As many leaders are adapting and learning how to lead through the coronavirus pandemic, John Maxwell delivers a timely teaching on what great leaders do well in times of crisis. John shares seven qualities that great leaders possess during unprecedented times like these.
This message from John was originally broadcast on his Facebook page earlier this week. Your hosts, Mark Cole and Jason Brooks, have broken John’s message into a two-part series on the podcast in order to dive deep into John’s points and offer some helpful application.
Our BONUS resource for this series is the Crisis Leader Worksheet, which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.
Mark Cole: Hey! Welcome to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast! Today you’re in for a real treat because today we’re going talk about Crisis Leaders – What They Do Well (Part 1). Now, recently, as in this week, John Maxwell recorded a live video, fifty-two minutes of talking about seven things that a crisis leader needs to do and what they need to do well. Today, Jason Brooks and I have decided to take and break that up, and we’re going to give you the first three, and we’re going to give you some application. In fact, we’re going to give you about thirty minutes of application on the back end of John’s teaching. And, then, next week we’re going to come back and we’re going to do Crisis Leaders – What They Do Well (Part 2). Now, this week and next week on the podcast is one talk that John did on a Facebook Live broadcast recently. In fact, if you would like to watch that video of John in its entirety, you can go to Maxwellpodcast.com/facebooklive. You will also see a long list of other live sessions that John Maxwell has done. Be sure to watch those and let those add value to you as well. Now, as we get ready to hear John Maxwell, you’ll want to download the notes of John’s teaching today. You can go to Maxwellpodcast.com/crisisleader, you’ll get the notes and get ready to hear John Maxwell. I look forward to catching you on the other side! Here’s John.
John Maxwell: Hi! John Maxwell here and I am so excited to represent the John Maxwell Enterprise Organization and just come and talk to you. Truthfully, I’ve been looking forward to our time together because this is just unprecedented times as far as crisis is concerned. And, I just want you to know that I’m prayed for you, I’m a person of faith, I care for you. In fact, the reason that we’re sharing this with you is because we’re hoping that it will give you some encouragement and help you that you will be able to be better serving yourself and serving your family, and serving your community, serving your teams, leading. That’s what our desire is. But I just want you to know that we’re in this together, so, thanks for coming and just letting me share with you. I want to really talk to you about crisis leadership and you know, what do leaders do well during a crisis? Because there are some marked characteristics that are simple. Every one of us can apply them to our life, but really do make a difference. So, let me make you just three crisis comments at the very beginning of our time.
Number one is a crisis, it moves us. What I mean by that is when something bad happens, it never leaves us the same. So, the question is not are we moving? In fact, every one of you, if I stopped right now, you could make a list of all the things that are different now in your life than were just a few weeks ago. So, it’s moving us around. The question is not, are we being moved by the crisis? We all are. The question is, is the movement that we have, is it a positive movement? Or, is it a negative movement? That’s the question! Am I doing better because of the movement I’m having? Or, am I doing less? And, by the way, in the beginning, almost always the movement is negative because we’re caught by surprise, we’re unaware, people don’t like to have to adjust their schedules. So, there’s a whole bunch of reasons why it’s negative, but in the beginning especially, it’s very negative views. We just kind of, we don’t like what’s happening to us! But, it’s during the crisis, where we are right now, we’re into this now a few weeks, it's during the crisis that we have to make a choice, a determination and that is, am I going to continually go with the flow as I have been and be, kind of, swept away with all the negative things I’m thinking, feeling, emotions that I’m having, or am I going to swim upstream? And, that’s a choice that you and I get to make. We didn’t get to make a choice on the crisis, and in the beginning, we just emotionally got caught up in it. But, now, we’ve been in it long enough, it’s choice time. Again, not the reality of the crisis, the reality of the crisis is terrible. The issue is, you know, am I going to let what’s happening to me affect what’s happening within me? Or, am I going to say, “No, I don’t like what’s happening to me, but I can control what’s happening in me.” That’s huge! So, crisis moves us. The question is, is it moving us forward or is it moving us backward?
Number two, a crisis reveals who the real leaders are. Boy, that’s a fact! Now, I’m going to give away my age! Of course, I’m seventy-three, but there use to be a TV program a long time ago, most of you, you don’t remember this. And, the program was “To Tell the Truth”. It was basically, a panel that would face three people and one of them would be the person that they were going to describe and tell a story of and the other two would be pretenders. So, the panel was trying to figure out who was telling the truth and who was the real person. And, I can still remember, because I loved that show, that the panel would ask questions, and the people that were trying to pretend or maybe the real deal and give them answers. In the end, it would get kind of dramatic because they would say, “Now, will the real—” you know, for example, “Will the real leader show up?” And whoever was the real leader, they would stand up and sometimes they would hit it, and sometimes they would not guess them at all. Well, let me just say this, a crisis is playing that game with us right now…and a crisis is just simply asking, “Will the real leader please stand up?” Because I can promise you, crisis separates pretenders from players. Always has, always will. This is the time where this crisis reveals who I am as a person, it reveals who I am as a leader, it reveals who I am as a family member, a community member, it just reveals who I am. So, a crisis moves us. I hope it’s moving us in a forward, positive way instead of a negative way. I hope that, that’s our choice, by the way, and a crisis reveals who we really are, who the real leaders are, and a crisis tests a leader’s confidence. Nothing tests a leader’s confidence like a crisis does. The reason for that is we are in continual change all the time. So, we can’t lead by the book. There isn’t a leadership playbook to help us through the Coronavirus right now. There’s none. Change is happening continually. And, that is why leaders shifting, I wrote a book on Leadershift, but that’s why leader shifting is so importing. That leader shifting is how to be agile, how to be adaptable. And, this is the test of us. If we’re able to have half time adjustments like coaches do that make them very successful, but best ones always make halftime adjustments. They all have a pre-game plan, but only the great coaches at halftime say, “Look, here’s what we thought, but this is what’s happening, and we have to make our adjustments.” So, those three comments about a crisis, the fact that they move us, they reveal who we are, and they test our leadership. That’s a fact! So, let’s look at crisis leaders and what they do really well. I was listening the other day to a podcast by my friend Craig Groeschel. Terrific leader, terrific leader! He said something that I’m starting my main teaching off of, he said, “You don’t motivate the crisis, you lead through it.” He’s exactly right! If we have motivational gifts as leaders, it's not going to work right now. We’re going to have to day by day, not just give happy cliché’s and try to make everybody feel good, we’re going to have to day by day walk with people through very dark, difficult times. So, I began asking myself, how do we lead through a crisis well? What do great crisis leaders do? And, this is what I’m going to share with you, number one—and they’re not in any order or priority, it’s just number one. Crisis leaders understand context. Now, of all the things I’m going to share with you, this could be the most important. But it also is the most difficult because when I began talking about how to understand context, this is not an easy thing to teach. But let me try! I’m going to give you three words that I think help me define what I mean by context. Those three words are: awareness, anticipation, and agility. Lewis Carol said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Well, in a crisis, here’s what happens, we know where we’d like to go, but the roads that we want to take are blocked! Our usual path of solving problems, our usual path of going from one place to another, it’s blocked. In fact, you know what you see in a crisis? The side that you see in a crisis more than the other side, is the detour side. All the time, you hear them say, “Well, I’ve always done it this way, I can’t do it this way this time. I’ve got to take a detour.” “Well, I’ve always fixed a problem this way, well there’s a detour side there.” Now, because of that, it’s very important for a leader to constantly be aware of everything around him or her and to constantly sense, anticipate, be intuitive and to be agile. Let me define the difference between putting together a puzzle and trying to figure out a crisis. You know, if someone put a thousand-piece puzzle in front of us, what do we do? What’s the first thing we do? Well, the first thing we do is not try to put the puzzle together, the first thing we do is look at the top of the box that has the picture of the puzzle on it and the picture of what we’re trying to achieve through putting the pieces together is before us. It’s clear, and what do we do? As we’re putting the pieces together, we keep looking at the picture of the puzzle because it tells us what to connect and what makes sense and the picture is our North Star, it’s our guide that helps us put the puzzle together. So, a puzzle, here’s what happens, you see the clear picture and then you begin. That describes life in good times. When times are going well and good for us, the picture is pretty clear! We know what tomorrow looks like. We’re pretty certain what the next week, two weeks, couple of months are going to, perhaps, be. But, in a crisis, everything is turned upside down. Here’s the difference: a puzzle, the good life gives you the clear picture and then you put the pieces together to mash that picture. You just keep looking at the clear picture! That’s your guide! In a crisis, you don’t get a picture. There’s no picture right now of what’s before us. All of us have uncertainty. I have uncertainty when people say, “Well, what do you think’s going to happen? How long is it going to last, John?” I have no idea. I don’t know. I know humanly, I don’t want it to last very long. But I know realistically, it’s going to last longer than I want. But, here’s what I know, in a crisis you have to begin and as you begin, you slowly find the picture, but in a puzzle, the picture is clear and it’s all complete. In a crisis, as you begin, the picture begins to form but it’s not a complete picture. You know, you see a little piece of it, okay, I got that, that makes sense. But, the key of getting the picture to be clear in a crisis is movement. We continue to go forward, and the picture becomes clear as we move. That’s why in leadership communication, which I’m going to talk to you about a little bit later, but that’s why in leadership communication, this is key, when you sit down and talk to your people, basically, your communication as a leader is something like this, “Our next step is to take the next step. We aren’t able to get five steps out. We don’t know five steps out.” And we’re constantly saying, “Well, let me say, what we do now is what we can do now.”
Several years ago, I was, well when I wrote The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, the Generals asked me if I would, of the Armed Services asked me if I would spend a day with them working with them through the 21 Laws of Leadership, and I said I would be glad to do that, and it was a great experience to be with them. And, they shared with me, they said, “John, if you’ll give us a day on the 21 Laws of Leadership, we promise you that there’s going to be some good things happen.” So, I did it and the good thing that they said would happen was the fact that they said, “We’ll let you get up in an F-16 plane. And you were going to get to fly in one.” I mean, oh my gosh! That’s huge! So, I went over to Jacksonville where we were going to do the flying and I had a couple of hours of testing, and they took me out to my plane, and it had my name on it. The General said, “Done me well.” And, my pilot, I mean, this is beautiful! My pilot’s name is Buck, I mean this is just the way it should be! They put Top Gun music on as we’re, kind of, working our way out to take off. And, one of the things that day, I spent the day, not only flying, it was an incredible experience, but afterwards we had some time together. And in spending my time with him in that process, he’s told me that fighter pilots think in terms when they’re out there and they’re working and they’re doing things, fighter pilots think in terms of what they call the “OODA Loop”, O-O-D-A. And, those four letters stand for Observe, Options, Decide, and then Act. And what he was basically saying, “As fighter pilots we’re constantly observing, we’re constantly looking for the options around us, we’re making decision, perhaps to make sometimes very quickly, and we have to act!” And, when he was telling me that, that’s the best way I can talk about context leadership, is the fact that we’re always observing, we’re always looking at the options we have, and we hold the decisions and the actions to the last possible moments so that we can get the clearest picture. So, I would like to give you three contextual words, I’ve already mentioned about it, but I would like to take just a little bit longer now to drill them home.
The first one is awareness, and awareness is all about openness. It’s all about understanding, looking around, understanding all of the things that are happening right now, and you begin to integrate them into your leadership mind, and your leadership heart. And, you begin to put all those voices that you’re hearing. You’re hearing a lot of voices, and by the way, you’re asking for a lot of voices, you’re wanting your leadership team to talk to you, you want their perspective, you want their thoughts, you want their opinions. But contextual leadership is the fact that I just don’t buy into one thought or one opinion or one perspective, but I hear them all. And, I’m probably going to integrate them, and it’s not going to be just one voice that I heard, or one perspective that I thought was, perhaps, good. It’s going to be a blending of all of them. To be honest with you, one of my frustrations with TV media is the fact that so much of it is from one perspective. And, you know, it’s not complete, it’s not mature. Contextual leadership is the ability to see the big picture, and to hear many voices, but integrate them in such a way that you have one voice. Okay? That’s hard to explain. I hope I did a decent job with you.
The second word, anticipating, that’s all about trusting your intuition. And, during a crisis, you should trust your intuition more than any other time. Because you have to be intuitive, because you don’t have all the time, the facts before you, the picture clear before you. I tell leaders all the time, especially, gifted leaders, gifted leaders the edge that they have is that they have a sense of intuitiveness and they have a sense of timing and those are both, absolutely, huge. So, you know, when I’m contextualized as a leader, I’m aware of everything that is happening, I’m intuitive and as I’m aware, I’m listening to what I sense and feel within me. And, then, agility is the last word which means that I’m able to be flexible. I’m able to change direction. That yes, I have Plan A but I also have Plan B. And, I’ll tell you, during a crisis, you better have Plan C, you better have Plan D, E is going to help and maybe if you can get an F and a G you’re going to even be better off! So, great leaders, crisis leaders, what they do really well is they not only see the big picture, but they use the whole picture to be integrated into who they are and what they know about leadership in such a way that when they lead, they lead with a maturity, a fullness that really covers what needs to be covered in leadership. That’s number one, that’s crisis leaders do that well.
The second thing crisis leaders do well is they embrace good values. In fact, crisis leaders lead by value not by pressure. As I’ve looked to where we are right now and every day, I’m talking to leaders, everyday I’m having leaders ask me questions. I did a mentoring call earlier with a few hundred leaders today. And, one of the things that’s very obvious to me, and I’m sure it’s obvious to you, that there is a great amount of fear during this crisis. Let me just say this, this is a very severe crisis, a lot of bad things are happening so in no way do I want to diminish the seriousness of this crisis, and I certainly don’t want to diminish at all the fact that there are people dying and this is not an easy time for any of us. Having said that, I ask myself why is fear so dominant also? Because I happen to believe that fear makes a crisis much more severe. In fact, I know that for a fact. So, however severe this crisis is, that fear that we have and the fears that people have, I can promise you, it’s going to increase the crisis and make it worse. So, the question is, why is fear so dominant? And, I think that there are, as I’ve said and reflected there are two reasons. Number one is we live in a dysfunctional culture. No doubt about that. But as I speak of the dysfunctional culture that we live in, we live in two generations of dysfunction now. So, when we had our first generation of dysfunctional behavior and people, it didn’t get into the leadership world so much. But, in a second generation now you have leaders who have grown up in dysfunction themselves. So, the good news is, they have some leadership qualities; the bad news, almost always is they don’t have the emotional stability and strength to always lead well. So, fear is, I think, rapid because of this dysfunction of culture, and the second thing I think about fear is the fact the we’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our values and because we’ve lost our values, which are anchors, they are pillars in your life and my life because we had either lost our values or we have lost good values. So, because of that, we’re having a lot of fear. Let me illustrate, George Barda came out with an interesting article recently on the values that people have today. And I don’t have all of them in here but I’m going to give you nine very quickly. Acceptance, comfort, control, entertainment, entitlement, experiences, expression, freedom, and happiness. Now, those are the values of today. And, when I looked at the values today and when I look at the crisis that we’re in, I think, “Oh, we’re in trouble.” I mean, if you’re value is comfort, you’re in trouble. There’s nothing comfortable about quarantines. If your value is control, this one is completely out of control. If your value is, “I just want to be entertained.” Well, we’ve lost most of our entertainment options, we can’t even go out and if it’s entitlement, another value thing, “Well, I’m just entitled to what I have.” Well can I tell you something? What you have has been taken away from you and it’s being taken away from you right now. And, if your value is freedom, well, we’re kind of, losing that in this crisis, and if it’s happiness, there’s a whole bunch of people that aren’t too happy. Now, all I’m just saying to you is if these are the values that Barna says we have today, no wonder there’s a lot of fear, no wonder there’s a lot of unhappy people because most of the values that people have today…wow. They’re not good solid values. Let me just compare that with solid values and I understand this because in our John Maxwell Enterprises, we have the privilege of bringing transformation to countries invited by Presidents and leaders of the country and we do it through teaching values and what we call “Transformation Tables”, small round tables. Now, compare the values of comfort, control, entertainment, entitlement, happiness with these solid values: attitude, courage, responsibility, commitment, integrity, humility, hope, gratitude, kindness, perseverance, teamwork, self-regulation. Now, let me tell you something, just as we were putting a lot of red check marks about the attitude or the values of people today, they aren’t going to last in the crisis. You can put a check mark beside every one of those values and they will be an asset not a liability in the crisis. You see, moral courage…moral courage is doing the right thing in face of your fears. But, when you have good values and you’re bigger on the inside than you are on the outside, it allows you to do exactly that. To do the right thing in the very face of your fears. Do we have fear? Of course, we have fear! I have fear, everyone has fear. There’s no such thing as a person that’s fearless. I mean, they are disillusioned if they are. They are delusional if they are. But this issue of having moral courage and doing the right thing in spite of your—it’s all based on values. And, one of the reasons that fear factors heavy right now is because we’ve kind of lost our way in values and have become quite a bit dysfunctional. But crisis leaders they embrace good values. Pat Lencioni, I heard him on a podcast the other day. He has a new book called Motives. And, he sets up the very image, he said there are two reason people lead, and I found that very interesting because I’m always asking other people, “Why do you want to be leader?” He said, “There are some that lead because of the reward that they’re going to get through leadership and there are some that lead because the responsibility that they feel about leadership.” Well, if I’m leading because of the reward it's all about me. And, if I’m leading over responsibility, because responsibility, it’s all about serving you, putting you first. And, what values do for us, is values hold us stable and help us to be responsible in our leadership. Okay, here’s the statement that I wrote down in my notes that I want to give you because I think it’s just good. “Be the leader for others that you wish that you had.” And, I know what kind of leader you wish you would have. The kind of leader you wish you had, the kind of leader I want to have, are leaders that value people that put the people first. That’s a fact.
So, let’s go on, the third thing that crisis leaders do is they communicate effectively. And they effectively communicate several things. One, they effectively communicate reality. Max Dupree said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define a reality.” And, what I found is, that when I—we’re talking about me now—when I argue with reality, I lose a hundred percent of the time. I always lose because reality is truth. Now, let me just say something about leading with reality. When we think of a leader that’s a realistic leader or leads with reality, we normally say, “Well, this is a leader who can help us face difficult times.” And, we connect reality with hardship and bad times, but that’s not necessarily reality. I can give you a reality that I think, to an extent can be comforting. For example, I can tell you that the crisis that we have, although, this is a severe crisis, it’s not the worst crisis that we’ve had. Not at all. It’s not even the worst flu crisis we’ve had. Just go back to the 1918’s, the Spanish Flu. Millions of people died with that. I can give you a reality. This is just as real it’s going to be, we’re going to get through this crisis. Yes, we are. You say, “Oh, John! How could you know that?” Because history tells me that! History tells me that men and women have gone through worst crisis than they are going through right now, and they got through it! So, as a leader, if I’m going to communicate effectively, I’m going to have some realism in my communication and secondly, I’m going to communicate frequently. And, why is that? It’s because in a crisis, things are changing all the time. I was doing some mentoring to Mark Cole, our CEO of the John Maxwell Enterprises. He does such a great job! I said, “Mark, one of the things that you’re going to have to make sure our people know constantly is that as you lead today, tomorrow you may have to lead a little differently, because the changes are coming so quickly that there are some changes that we don’t know until we see them, and then, all of a sudden we say, ‘Okay, now I have to adjust. I have to be agile.’” I was talking to Casey Crawford who is the Founder and CEO of Movement Mortgage. A fabulous friend and a great, great leader! And, we were just on the phone the other day and he was telling me about at Movement Mortgage how they’re communicating. He said, “We’re communicating everyday to our people.” He said, “Everyday we’re, through social media, we’re communicating. And we are explaining to them what’s happening. ‘This is what happened since we talked yesterday.’ We’re explaining to them issues that are arising. ‘Oh, and by the way, last night, this issue arose which wasn’t an issue until last night.’” He said, “We’re explaining the decisions we’re going through. ‘Now we made this decision, let me explain to you why we made this decision.’” Now, what’s he doing? This is great communication! It’s not only frequent, but it’s intimate, it’s opening up the door and letting people see on the inside, letting them share, confide in you, kind of the struggle that you’re going through.
The third kind of effective communication is just communicate with care. It’s been very interesting, I’ve watched Andrew Cuomo who is the Governor of New York, I’ve watched him, not a lot of times, maybe, a half a dozen times now when he was communicating, obviously, to the people of New York and specifically to the people in the New York City area, which is just incredibly sad what they’re going through. But, he’s a very good communicator. And, he’s a very good communicator in a crisis. In fact, just to be honest with you, just from my perspective, I’m looking at him and I’m thinking, “Wow, wouldn’t the Democrats maybe want to have him to run for President? I mean, he seems to be able to communicate during a crisis very well.” But he closes his time with personal thoughts. And, the other day, he talked about his brother that has the Coronavirus and it was so touching, it was so personal, it was so warm. And, I thought, “Oh, he’s closing the gap between himself as a leader and all of his entire audience” He was saying, “Hey look! My brother is infected with this it’s coming home.” And, that’s great communication! You know, you communicate the reality frequently. But you communicate at all times, you communicate care, and the fourth thing you communicate effectively is put “we” in the picture, not “you” and “me”, but “we”. It’s the—real corny story—of two guys on one end of the boat, and on the other end was a big leak. The people at the other end were trying to bail the water out and the guy, the two guys that were farthest from the problem, one guy looks at the other and says, “Boy, I’m glad that hole isn’t on our end of the boat.” You know, bless his heart, he doesn’t understand that we’re all in the same boat and “we” it equals community, it equals team, it equals partnership. And, I tell you, we’re entering into a time of what I would call mass collaboration. The more that we come together, in fact, I want to stop here and say that I think as this crisis worsens, I think we’re really going to see America get better. It’s a terrible way to look at it, but I’m seeing them come together, I’m seeing them care for each other more. I think one of our major problems in our country over the last few years has been partisanship. You know, democracy doesn’t work really good when it’s us against them; it only works good when both sides of the aisle and politicians come and talk together and work together. Democracy works best when—hey! When leaders are contextual like I talked about earlier when they take all the thoughts and they bring them together to get the best thoughts where they have shared thinking. And, I think as you’re communicating, you know, don’t look and say, “Boy, thank god I don’t live in New York City! Our area isn’t effected like that at all.” No, no, if the hole is in the boat, we all go down unless we all work together. But I think people are more resilient than they think they are, I think they are more creative then they think they are, and I think they are more generous then they think they are. And, I think this crisis right now is going to maximize those good qualities in people. I think you’re going to see more, and more, every day people doing better while the crisis, even at this time, gets worst. This brings me to the last way of communicating effectively and that is to just communicate hope. Back to Cuomo, just for a second, the other day he was talking and of course, New York City has been hit the worst in the country and he said, “Let me tell you why I’m glad to be a New Yorker…” Oh I love this! And then he talked about the fact that, “New Yorkers have already proven that we can get through the tough times and we got through 9/11 and we can get through this. But let me tell you why I’m so glad to be New Yorker…” And he just lifted the spirit! He communicated “we”, and he gave hope at the same time! Roosevelt said, “Good leaders inspire confidence in the leader. But great leaders, what do they do? They inspire confidence in the people themselves!” I love that! Winston Churchill? There’s a leader that can lead in a crisis! I love the Churchill Bunker, I just love that man. I think he was an incredible leader. During WWII, I just referred a moment ago when I was talking about New York City of 9/11. Let me put this in perspective…Winston Churchill during WWII went through fifty-one 9/11’s. And, what did he do after the bombing? Comes out of that bunker, next day, goes right to where the bombing was where buildings were flattened, smoke ascending, just horrible conditions! And, he’s walking among the ruins and the rebel, smoking a cigar, looking right in the camera, letting the camera picture all the bad stuff that’s happening, and he’s flashing the victory sign and he’s basically saying, “Guess what? We got hit last night, but we’re still standing! We got hit last night, but we haven’t surrendered. We got hit last night, but we haven’t lost hope.” No wonder Winston Churchill would say, “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” I love that.
Mark Cole: So, Jason, thanks for co-hosting with me again, buddy! It’s good to have you back! For those of you that don’t remember, Jason is our Executive Vice President of Content, heads up all of our publishing initiatives, writing partner with John, makes me sound a lot better, besides my southern…Jason, you’ve got to work on me with my southern way. But, hey, we’re social distancing today in our podcast recording, and Jason and I probably have about 50 miles between us, but we have a screen between us right now and so I’m looking him in the eye, and he’s looking me in the eye, and if we have some noise challenges it’s because with this COVID-19, this social distancing, we are not able to record in the studio at this time. So, Jason, again, thanks for jumping in today. I’m super excited to talk about what John shared with us today. Crisis leaders what they do well. So, I know you took away a few things, you’re helping me lead in crisis now, so give me some of your thoughts. What are you thinking after listening to this?
Jason Brooks: Well I’ve had the privilege of listening to it now a couple different times and I just really appreciate John. He was actually texting me yesterday about something different and I was able to just tell him, you know, I really appreciate just the flexibility and the care of leaning into a time that is scary for a lot of folks. And, I love particularly the fact that he leans in to give us hope. I just think that’s such an underrated thing that we need right now. I mean, John definitely is dealing with reality, but at the same time is calling us to remember that we can get through it and I think messages like this certainly help. And, I actually wanted to ask you, he starts off this lesson with, you know, sort of three crisis comments, and I was kind of curious, as the President and CEO of the John Maxwell Enterprise, he talks about how a crisis moves us, and it never leaves us the same. A crisis reveals who the real leaders are, and a crisis tests a leader’s competence. And, I’m curious as an enterprise leader, which of these three are you feeling the most in the middle of all of this? Which of these three comments really resonates with you right now?
Mark Cole: Yeah, and Jason, let me—there’s something you just covertly said right there, and I’ll answer the question of which of these three. There’s something you said right there that I don’t want to miss about John. As you know, from my opening comments, John just did this talk on Facebook Live that I’m going to challenge all of you again that you need to go to Maxwellpodcast.com/Facebooklive, and you’ll get a video of John teaching, not only this part one, but part two. And, John’s bigger than life. I mean, we’ve had, by now, Jason, we’ve already had a hundred thousand plus people view this talk on Facebook Live and other live stream options. And, John’s big, John’s talking—in fact, Dan Reiland, while John did this talk, when he did it live, Dan Reiland, John’s Executive Pastor led with John in his for profit entities for a long time. He texted me and he said, “Mark, I’m going to tell you, John, I do not recall a lesson that John has done better ever, than this one right here.” And he said, “Trust me, I’ve heard a lot of them.” And, Dan has. But I make all that point, Jason, because as big as life as John is on this podcast, in this time of crisis, the COVID-19 that we’re up against, man, John does it on a personal level too. He doesn’t just say this for the big, hairy, audacious Coronavirus that we’re talking about. Jason, you just talked about how he did that with you on a personal level this weekend. And, I don’t want to miss that because John will come into—he’s done it in my life multiple times, with things that I went through, he did it with you this weekend, John is just as good at responding to personal crisis and being a leader through that as he is global crisis like this, you know? And, you said that, but I don’t want to miss that point. Let me go to this question you asked me though. So, a crisis moves us, a crisis reveals who the real leaders are, and a crisis test a leader’s confidence. You know, I’d be an idiot if I said, “A crisis reveals who the real leaders are, thank you very much, mic drop, we’re done.” So, I’m not even going to touch number two with your question, okay? I’m out. I’m out on number two. I hope it’s going to reveal during this time that I am a real leader. I got to tell you, that keeps me up at night. Can I lead through this? Do I have what it takes? Am I capable? And all of you that are regular listeners to our podcast, you know how authentic I live on this podcast, and I wouldn’t be truthful with you if I didn’t tell you that there are moments that I ask, am I leader? Am I leader enough that I can lead in times like this? Now, hold your comments, a lot of you are going to give me “atta boys” and “I can do it!” I’m in a good place today, but I do wonder that. This is a big challenge we’re all facing. There’s no models to look to, to see how to lead through this. But I think probably the one I would tell you out of the three that really resonated with me is a crisis tests a leader’s confidence. Am I really—not just capable, but do I know that I know that I am the leader for this job? And, I told John the other day, we went through some organizational shifts, we’ve got some organizational transitions that we’re going through, it’s made my leadership more prominent, more intracule to our interim as well as to our future. And, I told John the other day, I said, “John, if I had known what I know now, I would have still taken all the responsibilities I took just ten weeks ago now. I’d taken every one of them, I’d have made every one of the steps because I want to be leading right now. This is the time that I want to feel the horse ready to go. I want to be sitting on the horse. I want the reigns in my hand. I want to be leading.” And, I talk to a lot of leaders, Jason, and you’re one of them. I talked to a lot of leaders, and man, the real leaders are saying that exact thing! “I am so grateful that I get to lead during this unprecedented time.” And, I think that’s what John’s talking about here that the crisis tests a leader’s confidence.
Jason Brooks: Well, he also talks about under that point, he references his book, Leadershift, so for other leaders who, you know, maybe they’re not necessarily at the same level as your leading, but for some of our listeners out there, what are some of the shifts that you’re experiencing? Whether they come from John’s book or not, what are some of the things that leaders need to be looking for right now that they can do to sort of adapt to the moment and really be—you know, one of the things we talked about in our leadership call is being responsive verses reactive. And then, even, trying to get out on the edge. So, what are some of the shifts that we need to be look at or thinking through so that we’re not being overwhelmed by the current situation but maybe we can surf the edge of it and be preparing ourselves for what’s next?
Mark Cole: I hope my answer is not too specific to just me, Jason, but it really, absolutely, as you’re asking the question based on––I’m going to answer it for me. But, it really is, and this is a quick answer from me because tomorrow night we’re recording this on Monday, it will go live on Wednesday, tomorrow night, Tuesday, in between recording it and in between it going live, I will be doing a teaching to our entire thirty plus thousand coaches. Now, not all of them will be on the line, but we will have a lot of our coaches, not just mentorship but our coaches from around the world on a teaching call that I’ll do tomorrow night. And, the thing that I’m going to be teaching on is from John’s book, Leadershift, that you just mentioned, and I’m going to teach on the shift of perks to price. Perks to price. Now, let me tell you why that’s very personal to me, and it may be for many of you. We’ve been living in a time of great perks. Our economy is unprecedented. Speaking of unprecedented, the rise of our economy, the growth of many business, the—in the United States, the amount, the smallness, the minute number of unemployment rate that we have had was unprecedented in sixty, seventy years. I mean, it's just been a long time since we’ve had that kind of unemployment rate. It was a time of great perks. We were spending things that, perhaps, maybe right now we go, “Why did we spend that six weeks ago? Eight weeks ago? What were we doing?” And, what I’m realizing, Jason, for my leadership, and I think it’s true for a lot of us, we’re getting ready to be tested in our leadership to see if we have the moral authority to lead in a new reality. And, that’s what John is talking about here in his whole talk Crisis Leaders. What do they do well? They get through the crisis. In other words, they get to the other side. And, for me, I think for me to get to the other side, there is a chance that I’ve been riding the coattails of John, riding in the wake of leaders that had gone before me, and it’s now my time to make a shift from perks to price. So, I’m re-reading that because I sense that there will be a significant price tag on mine and your ability to lead in our near future. So, I want to be willing to make that shift. I want to be implacable, I want that shift to be implacable to what I’m going through right now.
Jason Brooks: I love it! That’s the “Cost Shift” of lead that’s called in the book. Because it does cost something to lead, especially in times like this. And, I love that you point out we have been going through, you know, just as this whole COVID-19 thing is unprecedented, this success on the front end of it had been a stretch that most of us had never seen before. And, it’s interesting because I love—John says, “Crisis reveals who you are as a leader.” You know, there’s a lot of folks that they’re great leading on that front end but when it goes bad, they’re not as good. One of the things that I have loved about being on the leader team with you, and being in some of the calls is that you, in my perception, you have not changed. You are still the same leader in good times and in challenging times, and as a fellow leader with you, I truly appreciate that level of steadiness. And, it leads into John’s first point that he talked about, you know, crisis leaders, one of the things that they do well, first, they understand context and so they are aware of what’s going on, they are aware of how things are impacting people and John gives three words, three context words: awareness, anticipation, and agility. So, talk to me a little bit about how you, as a leader, and how some of our listeners, how do you go about getting context and how do you stay aware? How do you stay on the edge of anticipation? And, how do you remain agile in these kind of challenging times?
Mark Cole: You know, Jason, and again, I love this podcast, and I love that John did this content for us to break down. I mean, John does the content on Monday, we release it on the podcast on Wednesday. I love how fresh, how relevant, how intentional we are on this week’s podcast and in our future podcast, by the way, listeners, we’re going to be very relevant, very current during this crisis of getting John to record content that we can break down in these podcast sessions. But I’ve made several statements lately that the economy of leadership is so unbelievably volatile that it can make our head sweat if we’re not careful. We’re talking about awareness, anticipation, agility. We’re talking about how do we lead through a crisis well and specifically right now, Jason, we’re talking about crisis leaders understand context. I told a group that I was with—our leadership team, Jason, we meet with all of our leaders, I think there was a hundred sixty people across our entire enterprise on a Facebook Live last night and I was communicating with them. It’s my weekly address during crisis time like this and I told them, you’ll remember this, I said, “You know, there are days that I can’t figure out if I’m suppose to seek opportunity to sustain or to grow our business or whether I just need to add value and give everything we’ve got away.” I feel that conundrum, I felt it today. Do we pursue this opportunity or pursing that opportunity, would that make us tone deaf? But yet, I’m a business leader. Yet, I have a responsibility to a hundred and fifty plus families to get us through this very difficult time but it’s almost like on a daily basis I ask myself, “Am I suppose to sell here, am I suppose to be opportunistic? Or, am I supposed to just give it all away?” Another conundrum that I feel often is this idea that, are we supposed to be optimistic or realistic? I had John mentor me on that this weekend while he was developing this lesson that you heard today. I said, “John, you got to help me, I know that I know we’re going to get through this crisis and yet, this week—” Now those of you who listen to the podcast weeks after it’s released, this may be a little irrelevant to you, but for you listening to it live, this week and next week they say in the U.S. we’re going to hit the summit of death loss for the Coronavirus. Now, I don’t know if that’s true but they’re giving some pretty good tables and some pretty good stats to make me think over the next two weeks we’re going to see significant loss of loved ones. And, yet, as a leader, am I supposed to slow down and be empathetic with that and be realistic? Or, am I still supposed to cast a vision and I hope that the future is bright, the future is bright. And, I know the answer…here’s the answer, for all of you that are wondering, it’s both. And, it’s both through awareness, anticipation, and agility. I’m sad to say, Jason, and you know this, again, because you were on a meeting with me last night, but one of our founding members ten years ago signed up for the John Maxwell Team, Francisco. He’s one of our founding members. He’s been to multiple countries with us for transformational work, from New York, we lost him this last week to Coronavirus. Now, I’ve got to tell you, that was sobering to me. And, I feel like last night if I would not have addressed that at the very front of our call, I feel like I would have demonstrated a lack of awareness of the thing that’s on our peoples’ minds, and so I think that’s what John is talking about here. I would love to do this, today a good friend of mine, Andrea. Andrea was listening to the Facebook Live and she texted me something today, and I said, “Andrea, I’d like to quote you on our podcast because Jason and I are working on the podcast this afternoon because we’re just going to be relevant. John just gave us a message, we’re going to go give application.” And she gave me permission. So, Andrea, thank you! This is what she said, she said, “Two things that I love that are created and reflective thought from this lesson today…” that she heard John speak. She said, “One, deepening comes from experiences in the deep end. We want to be deep, don’t we? We want our leadership to be deep, not wide.” But yet, hear this, this is what Andrea said, “Deepening comes from experiences in the deep end. The deep end is where you learn to swim.” The second point that she made she said, “Strategies changes based on the arena.” In other words, in a football game they train to what stadium they’re playing in. They train to the acoustics, they train to the turf, the temperature, the weather conditions. We as leaders should be grateful for a change in the arena as it will make us better leaders in the future. I mean, mic drop, Andrea. She’s going the leadership perspective here is contextually, we need to understand, going through this new arena of leadership will make us more effective in the future because we’re having to swim to get better. And, by getting better, we will lead better in the future.
Jason Brooks: I love that! One, I love that she texted you that real time, but two, it leans into, you know, John defined “anticipating,” he said, you know, it’s trusting and using your intuition more than usual so in a season when things aren’t textbook, when they aren’t playbook, you know, really listening to what experience has honed in you. And, I love that her responses kind of lean into that, right? That this is a time where you’re getting critical experience that will help you lead better in the future because things are going to be different moving forward. What are some, from your perspective, what are some ways—or where do we, as leaders, figure out where our intuition is and then how do we lean into it? How do you know where your intuition is and how do you lean into it during this season?
Mark Cole: So, I think our intuition, a lot of times, comes from our areas of strengths. So, it’s our strength and so we find our self intuitively going after the areas where our strengths are. So, for me, it’s relationship, it’s the relational aspect, it’s the impact of mankind, womankind. And, I think that when we use that intuition it’s one thing. When we listen to the intuition it’s another thing, but when we begin to trust and actually act on that intuition—another thing that I’ve said recently is the difficulty of leading right now in Coronavirus is, as we’re leading one step behind most everything that happens. We’re not leading ten steps ahead. John says leaders see more and before they are ahead of everything else. Leaders know more, they feel more, they see more before. They are always out front, but not with Coronavirus. We’re not out front. But here’s the other antithesis, we’re not way, way behind either. In fact, if we wait three to four to five days before we, as leaders respond, we become tone deaf, we become outdated, we become socially ostracized because we’re not responding quick enough. So, the problem with leadership now is you can not be out in front because you don’t know—there’s no out in front. We’re reactive responding. But you can’t be way behind either or you lose relevancy. And, so we’re responding, one, which is a problem with any Type A leader, “We’re responding! Oh, my goodness!” But, two, we’re responding just after a series of events happens and we don’t have time to assess it, collaborate on it, we have to respond. That’s where our intuition has got to kick in. So, Jason, what I’m doing is I have really empowered my leadership team. You mentioned this awhile ago, we have identified the areas that different members of our team are more intuitive, and I’m relying on them much quicker in these moments than I would normally. We’d just wait for the next leadership meeting. Can’t do that now, we’ve got to call ourselves together, we got to intuit, immediately, so that we can respond as the market responds.
Jason Brooks: And, I love that! I hope if you’re a leader right now, that you heard what Mark said that his intuition allows him to lean into the intuition of his team and we’ve got brilliant people on our team. You know, brilliant people who have built businesses, people who know communications, people who understand strategy, who understand, who understand government, and Mark really does a tremendous job of empowering those gifted leaders to speak freely, to speak first, and then he does a wonderful job of synthesizing it back into himself, in which, John talked about it, he called it “integrating” these things. He takes all this contextual material and he integrates it into himself and then makes a smart decision moving forward. We can camp out here for forever, but I want to move onto point two. John said that the second thing crisis leaders do well is they embrace good values. So, you’re a man of values, we’re a company of values, why do values matter in a crisis? And, what does actually leaning into and living out those values offer us a benefit as leaders?
Mark Cole: You know, Jason, this weekend, John and I were talking and once again, I told him, I said, “John you know your principles are unchanged. Leadership is leadership; principles are principles. And, they work. In fact, they should shine brighter in crisis.” Well, guess what? I think values shines brighter in crisis as well. John was challenged by his publisher many years ago to write a book on there’s no such thing as business ethics. Well, they wanted to write a book on business ethics and he said, “I can’t write a book on business ethics, there’s no such thing as business ethics.” Which kind of freaked the publisher out because they were convinced, they needed a book on that. He said, “I can’t write on business ethics because there’s only ethics. You don’t have ethics at work, and not ethics at home. Or ethics at home and not ethics at work.” You don’t have values before the crisis or values during the crisis, you just have values. John made a statement in here that I loved, Jason, and we don’t have to spend a long time on values because I know we want to get to the third point but let me say one of the biggest things I took away, Jason, he said, “We re-establish our values in crisis. We have to re-establish our values.” And, I love that! And I went, “I wonder why we have to re-establish our values in crisis.” And, here’s why, because in times of success, in times of abundance, in times of great blessing we a lot of times forget who we are and we forget what’s important, and we begin to compromise ourselves. Yet, when crisis happened, it happened in the U.S., 9/11. It happened in the U.S. when the ’07, ’08 market collapsed…it’s happening again right now. We are re-establishing ourselves and reconnecting to ourselves to our values. Now, let me explain for us, we are people of value who value people. We say that with pride. Guess what we’re having to do now? Before we lay people off, before we respond to the economy, before we look at our cast, before we cancel an event that cost us three, four, five million dollars, the numbers still have not come in, before we did all that, you know what our first filter was, Jason? You know this because you’re on the leadership team. Our first filter has been and is even stronger…how does this affect our people? How do we add value to people in the middle of this? This podcast is because John Maxwell has said, “I am going to create a lesson much more periodically than I have ever done to be very relevant for such a time as this.” That’s what we’re calling it, Leadership When It Matters Most. And that’s a value of ours and we’re challenging ourselves to make sure that sustainability is not a profit statement, that is a values statement. I want our values to have sustainability and if our values have sustainability, guess what? Business will take care of itself. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be managed, it doesn’t mean it can be ignored, but it does mean that we got to embrace our values in times of crisis.
Jason Brooks: Man, that is such a good word. I agree with you, I think we can leave it right there. But, leaders, if you were to just pause right now and re-asses your values, which ones have shifted back to the forefront of your mind? Which ones have dissipated because of the circumstances? Where are you at with your values? That might be a good activity for you to kind of spend a few minutes reflecting on. But you mentioned John, the reason we even have the material that we have on this podcast is because John has made the conscious decision to speak into this moment and prepare material that is timely and just one hundred percent what people need to hear right now. And, John says that in crisis, crisis leaders communicate effectively, and he gives us, man there’s like five different things that they communicate so I’m going to let you, dealer’s choice here, of the different things that John says goes into effective communication, which of these things do you think a leader needs to really be aware of? Which ones are you focusing on right now when you’re communicating, whether it’s to the elite team, to all of our coaches, or just to all of the people who look to the Maxwell Enterprise for hope in this time?
Mark Cole: So, it’s a difficult question, I feel like it’s a trick question. If I don’t say all five you’re going to text John and say I don’t like three of his points, so, I’m a little bit concerned on how to answer this being all serious, Jason. Really, it’s the first two. It’s communicating reality. It’s what I did last night. Our teams performed incredibly last week and amidst all of these challenges, uncertainties, our team executed on some business plans and some business strategies last week that made me so proud of them. So, we had this update. But if I had went straight to our execution of our business plan and had not recognized our friend who we had lost, I had been challenged to not slow down and say over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to have a human element here. I believe that I could have lost all credibility because I wasn’t dealing with the entire reality of where we are. I think frequently is very important. I mean, John’s doing it with this Monday Facebook Live, he’s doing it today in a podcast. We’re doing it here, I’m on Facebook Live with our team. I’m going to shoot them a video tonight because of how well they executed today on this Facebook Live to a hundred thousand people. Just keeping ourselves as leaders frequently in front of people during crisis is really what effective communication looks like. Now, I will have to say an honorable mention which is the fifth thing that John said and it’s hope. Good leaders inspire confidence in the people themselves. So, how do we deal with reality and yet sprinkle in hope? How do we become a hope dealer’s yet sprinkle in reality? And that timing and that tension is our biggest challenge, but you don’t do it by ignoring either one, you bring both to the table. John made this statement in this section, he said, “Crisis will show you pretenders or players. You are either a pretender or you’re a player.” You are really either relevant, or you’re irrelevant. You either have something to say and people want to listen, or you have nothing to say and people are not listening. So, I think our ability to communicate is our ability to demonstrate that we’re actually in the game. I can’t communicate from my home office, where we all are right now if I’m not in here feeling it, and sensing it, and visualizing it so that I can communicate from a place of, “I am in the game, I am engaged.”
Jason Brooks: Leaders, if you’re listening the three things, and the two that we left out were care and you know, leaders communicate care and leaders communicate we. But it goes back to the three that Mark highlighted. We have to communicate reality, deal with what is. We have to communicate frequently because people need to know, or like Mark just said that you’re staying on top of the situation. But you definitely want to communicate hope as well. And that’s one of the things in all of the communication between leader team calls, I’m on calls with some of our other groups, and even if the situation hasn’t changed dramatically day after day, right now with people being spread apart and people feeling so disoriented, the frequency of communication can give your team a tremendous grounding point to know that they still belong and they still have reason for hope and I think that’s one of the things that I have taken away from a lot of the communication that we have been through over the last several weeks is I do come away hopeful. Because we are staying in touch, we are staying aware, but at the same time, we’re also pushing forward towards better days ahead. I’ll close with this, John, shared a Winston Churchill quote, he talked about Churchill and he shared the quote, “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Where, if you were to give a word of courage right now to your fellow leaders who are listening, where can they find courage, or take courage, or be encouraged from your perspective?
Mark Cole: Well, I think that John said it well in our leading through crisis summit that we had a week or so ago. It’s this, “We’ve been in crisis before, and we will get through this.” And, I think, despite what the next couple of weeks hold, despite how personally impacted I’m going to be. The resounding message of hope and courage to our team has got to be that we will get through this. Don’t act like it’s not going to be tough, don’t act like it’s not going to be a pill, don’t pretend that there is so much optimism that there will not be difficulty along the way, but we will get to the other side. We will. I heard an incredible inspirational message this weekend that said, “If you had a confidence in January that it was going to be a great year, if you had certainty that you were going to be more effective in your future, you cannot give that up in times of crisis! You’ve got to hold even stronger to that promise or that calling or that certainty that you had before the crisis. Don’t let the crisis define you. Define the crisis.” And, so that’s what I would challenge us to do. Take courage and hope we will get to the other side.
Jason Brooks: Man, I love that, and it means more to me than you could possibly know. We’re going to go ahead and call it a stop here for today. We’ve covered points one through three from John’s message on Crisis Leaders and What They Do Well. This is part of his “Leadership When It Matters Most” series. Hey, if you haven’t already downloaded the bonus notes for this episode, you will want to go to Maxwellpodcast.com/crisisleader, and you will want to click on the “Bonus Resource” button to download the fill in the blank notes. Mark and I will be back, we’re going to cover points four through seven of John’s message about crisis leaders and what they do well. So, until the next episode, let’s lead!