Could the secret to business and leadership success stem from something as simple as developing a peaceful core?
After suffering a massive stroke that nearly killed him, John Addison, president and CEO of Addison Leadership Group and former co-CEO of Primerica, realized that the power of positive thinking basically saved his life. For John, a peaceful core is the place inside each of us where we can celebrate all the things about ourselves that is great, completely accept all our imperfections, and where we can totally focus on the positive.
With more than 25 years of leadership and personal development experience, John can help guide your readers to find their own peaceful core, including tips/advice such as:
John Addison is the president and CEO of Addison Leadership Group after having served as the Co-CEO of Primerica, Inc. from 1999 to 2015. During his more than 25-year tenure at Primerica, Addison rose in management and was critical to steering the company through many changes including the company’s separation from Citigroup in 2009, which resulted in one of the most successful IPOs of the decade. A world-class speaker and motivator, Addison shares his business acumen and leadership insights through speaking engagements, consulting opportunities and an upcoming book (February 2016).
Enjoy the interview on leadership and developing a peaceful core.
Faten Abdallah (FA): Define leader and leadership.
John Addison (JA): Leadership is having the courage to live your true life—the one you were put here to live—and to do it in a way that makes the world a better place than it was before you got here. Great leadership, the kind of leadership that endures, doesn’t spring up all at once, fully formed, out of nowhere. Great leadership emerges over time as an expression of who you are and what you do every day. More than anything, it takes shape as a result of everyday practice.
From my perspective, a leader is a lighthouse, not a weathervane. Lighthouses are needed when it’s stormy and foggy to provide ships a safe way home. Similarly, a leader shines when times are tough. In addition, a cornerstone of being a leader is that people know what you stand for. After a while, people will know and anticipate how a leader will react without even asking. Leaders have a consistency to their approach, effort, and values. While there are clearly different styles of leadership, the one thing they have in common is they are a rock – a person others can count on.
FA: What percentage of men and women are in leadership positions?
JA: When it comes to men and women in leadership positions, too often people think leadership is related to a job and title. I think it is more important to realize that being a leader doesn’t necessarily have anything to do this at all. For me, my mother was by far the most important and influential leader in my life, but she was never in a VP position. She did, however, influence and inspire everyone she came in contact with in her life within our community and family. She provided a great example of how I wanted to present myself and interact with people.
From my experience in life, typically women are better than men at the kind of leadership I talk about and admire. By nature, women tend to be programmed to be better leaders than men. Perhaps this is because women tend to be more empathetic and are better listeners than broadcasters, while men tend to be a lot more vocal – which sometimes can be mistaken for leadership!
And also to note, even if you’re not leading other people, hopefully you’re leading yourself!
FA: What are some myths about leadership?
JA: Many don’t realize, but leadership is pretty much timeless. It boils down to the ability to convince people of the right answer, to be someone who can inspire and show them the right direction to go in. The founding fathers persuaded people to have a rebellion through courage and inspiration. Today, however, many times leadership is style over substance, such as how politicians just react and respond to recent polls vs. real actions and events.
FA: Are leaders born naturally or trained?
JA: We are all born with certain skills that can be developed into skill sets for leadership, such as the ability to communicate and speak in front of people. The world is full of great communicators who aren’t great leaders, as well as others who are nervous in front of a microphone but are exceptional leaders. Overtime, you learn what it takes to be an effective leader and how you allow your internal character to develop in life. The number one criterion a leader needs is character. Today, however, our society tends to value style over substance. Many historical leaders would probably be disregarded if they were in the running today – such as based on their looks or speaking voice. Real leadership, however, is about being the type of person people want to follow and these are traits we learn throughout life.
FA: What are some key areas one can strengthen their leadership skills?
JA: Authenticity and empathy are basic leadership traits. They each help people to first trust and then like you. Very few people will follow someone they don’t trust and like. In addition, key ways I suggest to strengthen leadership include:
- Turn off the TV – the power of disassociation is more powerful than power of association
- Read books, especially a biography of a great leader – read about people who made a difference in their life and overcame adversity (i.e., Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt)
- Actually talk to people – learn to communicate in the real sense–not just through a text—and actually show interest in people
- “Unplug” – in the sense that your life shouldn’t be controlled by the news and technology 24/7. Get off the internet and look up from your phone; learn to have depth to what you believe
People need to have a conversation with others to actually develop speaking skills. I am always shocked how out of touch people seem to be. I am in the airport all the time traveling, and 9 out of 10 times I see someone under 40 with ear buds in their ears and tapping away at their phones or computers. They are surrounded by people but interacting with no one in person.
In addition, as the power of persuasion is going away, if someone has the ability to persuade people they will be ahead of the game in the long run. The world is rapidly changing and there is no doubt that technology has made how things are done dramatically different, so you have to be quicker, smarter, and more adaptable to excel.
FA: List resources where people can learn about leadership.
JA: While it can be destructive, the internet is equally powerful, as it is a wealth of resources. I would advise people looking to learn about leadership to find someone you admire who did something – someone who actually overcame great odds and achieved something – and then research them. Really immerse yourself in who they are; read about them, look at their quotes, discover what they stood for. Then, “copy” their style but adapt it to make it work for you and who you are.
You can find John Addison:
- John Addison, president and CEO of Addison Leadership Group and former co-CEO of Primerica
- Website: JohnAddisonLeadership.com
- Twitter: @JohnAddisonGA
- Facebook: JohnAddisonLeadership