Leader


Leadership has come so far since the industrial age, and yet, many are still stuck leading the old way that it’s not effective anymore. In this episode, Ben Baker interviews someone who has cracked the leadership code, particularly in this day and age. He sits down with the author of  Cracking the Leadership Code, Alain Hunkins. Here, Alain shares his thoughts on the future of leadership while giving some of his great insights into what it takes to be an effective leader where people can thrive, do great work, and feel great about it. He also breaks down the things he found that are working and the things that are not in leadership while also revealing the secrets to building strong leaders: connection, communication, and collaboration. This conversation is surely jam-packed with all the knowledge you need about being an effective leader, one that the team needs to survive, so don’t miss out! 

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How To Become An Effective Leader: Cracking The Code On The Future Of Leadership with Alain Hunkins 

Thank you all, once again, every week for coming back, reading the blog, sharing it, subscribing to it, and being such an amazing audience. I love the things that you guys do. Send me emails at Tell me what you liked about the show and what you like to know in terms of guests. I love reading your commentsI’ve got Alain Hunkins. We’re going to talk about the future of leadership. He is the author of Cracking the Leadership CodeWe’re going to have this conversation because we need to talk about the future of leadership. Alain, welcome to the show. 

Thanks so much, Ben. 

You and I met through some mutual friends. They said, “You have to talk to him. You got to talk about leadership.” I‘ve read some stuff that you’ve done. We’ve gone back and forth on a couple of posts. I love your vision of leadership. Leadership is going to become more and more imperative as we move past COVIDinto the new next or whatever we want to call itI think it’s important but before we get into the conversation, give people a little bit of a history about where you are, where you came from, and what brought you into the leadership space. 

It takes leadership anytime anybody is trying to get anybody to do anything. Share on X

Let me start by level setting some things around leadership because that word means different things to different people. My working definition around leadership and this could be you or anybody else, is anytime that anybody is trying to get anybody to do anythingthat takes leadership. If you cast it that way, it is a very broad tent. We’re all leading every dayI got interested in leadership because I’ve always been fascinated by peoplespecifically why people do what they do and how one person sets the environment or the tone for the people in their particular organization. If I look at why did I get so interested in this ever since I can possibly remember, it has a lot to do with my upbringing. 

I mentioned I grew up in Flushing, Queens. That’s why I talk like this sometimes if I want to. It’s legit. When I see my old friends, that’s where I go to. It’s not unusual. I was raised by a single mom and my grandmother which is not unusual. The fairly unusual part is that my mother and my grandmother were both Holocaust survivors. My mother was born in 1935 in Belgium, the child of Polish Jews. The Nazis invaded Belgium in 1942. In ’41 and ’42, my mother was separated from her mother. She was put in hiding for three and a half years until the end of the war. She was moved from a convent to a foster family. She had her hair dyed blonde. She was given a false name. Miraculously, both she and her mother survived, whereas the rest of the family perished. They got together and survived, but you can imagine the kind of worldview that creates for you later on. 

My mother came to the US. She had my brother then me and then my grandmother came over. My parents divorced. I was raised by these two Holocaust survivors. The weirdest thing about growing up was the experience and vibe. If you think about what we know about leadership is leaders create a vibe. The vibe in my house was so different than the vibe at my friend’s houses, when I see my dad on the weekends, or at school. For me, this subject of leadership was trying to figure out, “What is inside of this? That vibe is a very squiggly, slippery word. What is that vibe? How do you create that vibe? Why does it seem that some people do better in certain vibes than other things? 

That led to studying Psychology and Theater. I trained as a professional actor. I then got involved in psychodrama and group process facilitation work, which led me to leadership and management training in schools, organizations, and working in corporations. That was the journey that got me into this. I started noticing the more people and groups I work with, there are only seven plots to a novel. You see the same things recycled and I’d see the same patterns of behavior show up time and time again. The story would be slightly different because every story is unique. I started taking notes. The notes turned into blog posts. The blog posts turned into chapters and that’s what this book Cracking the Leadership Code is. It’s a distillation of 25 or, in some ways, 50 years of reflecting back on human behavior and what does it take to be an effective leader to create a vibe where people can thrive, do great work and feel great about it. 

LBL Alain Hunkins | Effective Leader
Cracking the Leadership Code: Three Secrets to Building Strong Leaders

You and I don’t know this part but I came from a Jewish background. We’ve been Jews for many years. I was lucky enough that my family came over in 1919. My story was is that my grandfather survived the Czar’s army. He came over by himselfBacarovich became Baker because he didn’t speak English and the Irish men at Ellis Island didn’t speak PolishThat whole ability to have powerful people in our lives, people who helped us codify who we are, what we’re about, where we came from, where we are, and where we’re going is extremely powerful. I love what you said before because the expression I use is, “Leadership is a mindset and not a job title.” Let’s crack it all because it’s so important. When you were doing the Cracking the Leadership Code and talking about leadership, what were the essences that you were coming up with itYou were sitting there going, “These are the things that are working and these are the things that are not. 

You touched on it already here, Ben. First of allyou talked about leadership as a state of mind. It’s a state of being. It comes down to our beliefs, mindset and the stories we tell ourselves. For example, what’s the story that you tell yourself when you say, I am a leader?” How do you feel? How do you think as things go? For me, a funny thing happened. I’ve got two kids. My son, Alex, and my daughter, Miranda. This happened about years agoThe two of them were goofing off in the living room as little kids want to do. I got to confess, Ben. I got a bit triggered. 

I was in the other roomI came into the room and I kid you notwhat came out of my mouth was this. I said, “Would you two stop behaving like children?” I’m telling you this for two reasons. Number one, that is a completely ridiculous thing to say to and a 3-year-old clearly. Number two, as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I was in complete shockBen. That phrase, “Would you stop behaving like children?” The way I said it was the exact same phrase that my mother used to use with my brother and I when we were kids. Unconsciously, I’d copy the behavior of the previous generation, which leads me to think, “Why do we lead the way we do?” Unless you think about it, you are going to copy the behavior of the previous generation. They copied their leaders and so on and so forth. 

If you take that logic train to its destination, you’re going to end up somewhere, “Who started the whole thing?” This is where I dug into the research. I found a New Yorker article, which led me to read more about a guy. You might know him, Frederick Winslow Taylor, who is considered the Father of the Field of Management. If you think about it, we didn’t have big businesses. Before the Industrial Age, things were the home-based economy and farmbased economy. Suddenly, you have these factories. You need all these employees who need to be led and managed. You have production and big capital equipment. It was hugely labor-intensive. 

They got this guy, Frederick Winslow Taylor, who is a mechanical engineer by training. That’s the way he thinks. He thinks that the world is engineering. He sees the factory as this machineIn this machine, you’re going to throw in some parts. We’ve got humans, we’re not going to call them human beings. They are now human resources.” They plugged in these interchangeable parts into the machine. That was the way he described it. In fact, in his book, which was written in 1911, called Principles of Scientific Management, he described the ideal workman. I said man becauseat that time, that’s what it wasI quoted this one because I could not make this up if I tried. He described the ideal workman as someone who is, “So stupid and phlegmatic that he more nearly resembled in his mental make-up the ox than any other type.” 

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The idea is you’re chattelYoure just labor. The goal was for you to be the brawn. Leadership or management were the brains. They do the thinking or as Henry Ford put it so poetically about his employees, “Why is it every time I want a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?” The whole value proposition of leadership and followership at that time was, Leaders command in control and workers conform and comply. Don’t think for yourself.” They got by with that for decades through the Industrial Age up until the 1960s and 1970s, and then things started to shift. We moved from the Industrial Age into the Information Age and you need people with brains. You need people to think. 

As we move from the Information Age into now, the Digital Age, the fact is all of that manual labor has been automatedoutsourced or algorithmized and is being done somewhere. What is left now is the human factor. People all the way down have been pushed to the front lines where people have to thinkclarify problems, solve customer needs, harness technology and use it in real-time. If your belief is, “My job as a leader is to be the smart person in the room and tell everybody what to do,” you are living in the 20th century and you are destined to struggle in this 21st-century world that we live in. 

That’s both enlightening and terrifying at the same time. It truly is because you’re right. We are taught by the generations before us. We built our habits based on the generations before us. We learned how to lead based on the people who came before us. If that’s how we’ve been taught to lead by command and control by carrot and stick, those antiquated methods no longer apply. We are no longer the cogs in the wheel in the Henry Ford factory that your job was to sit there and tighten that wrench 8, 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. That same need for people to be those pliable parts within the system no longer exists. 

Even within the Ford plants now, they’re far more sophisticatedThere are far more the needs for the average worker to be far more aware of their surroundings and thoughtprovoking. You won’t use word that, to me, is the crux of the whole thing and that’s the managerI look at the word manager as part of that antiquated systemI’m going to use a phrase about managing processes and leading people. I want your thoughts on that and how we move that mind shift to be able to get leaders at all levels, understand that differentiation and lead accordingly. 

The sense of managers and leaders is a valuable distinction because if you think about it, you do manage process and this comes out of that mechanistic thinking. There’s a place for process. We’re not saying that you have people come to work and just be so creative that they do whatever they want. You have a job. You have a customer base. You have a mission and a purpose. You want to do all that, yet the management mindset tends to be very mechanistic, linear, sequential and binary. There’s a right way. There’s a wrong way. This is good, bad, black or white.” That works with certain things around process, but a big part of the world that we live in is, “How do we learn how to embrace ambiguity and realize there’s no one right way to do this? Maybe there are eighteen right ways to do this.” 

My job as the leader is to create an environment where for this particular person who I’m leading, that they bring their own unique set of skillsgifts and strengths to this job and they are able to do that in one out of the best eighteen ways that work for themThe way you would talk to someone to make them feel valued is going to feel different than the way I would. Let’s give you a funny example of this. Everyone is familiar with Walt Disney Organization. They’re known for their customer service. They also have a certain Disney way of doing things. For example, they talk about the fact that everyone is a guest and everyone is their backstage and front stage. 

LBL Alain Hunkins | Effective Leader
Effective Leader: If your belief as a leader is to be the smart person in the room and tell everybody what to do, you live in the 20th century and are destined to struggle in this 21st-century world that we live in.


I was staying at a Disney property years ago to lead a training. I remember calling down to the front desk because I think my iron wasn’t working and needed something like that. I called down to the front desk and the person picked up the phone. This is what they said. They thought it was an outside call. They were reading off the script and this is what it sounded like. It’s a wonderful day at the Magic Kingdom. How can I help you?” That’s what they said. Clearly, they were given the script like, “This is the right thing to say.” 

They were phoning it in. 

That is the definition of phoning it in. You don’t get any more phoning it in than on the phone like that. How do we create environments where people can thrive and this distinction between manager and leader is so important? 

Let’s get into that because a lot of it comes down to empowerment. You have a topdown leader and we have a wide variety of different types of leaders. Let’s take a look at the leader of the average small to mediumsized business. Most of them never thought they were ever going to be leaders of people. They never even dreamed they were going to be leaders of people. They came up, created an idea, and a small business. That business grew. All of a sudden, they went from 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50to maybe 100 employees, but they never had any training on how to run a company as that company grew. That goes for leadership across numerous types of organizations. 

How do we instill that mindset of we need to sit there and go from that command and control that most small business leaders have because they don’t know any other way to somewhere where we’re dealing with empowerment where I sit there at the top? I’m the one who’s visionaryI’m the one who builds purpose and culturehelps my people succeed, and trust my people to do what needs to be done to be able to make the company better realizing that they’re probably smarter than I am. 

You brought up some important points here. First of all, this can be in the small business person who started off and they grew the company to a 100 or so. It can also be in the larger organization where you have the salesperson who’s a good salesperson who’s like, “You’re goodBen. We’re going to promote you and make you the sales manager.” You’re now leading the sales team. In both cases, here’s the commonality is you have someone who started there and they excelled at being a high performer. Because of that, a new opportunity arose, whether it’s a small business growing or you got promoted. 

Trust comes as a result of building a strong connection with people. Share on X

Here’s the rub which is there is a monumental gap between being a high performer and facilitating high performance in other people. You do not close that gap by doing more of what you did by working harder. You have to fundamentally rethink, “How do I go about working?” As you were saying likeI have this vision, but I have to empower my people and trust them to do this.” If I said to you, Ben, “You’re a small business owner of 100 people. Go and empower your people. Go and make them trustworthy.” Frankly, you’d come back and say, “What the heck do I do?” You don’t do empowerment. You don’t do trust. Empowerment and trust come as a result of other things that you dodo. 

Here’s the thing is I realized, “What is it that you do actually do if you’re a leader?” This is where I break it down to what I call the three overarching skillsets or the subtitle of the book, Three Secretto Building Strong Leaders. It‘s around connection, communication, and collaboration. For example, if I want to build trust, trust comes as a result of building a strong connection with people. Let’s drill it down further. How do I build strong connection? FirstI start by demonstrating empathy. Empathy is defined as showing people that you understand them and care how they feel. You probably remember, I forget who said it, but “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Do you see me as your follower? Do you see and value me as a human being, first and foremost? 

I think everyone reading this is going, “The blinding flash the obvious. Yes, it’s true. It is common sense. However, it’s not common practice. There’s a bunch of reasons. A couple of the big reasons, showing people that you understand them and care how they feelalso known as empathy, is not something you can just put on your to-do list and check off like everything else, like to take the garbage out. Showing empathy takes showing patience because your digital workplace might be operating at internet speeds, but human relationships move much more slowly than your bandwidth. You have to know there’s a time and a place to go slow and to go fast. You have to have the wisdom to know the difference between those things. That’s one huge reason. 

Another big reason is the fact that you are dealing with human beings. I don’t care if you’re in the pharmaceutical business or communications business. You’re in the people business. If you’re leading, your primary thing is peopleMany leaders get so focused on the result and realizing your results, while you want to measure it as profit, revenue, sales, and customer satisfaction, those are all lagging indicators of something that happened because someone did somethingThat’s only the result of your people. If you’re so focused on the numbers, realize you may want to reprioritize the way you think. If you start focusing and prioritizing people, it’s your people who deliver the numbers. Why wouldn’t you focus on that first? 

LBL Alain Hunkins | Effective Leader
Effective Leader: A big part of the world we live in is learning how to embrace ambiguity and realize that maybe there’s no one right way to do this.


If you look at almost every single business meeting around North America, what are we going to talk about first? Let’s look at last month’s numbers. Let’s look at the numbers. Let’s look at this. What’s going on?” If there’s time left over, “What are the people stuff?” We go numbers then we go to projects then we get to people. It is an interesting story around who Hubert Joly, who’s the CEO of Best BuyI got to hear him speak about this. The way he works is he completely flips that in his meetings. He has their team. They talk about their peoplewhat’s going on with the people, and how can we support their people. They spend time there. He said, “Don’t worry. The finance people will get to the numbers. We won’t forget about thatI won’t disappear. 

For me, it starts with connection and then what you were saying too about how do we empower people. The idea of being a facilitative leader is about making things easier for people. Remember, you’re dealing with adults. Adults like to be self-directed, have egos, get defensive, and don’t like to be told what to do. They like to be led by thinking they’re leading themselves. It’s a little bit of Jiu-Jitsu going on here. A little back and forth. What you want to do is lead. You have a clear vision of where you want to go. Instead of saying, “This is where we’re going,” you ask people, “Where do you want to go?” You find ways to align their vision with the vision that you already have. You work as much as possible to make them feel that they are making the decision. 

Going back to empowerment, there’s this wonderful quote that comes from Lao-Tzu who said, “The worst leaders, people despise. The good leaders, people revere. The best leaders are the ones where the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.'” When leadership is that good, it feels and looks invisible. That is a hard place to get to, but that’s what we’re striving for. It starts with connection. It moves to communication, leading by listening, and seeking to understand their points of viewNow, that we have common and shared understanding then we can move together, co-create and collaborate so that we can create a positive outcome, the vision for the future and turning that vision into reality. 

Empathy is showing people that you understand them and care how they feel. Share on X

All of that requires enormous time and effort. What you said is, “Sometimes you’ve got to go slow. Sometimes you’ve got to go fast.” You’re right. We’re dealing with human beings. Every single human being arrives at their place of work every single day with their own hopes, wantsdesires, aspirations, fears, or whatever. We as leaders need to sit there and say, “It’s not an automaton walking in the door.” Simon Sinek has a TED Talk, where he talked about the manager versus the leader. He said, “The manager sits there and says, ‘This person has been late for five days.’ He goes up to them and says, ‘If you’re late, one more day, you’re fired.‘ The leader goes up to them and says, ‘You’ve been late for five days. Is everything okay?‘” 

I’m paraphrasing, but it’s a mindset shift. We’re going to go back to what you said about the fact that we’re sometimes thrust into leadership. It’s the Peter PrincipleI love the Peter Principle in that we are promoted to our level of incompetence. We’re not given the skills we need to take ourselves to that next level. We might have been great tacticians, but we’re not good at showing other people how to achieve their goals. Where do we go from there? Knowing that this is reality and there is a bunch of people who come from command and control. There’s a lot of people who are ill-prepared to be able to mentor, coach, inspire, communicate and empathize. Now that we’re in the post-Industrial Agewhere it is a point in time where people are working from home and are going to work remotely. There is a far more diverse workforce. How do we help leaders be the people that their teams need so that everybody survives and thrives? 

I want to go back to the first thing that you said here. That is the work of leadership and it’s a completely different skill set than what you’re used to, which is why you probably don’t want to do it because you’re not so good at it. You were good at being the executor. You were a good doer who got stuff done. Now, you’re saying this doesn’t applyNo, it doesn’t apply. Now, you have to do other stuff. This is the work. It‘s so interesting because you have to be interested in people. I would go so far as to say you have to love people to lead them wellYou need to be so interested in them that you care and see what’s going on. 

No matter what business you’re in, if you’re leading people, then you're in the people business.  Share on X

I say this a lot, “Lousy leadership is lazy leadership.” It’s so much easier to be the manager sitting at the desk, telling me the story like, “Five days late, I guess I’m going to fire you,” as opposed to, “Five days late, what’s going on? Let me find out. Be curious.” What is it going to take? As we go in this Fourth Industrial Age, the work from home and all that starts with connection, communication, and collaboration. For example, one of the things that a lot of leaders are struggling with is they say, “Alain, it was hard to lead in the office and now I’m having to do this where I can’t even see people. What do I do?” First, I say, “Make time to spend with each person one-on-one.” They said, “How much time?” I said, I don’t know, but more than you think to start with.” 

When you get on Zoom or whatever platform you’re on, ask them these three questions. I call it the Check-in QuestionsI’ve written articles about thistoo. They’re simpleNumber one, “How are you feeling?” Not like, I’m fine. How are you? The silver lining in this COVID crisis is that now you can say something other than, I’m fine. How are you?” because the world has broken open. We’re all facing life and death, sickness, and wellness in a way that this has touched everyone on some levelWhen people are sharing, there’s no need to fix, judge, or give advice. It’s just, “How are you feeling?” and creating some space for people. Some people hear that and they go, “What are you asking me to do? A group therapist? I’m not a therapist. I’m a leader at sausage-making company. We’re not asking you to be a therapist. What we’re asking you to be is an empathic human being. A prerequisite of being a good leader is being a good human. A good human can ask somebody how they’re feeling and listen to them without interrupting them. I get on my soapbox on this one a little bit. That’s number one. 

Number two, “What’s distracting you? What’s on your mind?” There are a lot of things that can keep people from being focused. What we know is that in this Fourth Industrial Age, some people call this the attention economy. We need our people to be able to attend to what they’re doing. If they can’t attend, they can’t perform at their best. Whatever it is that’s distracting themgive them the safe space, or some people might know that as psychologically safe space, to be able to express that without any fear of repercussion. It’s just“What’s going on? How are you feeling? What’s distracting you? 

Question number three, “How can I support you? What can I do to be of service? They’ll tell you. Again, the great thing about being this facilitative leader is you don’t need to have the answers. What you need to have are good questions. Ask them, shut up, and listen to the answers. You have to act on the information that’s being shared and then check in with them, Is this working for you? What else can we do?” It might be different tomorrow. All of that, I spent more time explaining it than it would take to do it. That’s a threeminute conversation and people think, “We have a job to do.” Again, if you say, “We have a job to do, you are operating from an Industrial Age efficiency mindset. 

Part of moving into becoming a facilitative leader is you have to start to learn to value effectiveness over efficiency. The efficiency mindset was what got the factory floors like, “We can’t stop the assembly line,” unless you are making widgetsAs you said before, “Your widgets are being made by robots now anyway.” You are not in the widgetmaking business. You are in the human being business. Taking that time upfront to value effectiveness, then you can get into the efficiency. Again, knowing when to go slow and knowing when to go fast. I would start there because your people care. 

I’ve had leaders say to me, “I don’t have time to do this with all my people because I’ve got my own stuff to do.” I said, “If you don’t have time, I don’t think it’s a time issue. I think it’s a priority issue if this was important to you.” You realize that when we lead this way, the time that we spend, that 5-minute or 10-minute, whatever it is, checkin time is a massive multiplier. You’ve had this experience, Ben. We’ve all had this experience. A good 5, 10 or 30 minutes with a leader can set you on the course for a super productive week or even a month. 

This is the power of great leadership. Alsothe flip side is how many of us have had one-on-one and our leader was like, I’m going to have to reschedule. We have this customer meeting. I don’t have time for you. Can we push it off? They pushed it off another month and another month. Your engagement starts to wane. Before you know it, you’re spending your days looking at Glassdoor and LinkedIn for another job because you’re bored out of your mind and you think this place sucks. It starts by being human and starting with that check-inthose three questions, “How are you feeling? What’s on your mind? How can I support you?” From there, building out to some shared communication and then moving on to collaboration. The venue in which we’re playing has changed, but the principles don’t change. 

tell people all the time, “Your brand is only as valuable as your unhappiest employee on their worst day.” How do you make employees unhappyThey feel unengaged, unempowered and don’t feel listened to. You talked about something about the leader being all-knowing. There is this perception out there by leaders that they have to know everything and they can’t show weakness. They can’t show that they don’t know everything. Personally, that’s a horrible place to come from. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. 

Do you know what that is about? That is not about anything other than your ego. It is about your ego and the need to seem important. It’s like, “Who would I be if I wasn’t as important if I didn’t throw my ego around this room?” It’s crazy. There’s a fabulous story. You know Satya Nadella, the CEO of MicrosoftShe took over at Microsoft on February 4th2014. He had been a twenty-year employee at Microsoft. Before he was the CEO, Steve Ballmer was CEO number two after Bill Gates. For those who know Microsoft history, Bill Gates put it into the stratosphere because suddenly, everyone in the world had Windows. It was a massive company, huge success, and multibilliondollar company. 

Steve Ballmer took it over for seven years and their earnings were flat. It’s seven years under Ballmer. Nadella came in. Ballmer, some people might know him because he’s also the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers if you watch the National Basketball Association. He is a rahrah sales guy like, “In your face, this is it.” The culture at Microsoft at that time was everyone had to be the smartest guy in the room. I guess a guy because that was the very macho, male software IT culture. That was the way it was under Ballmer. Satya Nadella is not that way at all. In fact, in his first executive team meeting, he brought every single person on the executive team a copy of a book called Nonviolent Communication, which is not so much a book as it’s a manifesto of a way of thinking in the world. 

He also started bringing in ideas. You might be familiar with Carol Dweck’s work mindset about the importance of having a growth mindset, which is about being open to experience and learning. The way Nadella described it is that he came in and inherited a culture of know-it-alls. What he had to do is turn around and create a culture of learnitallspeople who would shut up and listennot think they had to have all the answers and listen to each othertheir employees and customers. If you look at what Microsoft was doing just in the marketplace in terms of their products and services, they were full out with their Windows software. I look at that and they’ve shifted what they’re doing now versus there. 

The culture has completely shifted to go away from this, “Got to know and got to be the leader with all the answers.” In fact, they have this massive company-wide coaching programwhere they’re teaching leaders at all levels a coachlike approach to how to ask good questions, hold space for people, inquire and dig deeper. For those who are reading going, “That sounds so soft and fuzzy. Let’s go bring it back because the proof is in the pudding. When Satya Nadella took over, the market cap of Microsoft was $301 billion. I checked it on February 2021, the market cap for Microsoft has crossed over $1.8 trillion. It’s six times more valuable than it was when he took over. 

It’s almost multiple a year. 

Yes and you don’t have to be Satya Nadella to start doing thisIt’s like going, “Where can I drop my know-it-all mindset? How can I take off my superhero cape?” They think, “What would this place be without me? Life will go on without you being in that role. You might not think so, but it’s a useful lesson to learn to go through. 

That’s funny because I had a conversation with a company that says, “The best founders need to get out of the CEO chair. They can be the visionaries. They can be the people who have the purpose, vision, culture or who do all that kind of stuff and hire great leadership to be able to install all that inside their organization.” It’s a completely different skillset. If you have this visionary leader who says, “Follow me, but I don’t know how we’re going to make this happen,” it doesn’t happen but you need to have both. That’s where leadership needs to be. Leadership needs to understand, “This is what I do well. This is what I don’t do wellI need to bring in people who are smarter than me in a variety of different areas who I can lean on and gather their advice when I’m in a position where I’m going I don’t know and be okay with that. 

What you described is the facilitative mindset inaction. If you’re in a room of people and you’re the facilitative leader and someone says, Ben, what do you think we should do about this?” “I don’t know,” and then you say, “That’s a good question. What do other people think? It’s harnessing the wisdom of the room. I don’t have to suddenly come up with stuff or I can say, “That’s good. I’m going to come back to you on that. I want to think about that.” That’s okayPeople respect that more because we all know when leaders are blowing smoke at us. We all know when they’re bluffing and putting on the bravado show. We’re tired of it because we see how ineffective it is. 

When leadership is that good, it feels and looks invisible. Share on X

This has been an amazing conversationI would love for this to go for a couple of hoursWhen you leave a meeting, get off the stage, you get in your car, and drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room? 

It brings me back to the famous quote from Maya Angelou, which is, “People won’t remember what you said. They won’t remember what you did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.” The shorthand word is real. The highest praise for me around my work and who I am is, “Alain, you’re the real deal,” because I feel like here I’m talking about leadership. It’s easy to talk about it and not to live itI’m not saying I’m perfect, but I strive to live these principles in my life because I feel like without doing that and being on that journeyI wouldn’t listen to me. At the end of the day, I’m still a kid from QueensI’ve got to make it real and accessibleI want people thinking that “This is real. He’s the real deal. 

Keeping authentically you. Keep doing the things that shine a light on leadership and elevate the conversation because we need itThank you for being an amazing guest. 

Ben, thank you. This has been an awesome conversation. 

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About Alain Hunkins

LBL Alain Hunkins | Effective Leader

ALAIN HUNKINS helps high-achieving people become high-achieving leaders. Over his twenty-year career, Alain has worked with over 2,000 groups of leaders in 25 countries. Clients include Wal-Mart, Pfizer, Citigroup, General Electric, State Farm Insurance, IBM, General Motors, and Microsoft.

In addition to being a leadership speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach, Alain is the author of CRACKING THE LEADERSHIP CODE: Three Secrets to Building Strong Leaders (Wiley, March 2020), which was endorsed by leadership luminaries Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner, and Marshall Goldsmith.

A faculty member of Duke Corporate Education, Alain’s writing has been featured in Fast Company, Inc., Forbes, Chief Executive, Chief Learning Officer, and Business Insider.

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