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Executive Leadership Podcast #187: The High Calling of Leadership

April 29, 2022
Executive Leadership Podcast #187: The High Calling of Leadership

You were most likely promoted to a leadership position because you were a proficient manager. Today, Chris and Perry talk about what moves someone from a manager to the high calling of a leader.

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Perry Holley: Welcome to the Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your influence as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. I’m Perry Holley, a Maxwell Leadership facilitator and coach. 

Chris Goede: And I’m Chris Goede, Executive Vice President with Maxwell Leadership. Welcome and thank you for joining. I just want to bring to your attention real quick. If you’re interested in participating in a virtual public workshop around one of our content pieces with Perry or one of our other executive- 

Perry Holley: One of the other stars. 

Chris Goede: Yeah, that’s right. One of our other executive facilitators. I want to encourage you to check out our website at And under the organization side of things we have on there, May 19th is a workshop that we’re doing entitled For. Do you know what your company is known for? Do you know what you’re known for? And what do you want to be known for? Jeff Henderson helped us with that content. It’s a great piece for your team to go through. Or on June 9th, The 5 Levels of Leadership, one of our core training pieces. 

And so I just want to encourage you to jump in and do that. It’s a great way just to kind of test and/or learn some of the content pieces before you bring it into your organization. Well, today’s topic is, the high calling of leadership. And man, this is relevant because we often will hear people when we’re doing some training. Or I know even just recently you were doing a 5 Levels of Leadership class. And people begin to evaluate their leadership based on their management skills. And there’s a difference. Is that where we’re going today? We’re going to talk about it. 

Perry Holley: Yeah. You’re all over it. Actually someone said to me in a break during a 5 Levels of Leadership, they said, “Well, we’re already all leaders. I don’t know why we’re doing these classes.” And I thought, what got you promoted? And let’s just be honest. What got you promoted was most likely not your amazing leadership abilities? 

Chris Goede: No. 

Perry Holley: What got you promoted into that position that they call a position of leadership. What got you promoted was your high management skill, the way you managed process, you managed clients, you managed technologies, you managed the- 

Chris Goede: Individual contribution, right? 

Perry Holley: You were a star. You were technically proficient at what you did and got noticed, and they put you at the leadership position. You were a soloist in the orchestra, and now you’re the conductor of the orchestra. But you didn’t really get promoted because of your great leadership. And so, you got promoted because of what you did, leadership is about who you are. 

And so, I told you when I wrote this, I actually gave Chris a tip. I said, “This is more philosophical than anything we’ve ever done. We generally give you five tips for this or 10 tips for that. This is about, how are you developing yourself to this high calling? Leadership, to me, is a high calling. And it requires more than just being a very proficient manager. And we want to really help you and help us to really, how do we realize that leadership’s often about service and sacrifice to others, and really moving people in a common direction that requires a lot of you besides just your ability to manage the business. 

Chris Goede: Yeah. And this is a job security thing for us. But it’s a disappointing statistic for me. I was reading an article just over the weekend, about how more than 60% of people that are promoted into a position of leadership, leading people, teams, groups, have never had any type of leadership training. 60%. So what do they end up doing? They end up leading like they want to be led or how they’ve been led. And that’s a recipe that doesn’t work very well and very long. And so I think this is something to where just bringing attention to the difference between the two of those and the importance of, from a leadership training and development standpoint. 

So we’re grateful that you’re listening to the podcast and growing your leadership. It reminds me of a great quote from coach John Wooden, where he says, “A leader has the most powerful influence on those he or she leads, perhaps more than anyone outside of the family. I consider it sacred trust to be able to do that.” And I know for us, we talk about the law of connection to where, hey, man, it’s so important as a leader to make sure that you touch a heart before you ask for their hand. We know we talk a lot about the law of addition, where it’s really about great leaders are serving other people and bringing other leaders around them. And so, man, this is such an emotional intelligence side of things when it comes to leading people. That’s an important conversation. 

Perry Holley: And I probably already said it. But managing, to me, when I was thinking about this, that Wooden quote really got me. It is a sacred trust. It’s a high calling. So what makes it so is that it’s not about what I do, it’s about who I am. I’ve got to do both. You’ve got to be able to manage, for sure. But you also need to be working on that leadership side. And this high calling of leadership, to me, is really about developing your character and who you are as a person. And I think character, I would love to get your feelings on this. 

And as I’m talking, I’m even thinking about, we’ve talked several times about leading with love, but in character and leadership, they’re all kind of related. You have to develop yourself as a leader, you have to develop your character. But how do you respond to stimuli? Do you respond based on values or on impulses? Do you respond to people and treat people based on your principles or on the stimuli of the moment and the urges or whims or impulses that you have? That leadership is really character in action. 

I was reading. A guy named James Hunter wrote some great stuff. We’re working on our servant leadership course. And James Hunter had some really nice things that kind of influenced a lot of my thinking here around how tightly connected leadership and character really are, because it has everything to do with relationships with people. And you just mentioned touching a heart before you ask for a hand. That I’m going to ask for your hand, I’m going to ask you to do things, to do hard work to move this business forward. But what would make me think you’re going to do that if I don’t touch your heart? And what’s going to make you respond to me and give me that permission to lead you if I don’t lead with character? So it all starts entwining. To me, I think this really is a high calling. 

Chris Goede: Yeah. And for us, the foundation of all of that is level two influence. We believe that in order for you to be a great leader, you’ve got to understand the foundation of getting people to give you permission to lead them, to be able to connect with them, to be able to relate to them at that level. And so, when you gain that level to influence, I believe you can go from that transition from being the manager, it’s about what they do, to about who they are. And then, oh yeah, how they do it and what they do. It’s the discretionary effort that you’re able to get in those terms. 

So here are a couple of choices of character that a leader makes every single day that I’ll share with you. The first one is, will I be patient or impatient? I’m not going to answer that question right now. Depending on the day you’re having, and the day of the week. Are you going to be kind or unkind? These may seem, man, these are really simple. But I think if you really evaluated, maybe even if you let me ask or Perry ask some of those that you do lead or you are around or have influence with, what their answers would be. Would you be surprised by those answers? 

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Perry Holley: You just were asking a minute ago, what are you known for? And when you’re trying to ask for a hand, you’re putting people into the work situation, but they’re trying to determine, am I going to give you permission to be my leader? What are they looking at? Are you very impatient with me? You’re not very kind to me. Keep going. I like the [inaudible 00:08:36]. 

Chris Goede: Yeah, here’s a couple more. Are you committed or are you just involved? Are you forgiving or unforgiving? And then the last one I’ll just mention here, are you selfish or selfless? I think that’s a huge one that a lot of people maybe mistake and don’t understand the importance of being selfless when it comes to leading people. 

Perry Holley: Right. One thing James Hunter got me thinking about in his writing was, the leader chooses between using power or developing authority. And we would probably think about that between level one, power, level two, developing authority, or influence with that power, really that ability to force or coerce other people to do your will even if they choose not to because of your position. So it’s really under, do it or else. And authority, I love this differentiation, is the skill of, and I love that he said it’s a skill, a skill of getting others to willingly do your will because of your personal influence. Like I’ll do it for you. And that they want to do that. 

And if you operate in power, and we talk about that at level one, you damage relationships. We talk about, can you be successful as a level one command and control leader? Perhaps, for a short amount of time, but then people catch onto that and they don’t really want to be associated with it. But all of life is really relationships. And so, if you’re using power, you’re damaging relationships, we want to develop that influence. And that’s what the high calling of leadership is to me, is to develop my influence so that you give me permission. I think it’s the greatest leap in all of leadership. Why would you give me permission to lead you? Well, I saw something in you, Chris, that made me want to give you permission to lead me. 

Chris Goede: If you read the statistics and you’re in cultures around the world, this is a true statement. You will know this, which is, most leaders still lead from level one. They lead from the power, which does damage relationships. Which, by the way, then in turn causes turnover, which is creating a retention problem. But I think, man, excessive command and control just creates fear. It undermines trust. And then ultimately, it destroys the relationships that you have. That’s where we call kind of that level one influence if you stay there. And we see that. Unfortunately, we continue to see that with leaders around the world. 

But building influence is not about manipulating. Matter of fact, we talk a lot about the influence, really, there’s a fine line. And it’s about the motive behind it, because I think there’s a difference between manipulating and influence. And it’s all in your motive and what you’re trying to do there. And so, we need to make sure that we’re doing that for the mutual benefit, not only of the organization and the team member, but also you as a leader. It can be a win, win, win there. And so, I think leadership is also the willingness to extend oneself to meet the needs of your team in where they’re at, what are the needs? What does that look like? 

I’ll give you a small example. We were just talking with the team in here a minute ago about, last week you were on vacation after a very hard run a couple months leading up to that vacation. And so we were texting, I didn’t text you. I wasn’t going to, but you did send me a text. 

Perry Holley: I started it. 

Chris Goede: You started it, because I, several times, went to start it and then had to stop myself. But I wanted to make sure that you and your bride were able to get away, celebrate 40 years together. And so, I wasn’t going to bother you. So you did. You opened the door, so I went through it. But I did ask you the question, right? Because the best thing for you as a human being was to check out last week. And so I said, “You’re not working.” And I don’t think you told me the truth. That’s a whole another podcast. We’ll have an intervention. But I think you have to be thinking about what is best for those individuals on your team, not just for the company, but for them as a person. 

Perry Holley: And that term that is leadership really about service and sacrifice is to help move people to a place where they can give their very best willingly, want to be a part of what you’re doing. And when a leader is really dedicated to identifying and meeting, and I love this, the legitimate needs of the people on their team, that’s serving and that will often be put in a position to sacrifice. Well, what would I have to sacrifice? And you think, really great leaders sacrifice their ego, their desire for power, their pride, maybe their own self interest. My need to be liked. I have to sacrifice that. I have to, in my desire to give all the answers, to look good, to always be right. I mean, these are all things we give up when we want to move people. 

When we serve others, we have to forgive, apologize, give others credit maybe even when I don’t feel like it. We extend ourselves to others. We’ll get rejected. We’ll be unappreciated or underappreciated. And we may even be taken advantage of as a leader. That’s the high calling of leadership. Am I willing to put myself in a place like that to serve and sacrifice for you, for the team so that I put you in a place to win? And that’s where we go back to servant leadership. 

Chris Goede: Yeah. Oftentimes I’ll ask the question, as a leader, for you, is it more about proof or about belief? And a lot of times people will say, “Oh no, for me, it’s about proof.” And when I get to the root of it, we’ve all been there before, but we’ve all been burned by certain situations. Whereas leaders, that’s just how it is. You have to put yourself out there, to your point. But I still believe that belief is a much stronger answer. But I can see where, man, it could absolutely be proof. 

But this reminds me again of a conversation we’ve had before. Maybe we should rename this podcast around loving leadership or something. But thinking about love as a verb when it comes to leading. It’s a choice that we have to make. We have to be attentive to the needs of our team. We have to know what their best interests are. We have to be very in tune with how they feel so that we can lead them the way they need to be led. 

Again, I’m going to go back to that statement where, this is key, as we begin talking from a leadership standpoint, everybody deserves to be led well. And are you able to lead to create positive change? And by doing that, what does that look like? And I think you got to have being humble and respectful, selfless, forgiving. You got to be committed. All those things that go along with that. 

Perry Holley: Yeah, we’re in there till you see feelings. I don’t have to really like you to be able to love you with the verb, the actions that you just described. And really, loving others is about doing the right thing. Leadership’s about doing the right thing. Character is about doing the right thing. These are all connected. And leadership development and character development are really one thing. 

Chris Goede: Yeah. So let me ask you a question. So we talked about this love word a couple times. How do you respond to people in trainings, on coaching calls, where we begin talking about this and we say, or they say to you, “Man, this just sounds soft. I don’t want to be taken advantage of?” How do you respond to that? 

Perry Holley: Yeah, servant leaders are wimps. 

Chris Goede: Yeah. That’s right. 

Perry Holley: Actually. And I’ll answer this and let you wrap it up. My learning. And you exhibit this, I see a lot of our leaders exhibiting this, is that they’re very servant minded, but they can also be very traditional, hierarchical, pyramid minded, autocratic when it comes to the mission that we’re on, the values, how we behave, the standards that we live by, how we handle accountability to those standards. I think, really, what we decide, the ultimate test of leadership is, are people better off when they leave us as when they found us? And the leader always leaves a mark. And the question is, what kind of mark are you leaving behind? 

And I think most of the great servant leaders that I know that really exhibit this are warriors for their people. They are not wimps. They are aggressive. They challenge, they hold you to high standards. They don’t let you off. They’re not soft. They really command through influence, through authority. They command allegiance to a set of standards and to an outcome. And they don’t back off from that. So my experience is, no, if you’re doing this right, you’re not a wimp. 

Chris Goede: That’s good. Well, let me wrap up for us. I was reading an article just recently from Inc. Magazine. And it was talking about the three reasons that most people fail when promoted to leadership. And I thought they were interesting. So I just want to share them with you real quick here. The first one was that they only care about the money that comes with the promotion. That’s one of the reasons why leaders fail. The second one is, they can’t stop thinking about themselves. There’s a little bit of narcissist going on in that. And so I was like, okay, that’s interesting. Neither one of those things we’ve talked about today. The third one was, most fail when promoted to leadership, they mentioned, was that they think leadership is only for the other people, not for them. Isn’t that crazy? This is an Inc. Magazine article about it. 

And so, here’s what I want to encourage you to do. Leadership is not for the select few. It’s for you. It’s for me. It’s for all of us. And at Maxwell Leadership, we believe that leadership is influence. And we all have influence. And we need to understand that. And I’ll leave you with this question. Again, we ask this sometimes. We say, who’s the greatest leader that you’ve ever had the opportunity to work for, serve with, play for, maybe it’s in your family? Think about the attributes of that individual that comes to mind when we say, who’s that greatest leader? 

And then I just want to challenge you to say, are you living that out? Are you living those same attributes out as a leader? And if not, I want to challenge you to do so, because I think our goal at the end of the day is for someone to, when they’re asked that question, who’s the greatest leader you’ve ever had the privilege of working with, or for? That your name pops up there. Not from a narcissist standpoint where it’s got to be about me, but just about the impact and the value added to those individuals. And so, remember, it’s not for the select few. It’s for you and me. 

Perry Holley: Very good. Very good. Thank you, Chris. And thank you all. As a reminder, Chris mentioned earlier, but if you would like to leave a comment or a question for us, if you want to learn more about our offerings, if you’d like to download the learner guide for this episode, you can do all that at We’re always grateful that you would spend this time with us. And we’ll look forward to seeing you next time. That’s all today for the Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast. 

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