Larry Robertson is an award-winning author, strategist, and innovation advisor, who works at the nexus of creativity, leadership, and entrepreneurship. As the founder of Lighthouse Consulting, he has for over 25 years guided entrepreneurial ventures and their leaders through uncertainty & change to lasting success. He is the author of three books, including the recently released “Rebel Leadership: How to Thrive in Uncertain Times”. He is a popular columnist and speaker, and he has been named a Fulbright Scholar, which is a rare achievement for non-academic professionals.
This is the second half of the conversation - listen to the fascinating first half in the previous episode #172.
* Leadership is a skill we must constantly unlearn and relearn
* Rebel leadership: a new kind of leadership that matches the unprecedented times we live in
* Five key insights of rebel leadership
* Why soul is the key to entrepreneurial success
"Learn to be more curious, more often and sooner."
𝗔𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗼𝘀𝘁:
I am Agi Keramidas, a knowledge broker and podcaster. I firmly believe in the power of self-education and personal development in radically improving one's life.
I have partnered with Brain Fm! Get 20% off this amazing app: brain.fm/agi
Welcome to the personal development mastery podcast. I am Agi Keramidas and my mission is to inspire you to grow, stand out and take action towards the next level of your life. I interview leaders, authors, successful entrepreneurs, spiritual teachers, exceptional people who will inspire you to improve your life
Tune in for two episodes each week, and make sure you subscribe to get them as soon as they are released.
This is the second half of the conversation with Larry Robertson, to listen to the first part, go back to the previous show episode 172.
And actually want to move on for a bit further and talk about leadership as well. Larry, which is obviously I before I asked you about enable leadership, I was noticing you use when you talk about leadership, you often refer to the words re learn unlearn. And I wanted to comment on that first, what is it about the skill of leadership that needs to be unlearned? The lens? So that's my first question really about leadership? Yeah, it's
a great question so much is the other two words we talked about entrepreneurship and creativity? I give the example with entrepreneurship of why did I write that first book, or what was one of the main drivers and one of the main drivers was, we never stop and ask what that word means. And it's as true of creativity. And as true of leadership as it is of entrepreneurship. We have impressions of in our head of what leadership means we have examples every day that are, are pushed to us, whether it's through the media, or how we're trained in the organisations we work for, even as a child, as we go to school, we're given an impression of what leadership means. And frankly, that in some ways is, is the best universal example, there's a teacher at the front of the room, that person is in charge, that person holds all the knowledge or the certainly the greater part of the knowledge, they are there to impart that knowledge to us there to tell us what path we're supposed to follow what achievement looks like. So from a very early age, and really across the world, even though it varies in terms of how classrooms are set up and things like that we are taught that, that there is an equal sign between the word leader and leadership. And I think that absolutely throws us off. Because leadership and the ability to lead is a capacity, much like creativity inside every one of us. And one of the examples I'd like to give is, if you think about ancient tribes, and I'm not a fan of human beings, and I'm not thinking about any one in particular, but in those societies, was there a chief in a tribe often there was, but on any particular day, that Chief wasn't necessarily the leader. On one day, it might be the medicine woman or medicine man, on another day, it could be the Warriors on yet another day, it might be the gatherers. Or it might be the chief the eye. The The point was, is that number one leadership moved, it went to whatever the place was, where leadership in a certain set of Stark circumstances, reflected the abilities of that particular individual. So that right there is a really interesting thing to think about is that leadership doesn't look the same in any moment. It doesn't ask the same things, it doesn't ask for the same kind of skills, or people for it to be done. Well, it moves based on the environment, it moves based on the need. And ultimately, what that means in a society, or a company or any group of humans is that leadership is a collective thing. We, we tap that ability within ourselves to rise up and contribute in that way. It's really, it's almost a form of finding your own sense of mastery. What do you do? Well, that in this case, not only benefits you but benefits the tribe, or group or team or company or whatever it is, that you are a part of. So I wanted to peel back to that beginning because I think leadership is a very, very misunderstood word. And it's not thought of as a capacity and worse than that. It's thought of as something that looks the same, right all the time. This is what leadership Looks like in this company, this is what leadership looks like in a school setting or a society or what have you. And nothing could be further from the truth, if we're all trying to model off the same form of leadership, we become less capable, in terms of leading ourselves out of a range of situations that don't always fit the skills, or the person who has those skills. So that's, that's really how I think about leadership. And I think it puts up a very different twist on on all of it. And once again, I made a reference to this earlier, much like creativity, we need leadership and that truer sense now more than ever, because in this kind of world in a world that's more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous that the term is VUCA, that it's an acronym made up of the first letters of those terms. It is it is that way across the world, and not just occasionally, but regularly. And some would argue all the time, that the world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. When you're in that kind of environment, then what leadership looks like and what you need someone to do to lead is changing all the time. If you're not doing that, in a collective way, I don't I don't mean to be overly blunt, you're screwed. I mean, it you really need to embrace that if you're going to not only adapt and survive, but thrive.
What you said about leaders versus leader save that they are often confused as to ensure one is taught inter changeably. With the others. If you're sure, right, there is very big difference. I, I loved how you explained it. And it certainly there was something that you said about, you know, that misconception that we have about a leader of a country or of a corporation or anything else. And I think if anything, this times that we're living in, and the the need for leadership needs to become? And it's no, I will rephrase it based on what you just said, Now, it is the it is not the need for a leader if there is a need for leadership, because I don't think there's going to be one leader. We certainly need leadership in the world right now. But I don't think we need a leader or a group of leaders that will do that. For us. I think we are all responsible as a collective to have this leadership. And I'm very happy that you explain it like this, because I'm one of those people that if you asked me a few years ago, what is leadership? I would point at the you know, the President or it was solely the Usher nothing. Yes. So it's a, it's great to clarify this, because I'm sure that there are people who still don't think of leadership the way that you
described, I think there's no, no question. And part of the reason that many people don't think of it the way I just described, they think of it as embodied in the individual who holds the title at the top president, CEO, Director, whatever it might be, is that we are we are, that's that image of leader equals leadership is reinforced every day. I mean, just look at the messages around you, when when we want somebody to take us out of a crisis, when we want somebody to be responsible for a crisis. We look to an individual, we expect that individual to have the answers to take the blame whatever it might be. Here's what's fascinating to me, too, Archie is so there are groups, professional service firms, like a PWC or an EY which might be familiar to your listeners. They advise organisations, they also do research to advise organisations and one of the things that groups like that have done at least here in the United States. And by the way, they they do this across the world, they just happen to be headquartered here. They do surveys of leaders to ask, where leaders stand in the world right now where what is their world look like? What is the what is the environment in which they're leading? And here's here's something really fascinating in 2017 This is before the pandemic PwC did their annual leadership survey, and 82% of leaders they talked to nearly 2000 leaders across sectors, different levels of the organisation across the world. 82% for in five of those leaders describe the environment in which they're trying to lead as unpredictable not just at the top level, but Where were they going to find talent and recruit team members from? How were they going to deal with technology? Not only the technology here today, but the technology they can see coming on the horizon that was going to influence their, their business or whatever organisation it was they live in, but also including where where were they going to generate revenues? What what how is the bottom line going to be plus? In every one of those categories? Their answer was, that's unpredictable. Here's the the more shocking statistic. They've been saying the same thing for a dozen years. Same thing, 12 years of unpredictable, and that was pre pandemic, those numbers, the confidence that leaders have in themselves to lead has only regressed since then. So what is the same? First of all, it's a stunning admission, leaders are effectively saying they don't know how to lead alone. Okay, so I, I mean, we could say they don't know how to lead, but I think that's a that's a false indicator. What they're really saying whether they would admit it to themselves or not, is that this is not a one person job. So if you're making the same declaration over that period of time, and then it gets worse, because of a global pandemic, it really should reinforce this idea that leadership is a collective thing. And that the best thing that leaders can do, if this is really the job of a leader, is to create an environment in which everybody is not only encouraged to lead in their own way they're expected to lead, they're supported in doing that. They are rewarded for doing it, no matter what the results are. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad. They're expected to contribute to what that group's definition is of leadership and purpose and everything they're driving for. That's the job of a leader, the job of a leader is not to be the hero not to have all the answers. So you know, take it out of the corporate setting. You could put it in the sports setting, you could put it in a small community group, you could put you could talk in terms of a family leadership should have that broader meaning and that broader definition, if we're all going to rise to our fullest potential, and if we're going to meet a VUCA world head on and figure out how to thrive in that uncertainty.
And that's really so you know, I mean, we're talking about rebel leadership, even without talking about it because the merger of the things you've pursued with your questions, is really where rebel leadership comes together. It's this, you know, we think of, of innovators and entrepreneurs as these roques, they do these crazy risky things. And sometimes there's a great outcome and we celebrate the great outcomes like you know, the iPhone, we all love that we have it in our lives and hate that we have it in our lives. But we celebrate those those victories, we also realise that there's a downside to our traditional definition of what a rebel is that sometimes they disrupt just for the sake of disruption. Sometimes they aren't successful in what they do. Same is true of leaders. We like them, when they take us to a place where we feel we're better off. We often like it when they we believe they will do the hard work and we won't have to do it. But the truth is there are these important positives, important powerful elements to both leadership and rebellion or creation or entrepreneurship are things like that. And what we're looking for is a combination of the best. So rebel leadership is taking the best of what it means to be rebel or to rebel or to be creative, what it means to lead, and what those things look like when they're actually fused together. It's very much what we've been talking about. And it's not just conceptual. The organisations across sectors that are thriving in the last 20 years, it's as things have become progressively more uncertain. Our rebel leadership organisations, they are embracing a combination of all the things that we've just talked about for the last 30 minutes or so.
Hi, it's laggy here, interrupting you with something you may find useful. The most frustrating feeling is when you're trying to focus, but you can't get your brain to concentrate and zoning on the important work in front of you. And if it happens to you, you are not alone. 40% of people say they have to make a big effort to concentrate. But if you're having trouble getting focused, I have a solution for you. I'm so excited to be partnering with brain FM. Brain FM is a great app and I use it to block out my mental chatter and zone in on my number one priority of the day. Brain FM uses functional music which is backed by science and research. It's, and it is designed to give us that extra edge when we need our undivided attention. But they also have relaxation, meditation and deep sleep modules that help you unwind and recharge. So if you want to be able to place your full attention exclusively in the activity you choose, whether that's meaningful work, or relaxing or getting high quality sleep. Right now, personal development mastery podcast listeners get 20% of brain.fm/aggie That's an amazing deal for such a great app. 1000s of people have given five star reviews to brain FM, find out why brain.fm/aggieyoyouremindedmeofthatphrasei don't remember who was it that said that the leaders job is not to create followers, but to create leaders. And I think it's, it matches quite well with what you were saying. Larry out of the in your in your book about rebel leadership, you have some those five key insights in there. And there is one of them. I know it's a it's a big topic. So I won't ask you about all of them. But there is one of them in particular that I find very intriguing. And I want to have a discussion about it. And that's the the sole element. So rather than me trying to explain, I will ask you to explain that for us. What that shown have to do with leadership?
Yeah. So I'm so glad you asked that question. And if I had to guess which of the five gonna ask about soul? So let me let me tell you a story real quickly. And then it really helps define what soul is the for my first book on entrepreneurship, which was called a deliberate pause.
I interviewed all these people, as I said, several 100. And at the end of those conversations, no matter who I was talking to, I would ask a couple of common questions. And one of them was, was there anything along the way in your journey? And we'll just generalise it from idea to realisation of that idea to growth beyond what it was there anything along the way that proved to be most important. What I would sometimes say was there an X factor, if there is such a thing. And whenever I would have these conversations, which were often in person, but sometimes over the phone, the very first thing that would happen is I get what I called the lean in, if I was sitting across the table at a coffee shop from somebody they would, they would literally lean into me physically. When I asked that question, was there any one thing that was the real difference maker, and then I'd get the look around, and kind of glance over their shoulders, maybe even look behind me to see who might be listening to the conversation? It wasn't because they weren't going to tell me if there were people listening, but more to take in their surroundings before they put this answer out there. And then they would ask me, Do you really want to know? And we're talking about hundreds of people here, almost to the person. Their answer of the thing that mattered most to them all along the way through all the trials and tribulations was soul. That was the word that they chose. And what soul is, is not, not the way we often think about it, when we use that word is something ephemeral, or something religious, or something beyond our reach. It really was that core sense of self. Some people are more reflective than others, but everybody is capable of having a core sense of who they are. And you know, why why do they exist in the world? Like I said, some people ponder that other people absolutely do not. But I think everyone is capable of having a sense of that the way soul fits into a an entrepreneurial venture, or in this case, the way soul it becomes core to rebel leadership is that soul is really about your identity as an individual, but your identity in the context of what you do, and how that impacts or connects to others. So to have that sense of who you are to have that sense of what you can bring in the way of leadership to a situation. But to think of it even further about not just my identity and what I can bring, but what it means to my work, what it means to what I do and what I pursue and how that that touches her impact others. That is a truly powerful thing. And that's what these entrepreneurs, that's what leaders say. That's what these cultures of leadership say is that you have to have some kind of sense of who you are in the context of what you do, or you're just doing, you're not really doing in any kind of purposeful way. Why is that so important? Well, it's, it's, I think, I would argue, it's critically important to you, as an individual and your level, not just of satisfaction, but of mastery in what you do, the passion you have, for what you do that makes you gives you the energy to want to keep going. It's absolutely important in that case, but what we say often about organisations is that the ones that are most successful, the teams that are able to adapt, and weather storms and really be resilient, but also innovative, are the ones that have a shared purpose, where the individuals who work for that organisation really have something collectively that they define as their purpose that has to come from somewhere. And soul is that place it comes from so what I would define as as soul in my case could be very different from how you define it. But if you and I both have a sense of why we do what we do in the context of others, then we're better able to one choose the team that we want to be part of the team that has that shared purpose that speaks to us in some ways, it's not going to speak exactly our script of who we are, but it's going to be relatable, and it's going to be connected in some way. If each of us has that ability, then one, we're not only in a better position to buy into a shared purpose, but to we're in a good position to gather, define and continue to refine what it means. And three, we're going to be more committed to being connected to that shared purpose in everything we do. So guess what happens, we come that much closer to delivering on that shared purpose. Most of the time, when organisations talk about shared purpose, they there's something inside the individuals who talk about it, that they absolutely get that shared purpose is a powerful concept. The reason shared purpose fails more frequently than we would like it to is that it's it remains talk, it never becomes connected to those individuals in the organisation and never comes becomes connected to the day to day decisions. Everything, every action, every decision by every person every day, that's when shared purpose works. Well, if you're going to engage in that kind of dynamic, and you don't have a sense of your own soul and who you are in that context, then it's like sailing a sailboat without a sail, or, you know, walking through a deep dark forest without some kind of compass or reference point. That's what soul is in the context of rebel leadership.
That's amazing. And you use the phrase, core sense of self, which it's so magnificent as a description, because it takes away anything that is metaphysical or religious or spiritual, even if they are what it takes, takes away because the core the sense of self, who we truly are, it could be metaphysical, it could be spiritual, or it can be really deep knowing of who you truly are. And it doesn't really matter of the, those other labels that can be put on the world. And you said that everyone is capable, and I agree with you that everyone is capable, to my knowledge to look inside. It not everyone chooses to do so unfortunately, in my opinion, and that leads to all sorts of problems that we're facing, because people and you mentioned that they they just do things without a sense of deeper purpose or knowing. And that will make a very big difference when you do something out of purpose out of knowing that this is my core self that requires me to do this and then you do it with passion you do it and I think we were having this similar conversation before we started recording earlier about the podcast that I do and the kind of work he takes and if I didn't have this kind of sense of that core sense of self that this is me. I wouldn't be doing it day in day out without any any purpose or any goal it it comes from within. So I think in in that sense it is that showed that drives me to do yes. And that was just an observation of myself with that. It's a great way to describe this very elusive and multifaceted word that soul is I mean, who can say? Describe it so easily? It's
yeah. And I think just the awareness that there is some version of that for everyone. So no matter how often you look at it, no matter how hard you look at it, no matter how much you count, it's there. So the awareness that it is having an impact on whatever you do, is, is probably the most powerful thing but but it becomes more powerful. The more aware you are of it, the more you explore it, if you will, it requires a certain sense of this is going to sound like a bit of an extreme word, but it sounds it requires a certain sense of boldness to explore in that zone and and ask what it might mean this is really interesting. There's a there's a researcher at Columbia University, his name is Adam Galinsky. And he, he talks about this idea of boldness, and he says, we all have a range of boldness. And on either side of it is on one end is doing too little, right, being less bold, and on the other end is doing too much. Yeah. And what defines that range of boldness and where you exist on it, but also how great it is, comes down to two things. He says this is through his research, 1000s and 1000s of people in different settings, that he's looked at this at what you know about yourself, and what others know and think about you. That's really what defines that sense of boldness. And if you think about it, it makes sense, because the one point is not doing enough, right? Having not good not being bold enough, well, that in some ways, I would say in the large way comes down to what are you willing to do? Right, you have to know yourself to know what you're willing to do even even if you're and I'm not demeaning any kind of profession here. But I'm saying, even if you're a carpenter, and you've done that job for decades, and you're well trained it and you decide to make variations sometimes in how you do it, the materials, you choose how you're going to cut it, how you're going to shape it, what you're going to use it for, that's a that's an example of playing within your zone of boldness, right. And on the other end is what people know about you and what they think about you, you project that, and you project it more clearly when you know more about yourself. So this is this is kind of where we come back to this soul as really being an anchor point in defining that zone of boldness, and how you will go forward in life and what impact it will have on you and on others. So, you know, it's kind of a big thought. But it's a it's a way of saying there's some science behind this. It's not just conceptual. It's true about how people move forward in life or don't, why wouldn't you want every advantage?
I will I will leave that question for the listeners to answer that it's wrong for them to refer to themselves. Like this, this is such an intriguing conversation. And thank you again for this, all this value and knowledge that that you share with us today, I would like to start wrapping things up a little bit. And since you've listened to my podcast a few times, you know that I always ask the quick fire questions in the end, which sometimes they're not quick fire at all, but it's kind of a catchy title, which kind of stack so first on I always ask what does personal development mean to you?
That that's something that I feel we've been talking about this entire conversation it to me, it is not just developing a mastery of what you already know about yourself to developing yourself to your greatest potential. In addition to that, it's realising that there are things within you within your scope of potential that you probably discount. And so for me personal development is also that recognition that we are all creative, that we all have a leadership capacity, and building things like that, that you would discount or you would attribute only to others into your own development. I think that's really what it means to me. It's not just developing what you know, it's learning about what you don't know about yourself and developing that as well.
Absolutely. And, and, Larry, if you could go back in time and meet your 18 year old self and you were allowed to offer him one piece of advice. What would that be?
Well, this comes right back to the beginning of our conversation. I talked about my grandfather And learning to be curious Through him I would have been more curious more often and sooner
to key very important and one more hypothetical question then wave a magic wand and change something in the world as it is today, what would you change?
You know, we, we talked at different points in our conversation about what we do together. We talked about soul and soul being identity, but in the context of among other things, how what you do impacts and influences others. We talked in creativity about co creation. I gave the example in leadership about leadership being cultural and collective and the entire tribe being made up of of leaders. I, I think we undervalue, underestimate, under emphasise just how much we need other people. And some of that is feeling that individually, we have to be heroic. And on the other side, it's feeling like well, we only want to collaborate and work with people that are like us, or that won't be too disruptive when in fact, working with people who are more diverse, where there's sometimes this conflict is the best way to actually advance if I could wave a magic wand, it would be to spread that greater recognition to everyone not just as a broad conceptual thing. But as something that's relevant to everything that every one of us does every single day, I think it would make a massive difference in whatever we're trying to achieve.
And allow me emerging from all this conversation, we have overhead. And if you were to give to the listener, one, one action of litem something they can implement straightaway or tomorrow morning, what would you tell them,
step into the adjacent possible, do it, do it in your own way, do it to whatever degree has an element of comfort to it, but also an element of discomfort. And when you do it, remember that you always are in control, you always have access to those three acts of creation, you have the choice to step in to the adjacent possible in the first place, you have control over what your reaction is to whatever happens when you get there. And you are totally capable of improvising. When it's something you didn't expect, even if you're out of practice.
And logic, do you want to tell us also how can people connect with you and find out more about you and your work? Sure, the best place to really connect with me on on any front is through my website. It's starts with my initials: LRspeaks.com
That will tell you about my books, it'll get you to the column side. Right, it will tell you about the consulting I do and and a range of other things. So I think that's that's ultimately the best source.
That's brilliant. And I will go back a little bit to the beginning of our conversation. And actually it was the bit before we started recording the very beginning. And you're telling me that you don't have any specific points or agenda or something that you want to discuss through now that we've had this conversation and thinking back at it is Was there something that you were hoping that would that's opponent completely skipped?
Not not in that sense of something I had thought about in advance. However, you know, as I said to you, before, we started the recording what what I love about listening to your episodes is a combination of your willingness to explore in your own head. The I mean, your your questions are so thoughtful and thought provoking. They follow down the path of wherever a conversation goes. That's as you and I both know, that is not always the case. But I love that exploration that comes through the kind of questions you ask yourself the kind of questions you ask you get to conversations like this and what it what it brought up in my mind is, we all need to do that more often. Which means you've got to engage in the resources that allow you to do that. One of them is listening to podcasts like yours, that that they they help your thinking along. You get to hear other people think out loud. I think making an investment in things like that is critically important for all of us. I think the same is true of books we referenced my three books. Reading is one of the most powerful tools and tactics that that Human beings have to not use it. And to not explored in a lot of different ways books, articles, different genres and things like that, I think is to squander something incredibly valuable. So, so the thing we I didn't come in thinking, but the thing I would go out saying is, I hope that your audience will listen to your show more, I hope they'll explore my books, but I hope they'll read in general, because that's really how we move along all these lines, we've been talking about creativity, entrepreneurship, leadership, it's all about that lifelong learning and exploration and stepping into the adjacent possible and sometimes you need a guide. And that's what I think podcasts and books and articles can do.
Absolutely. And if I can add to that, it's sometimes it's just getting one idea, one thing that was missing, that can propel you way much more than you've ever sold. And that could be from a podcast or from a book and you reminded me of Jim Rohn. Now with what you were saying that he used to say, a miss, you skip a meal, but don't skip 30 minutes of reading every day. I love that. So there's more important than me. So Larry, I want again, to thank you very much for this wonderful conversation we had today. And I have I will, the listener won't be able to say it, but I will show you how many notes I have taken with my mind. I want to wish you the very best with your mission and everything that that you do. And I will ask you to share your last parting words with with me.
Well, I want to thank you for what you do. I meant very sincerely that I learned so much from listening to your episodes and being able to be on your show to do an episode with you to contribute in whatever way it was a contribution even if it was a small way it was it was really a privilege. So I've just feel very fortunate to be able to take part in a conversation like this and thank you for being such an excellent interviewer by the way.
I hope you enjoyed listening. If you have please share this episode with someone who you will benefit from it. If you want to know more about what I do, visit my website AGIKERAMIDAS.COM
And until next time, standout don't fit in!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai