A Leader’s Legacy

To celebrate the launch of our new book, The Go-Giver Leader, I thought I’d post this unpublished passage from Rachel’s diary—Rachel being the character in The Go-Giver who ends up going into business with Joe to create Rachel’s Famous Coffee. Like Pindar, Rachel doesn’t appear in the new book in person — but they’re both talked about and quoted by a certain friend of theirs. — JDM Pindar asked if there were any questions, and the young man in the row behind me raised his hand. I turned to look at him, and saw an expression of eagerness, self-consciousness, determination, and fluster, all in roughly equal measure. A mix Pindar had seen many times before, no doubt. The auditorium waited as a runner trotted over with a handheld microphone, so all could hear the young man’s question. “I was wondering,” he said, once the microphone arrived. “Do you have any advice for aspiring leaders?” “Yes,” Pindar replied immediately. “Three things. First, trust yourself. “The interesting thing about great leaders — at least, the most interesting thing to me about them — is that so many of them did not start out thinking of themselves as leaders at all. They started out passionate about an idea.” He paused for a moment, as if he were thinking of what to say next. My guess, though? That he was pausing so everyone in the audience could fill in their own examples of great leaders who started out passionate about an idea. Lincoln, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Churchill, Lombardi, Watson, Wooden. Their own high school coach, or pastor, or parents, or second grade teacher. “And...

Leadership That Pulls

“What made you guys want to write a book about leadership?” In the back of our new book, The Go-Giver Leader, my go-giver writing buddy Bob Burg and I added a Discussion Guide and set of author Q&A’s — and that was the question we started with. In our answer, we said that we’ve both been fascinated by leadership all our lives, a fascination fueled by interviewing some of the seminal leadership thinkers of our time — John Maxwell, Pastor Dan Rockwell, Colleen Barrett, Tony Hsieh, Bruce Van Horn, Lolly Daskal, and the like — but that our greatest source of insight and inspiration on leadership has been our parents. Bob’s dad created a business that was, on the surface of it, a sports, self-defense, and confidence-building school for kids. Really, though, it served more as a school of life — for the kids, and for their parents, too. For Bob (and many others whose lives he has touched), Mike Burg is the original go-giver. And my dad? He was a choral conductor. Being a conductor is, by definition, a follow-the-leader business. But just because people are supposed to follow you, even being paid to follow you, doesn’t necessarily mean they will. Or, if they do, that they’ll do so happily. This I know only too well, from my years as a cellist in the orchestra pit, where conductors are all too often seen as necessary evils, autocratic and ego-bound. (Common joke among orchestral musicians: “Q: What’s the difference between a conductor and a bull? A: On a bull, the horns are placed up front and the asshole is in the back.”...

Giving Leadership

“If you were asked to identify the most precious resource in the world, what would you say? I know what my answer would be: leadership. I believe leadership is the single most valuable, most important commodity there is—and the scarcest. Not oil, not land, not cash, not technological know-how, but tenacious, focused leadership. Leadership is everything.” So begins my latest book, Real Leadership, written with former Primerica co-CEO John Addison and launched just last week. It’s easy to think of “leadership” as something that relates only to the elite few: the CEO, the president, the general, the boss. But leadership happens everywhere — in our relationships and our families, our communities and our work, and in every domain of our lives. The question is not whether we’re called to leadership. (We all are.) The question is whether or not we answer that call — and if so, how. Because there are two kinds of leadership. You can take leadership. Or you can give leadership. Taking leadership, in its classic, most dramatic guise, is the general who seizes power, the armed revolutionary who topples the king and takes his throne, the corporate raider who engineers a takeover. Cassius and Brutus assassinating Caesar. Alexander Haig declaring moments after Reagan’s shooting, “I’m in charge!” That said, taking leadership is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, especially in times of turbulence and trouble, the situation desperately calls for someone to take charge, to grab the wheel, take the helm, assume the place of decision-making before the ship hits the rocks and founders. (This was very much the case with John Addison, who was called to steer...

Respect

As a kid, Jacob Cohen worked whatever odd jobs he could to help his mom make ends meet. At age 17 he started writing jokes, and within two years he was performing stand-up full-time under the stage name Jack Roy. It didn’t work out. After a decade, Jack gave up show business, married a singer named Joyce, moved to New Jersey, and went to work selling aluminum siding. Jack slogged through the next decade, suffering from clinical depression and eventually struggling to rehabilitate his career by night while selling siding by day. His marriage deteriorated; he and his wife divorced, then a few years later remarried again, and finally separated permanently. Not long after this, Joyce died. End of a sad story. Except… Except that he did rehabilitate that career. Jack eventually worked out a new act, based on a new stage persona as a guy who gets rejected no matter what he does. He also took a new stage name to go along with the new bit. He landed a gig on Ed Sullivan, and the audience loved him. It was his breakthrough. He became a sensation, a success for the rest of his life. His new name was Rodney Dangerfield. As great as this story is, to me, this is the part where it really gets good. Because what I love most about Rodney Dangerfield is not how he managed to persevere through all the failure and adversity and finally arrive at his success. What I love most is what he did with that success. In the early seventies he opened up a comedy club called Dangerfield’s...

A Remedy for Termites

The other day, I received an email from someone who receives the automatic email notifications each time I post on this blog. The email consisted of a single brief sentence: How do I unsubscribe? I’m sure it is written somewhere in the bloggers instruction manual that you should never, ever take it personally when people ask to be unsubscribed from your blog. After all, who knows why they are taking this drastic step? I mean, they may have a very good reason for rejecting you. Maybe this person was just too busy — she was subscribed to dozens of blogs, maybe hundreds, and the effort to comb through all the notifications was creating a steadily increasing stress level, maybe even causing her health to suffer. “I don’t want her health to suffer,” I murmured, horrified at the idea. Or, maybe this reader was going on a long trip, around the world perhaps, and wanted to unsubscribe just temporarily, like having your mail held while you go away. Who was I kidding. She was unsubscribing because she didn’t want to read my posts anymore. Something I’d said had offended her. Or possibly many things over time, and it had finally built to the point where she said, Enough! Or, worse: she found the writing boring! And not just run-of-the-mill, TV-commercial boring, but so excruciatingly boring that simply ignoring them wouldn’t do, she felt forced to make the effort to have the notices stop coming altogether. Somewhere in the bloggers instruction manual, it probably says, “Don’t drive yourself crazy wondering why. And for heaven’s sake, don’t write and ask.” I wrote...