Great Leaders Stand Out When Times Are Hard!

For years now I’ve done three things: I give talks, I coach executives, and I write books and articles. I travel constantly. On one airline alone, I have 12 million frequent flyer miles. You could say that I keep myself pretty busy!

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “how do you have so much energy?” I laugh because I can see the person is often thinking, ‘you’re an old man, you’ve been flying on a plane for 18 hours, how can you possibly step onto the stage with so much enthusiasm?’

What’s my secret?

I can sum it up in just a sentence: “There’s no business like show business!” Before I step on stage, I do this chant. It gives me energy! Every day before I work I tell myself, “It’s show time.”

And, I share this secret.

When I work with my coaching clients, I share this secret. Sometimes they fret and worry about how hard life is for them. And sometimes it is. Sometimes though, they are whining and complaining instead of focusing on leading. When this seems the case, I’ll say, “Have you ever seen a Broadway play?” They usually say, “Yes!” I’ll say, have you ever seen an actor stop the show and say, “my foot hurts” or “I have a headache”? “No, no” they say, they’ve never seen that. “You make about a 100 times more than what that kid is making every night. If they can get out there night after night with passion like that, you can too! It’s show time.”

That is the secret to where I get all of my energy. It isn’t too complicated.

You go first!

One of the most important things a leader can do is to lead by example. If you want everyone else to be passionate, committed, dedicated, and motivated, you go first!

Two of the best leaders I have ever known are Frances Hesselbein and Alan Mulally. Alan is the former CEO of the Ford Motor Company and was ranked byFortune magazine as the third greatest leader in the world in 2014. Frances Hesselbein was the head of the Girl Scouts and Peter Drucker said she is the greatest leader he ever met.

I have never seen either Alan or Frances be down. They have always demonstrated passion to lead.

I was with Alan just after 9/11 when he was running Boeing Commercial Aircraft. It was a devastating and difficult time to lead the company. Alan said something I’ll never forget. He said, this is what I get paid for. Anyone can have passion and be an example when times are good. It’s when times are hard that great leaders stand out.