Creator of the Wisdom Leading™ model, an approach that enables the full engagement and breakthrough performance of leaders, has recently completed his first book - Leadersh*t: Rethinking the True Path to Great Leading. Dr. Foster Mobley will now take your questions.
1) Aside from your book, what advice do you have for leaders who know they are struggling and aren't able to work directly with a coach?
The way we have thought about leadership and what makes a great leader is confusing at best. If you are a leader and struggling, it may be because I don't know where to go for help or answers. That's the reason I wrote this book. Instead of answers outside yourself, instead think about times in your life when you've been at your best, most passionate, most excited, most effective. Bring that joy, passion and energy to the act of leading others; that is, bring yourself fully when you're full of passion and life and oxygen - how can you not be great when you do that?
2) If someone just met you, what is the one thing you wish they'd walk away knowing about you?
Interesting question! The one thing I'd want them to walk away with in every interaction is greater confidence, presence and sense of themselves. My commitment in life is that of a teacher and guide - a guide to help other people to be great. Frankly, I don't care all that much that they walk away with a great impression of me, but if they walk away saying, "Boy I feel better, more capable, more able" than that‘s the gold, the payoff.
3) What's behind titling of your book "Leadersh*t"?
From the very beginning of my work, it became clear that the world would not be served by just another leadership book. My challenge was to bring my 30+ years of experience and my 25,000+ teaching moments to create a simple message that was a lot clearer than what leadership books would normally teach. The title is kind of assaulting, isn't it? Good. I wanted people to get it quickly. Leadership (the noun) is about title, positional power and some competencies, precisely what's already been covered in 277,00 other books. In my experience, I don't believe that's what make breakthrough leaders. Instead, I focus on the fundamental act of a human being leading another human being.... leading and following (the verbs). That's where the breakthroughs lie.
4) What do you feel has shaped you into the coach you are today and why?
Well, two things I can name - The first is my own journey of development. My abilities as a coach took on a dramatically better and more authentic depth when I started doing the work that I was advising leaders to do; that is, to grow self-awareness and align personal purpose with my actions, and learn and build authentic relationships. My journey to do that started a dozen years ago and involved a lot of personal work, schoolwork and research... and, It's still a work in progress! The second thing I'd say is having people around me in my life that are what I aspire to be - authentic, present, in touch, and committed.
5) What would your wise man, Sawyer, say and do about the current crises in leadership across the Middle East?
The fascinating part about this time that future generations are going to look back and marvel at is the demonstration of real leadership. Not autocratic leadership, nor leadership with guns and bullets but rather, leadership through connection with followers. We learned, first hand and day-by-day the power of a young leader with a social media account that fomented revolution in Egypt... in 18 days. It didn't take years, it didn't take a strategic plan, it didn't take B-school geniuses. It took someone who had the courage of his convictions and acted powerfully - that's what I am absolutely compelled by in looking at all this stuff. Leading is building capacity in yourself and others to get breakthrough results. I call that breakthrough, don't you?
6) What's the best way to learn leadership? How do leaders get "made"?
From the moment we are children following mom or dad, following a coach, or following a teacher, we're learning leadership. We learn leadership, good and bad, from life itself. Human beings are social, we group and so we are around leaders all the time. The easiest access point for learning great leadership is to think about those leaders with whom you have had the greatest connection of followership - what they did and what resonated with you - then apply that to yourself. Ask - what is it that I have to offer that engages other people and why would they follow me? The fundamental act of leading is engaging followers. So, what is it about you, your vision, your manner of walking, your direction, your guidance? What is it about you that creates followers? That's your answer.
7) Where is the line between learning/mimicking and taking on your own leadership style?
That's part of what's behind my motivation to write Leadersh*t. There are a group of books written by business icons like Jack Welch whose implication is this is how they did it and if you follow this prescription then you're good to go. I don't buy that. To me, true leadership can only occur when it's authentic to who you are. You're name may not be on the cover of Fortune magazine, but it doesn't mean you don't have an authentic and powerful followership. To me, it isn't a fine line at all; how you lead needs to be a function of who you are and how you show up to address your challenges and opportunities. It isn't powerful leading when your focus is on mimicking others, or doing what others think you should do.
8) I have found a huge disconnect between what the theories suggest leaders are and do and what they actually are and do. How did you arrive at your conclusions that we have been fed "leadersh*t" all these years?
Good question. I'm guessing the same as you... watching leaders. I've learned from the leaders I have worked with and by leading myself - I've built and led a company for 27 years. The last three decades of leading and observing have taught me something very powerful - the shortest distance between where you are now and where you would like to be as a great leader is by subtraction; that is, removing things that get in the way of your own passion, your own wisdom, your own purpose rather than adding in skills, competencies, or anything else. I can help you learn to recognize those things that are getting in the way of you being your best. When you bring your best and full self to the task of leading, that's the fastest way to accelerate performance (and fulfillment too).