Real Leadership

9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose

  • Wall Street Journal bestseller (6 weeks running)
  • Publishers Weekly bestseller
  • National Indie bestseller (American Booksellers Association)

Way back in 2007 I got a call from the good people at SUCCESS (though in those days they weren’t SUCCESS yet, they were still VideoPlus). They wanted to know if I was interested in writing a book with John Addison, the coCEO of Primerica.

I did not have to think about it. I was more than interested, I was fascinated.

John is the genuine article, one of the greatest examples I’ve ever known of the phrase, “What you see is what you get.” It’s rare to find a corporate leader who inspires such unabashed, unadulterated, unshakable devotion from the people he works with. To cite another common phrase that applies aptly to John, “to know him is to love him.”

He also has a helluva good sense of humor — and is a helluva good public speaker. And with his small-town-country-boy-makes-good background, he has a helluva good story.

Or so we thought.

Truth was, we had no idea just how good that story was. Because back then, in 2007, none of us yet had a clue what John and his company were about to go through, or the hair-raising odyssey we would end up chronicling in this book.

While it had absolutely nothing to do with banking, John’s company, Primerica, then happened to be a subsidiary of Citibank, one of the largest financial corporations in the world. You probably remember what happened to Citibank from 2007 through 2009: the same thing that happened to all the big Wall Street banks. John was soon plunged into the most unbelievable Indiana–Jones epic, struggling to find a way to bring his company through the financial crisis and at the same time get it out of Citi so it could exist on its own.

By the time we actually sat down together in his northern Georgia home to start writing the book, the story had a vastly different ending than we’d ever dreamed it would —and it was far and away one of the most satisfying past chapters I’ve ever penned.

Real Leadership Reviews

“A leadership book that only surfaces once in every decade.”
— Dr. Denis Waitley, The Psychology of Success

“A fascinating, stimulating, disarmingly candid, yet profoundly impactful book.”
—Jay Abraham, Getting Everything You Can Out of Everything You’ve Got

“True leaders inspire others to lead. John Addison is that kind of leader.”
—Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage

“Straightforward and backed by real-life experience. John’s words will motivate you to lead and live with courage, honor and integrity.”
—David Bach, The Automatic Millionaire

“Some people talk about leadership; John Addison eats, drinks and sleeps it. This book will give you purpose and a plan to lead the life you were meant to live.”
—Jeffrey Hayzlett, primetime TV and radio host, chairman of The C-Suite Network

“A fascinating and deeply personal account of three decades of success facing challenges and surmounting obstacles.”
—Lee Pollock, executive director of The Churchill Centre

“Loaded with great ideas to help you achieve better results, faster, in any organization.”
—Brian Tracy, How the Best Leaders Lead

“Reading this book is like having John as your own personal leadership coach … just what anyone striving for greatness needs!”
—Don Yaeger, Greatness: The 16 Characteristics of True Champions

“Many people write and talk about leadership; few have demonstrated it with extraordinary success as John Addison has.”
—Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect

“John Addison is more than a leader, he’s a coach and a motivator. If you want to lead your team and inspire others to great results like John has, Real Leadership is the book for you.”
—Jack Canfield, The Success Principles

“John Addison is one of the greatest businessmen, speakers, and leaders of this generation. Not only has he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and achieved so much in his own business career, but he has also selflessly devoted his time and energy to helping thousands of other people be more successful in their own lives.”
—Fran Tarkenton, NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback

Excerpt from Real Leadership

From the Prologue

We thought about titling this book Personal Development for the Rest of Us. Because I’m not going to tell you that to be a success, you have to get up every morning and work out for three hours, and then do your affirmations for another three hours, and then reread your goals list a hundred times, and then go out there and by the end of the day have every one of those goals accomplished and ticked off that list. If that’s what it takes to be a successful leader, then let’s be honest: Neither one of us stands a chance.

Fortunately for you and me, that’s not what it takes. You don’t have to be some superhuman being to have out-of-the-ordinary success as a leader. I hope my story will show you that.

So here’s the thing. I’m going to tell you my story—but as you read these pages remember that the point is not to tell the story for the story’s sake. The point is to offer whatever experiences and perspectives I can in hopes that they may help you work out what your story is and muster the courage to live it full out.

Here, as I see it, is the bottom line: When it comes to carving out the life you were put here to live, achieving great success, and being a leader who endures, there are only two things that really matter.

There’s what happens.

And there’s what you do about it.

Luck happens. Any truly successful leader who tells you luck had nothing to do with it is a liar. Whether you call it lucky breaks, good fortune, or Divine Providence, the plain truth is that circumstances will happen that are beyond your control and that change the course of your life, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. You can’t do a thing about it. It just happens. But that’s not the whole story. It’s not even the important part of the story. The important part of the story, the only part that honestly matters, is that second thing:

What you do about it.

Lucky breaks come by chance. Success comes by choice.

When people win at roulette, that’s luck. When people win at life, it’s not luck; it’s because they learned how to meet circumstances head on and respond in a way that works—and that works to the highest good. Does it help to be in the right place at the right time? Of course. But that “right place at the right time” shows up a lot more often than you might think. It’s not a once-in-a-lifetime thing. In fact, it happens all the time. Most people just don’t recognize it or show up to meet it when it does. The world is full of people who happen to be at the right place at the right time. That’s not good enough. Winners do the right things at the right place at the right time.

The truth is, you don’t have to be brilliant, or exceptionally talented, or unusually lucky to be a leader who makes a powerful and positive difference. The truth is, you can achieve way more than people who are way smarter than you are, way more talented than you are, and even way luckier than you are, just by showing up, taking the right actions, working hard at it, and being an honorable person.

So yes, luck happens. Events shape your life. But there’s another truth, too. You can also shape events. Sometimes that takes courage, even a lot of courage. But just remember this: The courage to be yourself, do the right thing, and devote yourself to making a positive difference in others’ lives—that’s all it really takes to change the world.