Episode 25: Developing Effective Leaders with Joshua Spodek
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Episode 25: Developing Effective Leaders with Joshua Spodek
Are you someone who is struggling with finding passion and purpose in your life? Are you a leader who’s finding it difficult to inspire and motivate others? Then stay tuned. In this episode, I have the distinct pleasure of speaking with Josh Spodek, a highly accomplished coach who works with everyone from executives to college students providing life executive and leadership coaching.
On this episode, I have the pleasure of speaking with Josh Spodek, who shares with others his method for living a passion-driven life, which inspires others. He is the bestselling author of the book, Leadership Step by Step and his more recent book, Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work). He has been a TEDx speaker, appeared in several major media outlets and is also the host of the award-winning podcast, Leadership and the Environment. Welcome, Josh. It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you.
I’m glad to be here.
Josh, every coach has their own journey that’s typically brought them into coaching. I personally am fascinated by a little bit of your background. For example, you have a PhD in Astrophysics. I was hoping you could tell our audience a little bit more about yourself and how it is you came into coaching and why you’re so passionate about what you do.
Although you picked two of the hardest things to connect in my background, but I’ll see if I can. When I was in school, I loved physics. I still love physics and I think I always will. I left academia after getting my PhD to start a company. When I started my company, I was good at what physics had taught me, which was I could write a patent and I could develop the technology. I could figure out the business model, but I wasn’t leading people effectively. This was a severe problem in business, although I didn’t notice it when times were good because when things are going well, everyone’s on the same team and things are going really well. When things went not so well after 9/11 and the recession, then things got really difficult. I’d like to say that only then did I realize I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I still didn’t realize it.
I only saw the effects around me, which was that I lost control. I got squeezed out of my company. It was very painful. I went back to business school after having been squeezed out. That’s where I learned that there were classes in leadership, that there were classes in entrepreneurship but even then, looking back what I learned was that you could learn those things. I didn’t actually learn the things to practice them. I read and wrote papers and we did case studies, but this is all about other people and not actually doing these things myself.
It was the practical application of it to your own life.
That and on top of that, not just practical application but practically learning it. I felt like in music you can learn music appreciation, you can learn music history or you can learn to play an instrument. What I learned was leadership appreciation, entrepreneurship appreciation. I could tell who was a good leader and who wasn’t, but I couldn’t actually do it myself. I didn’t know how to do it. The past several years since business school, one of my big passions has been how do I actually learn this stuff myself? How do I teach it to others? It’s a huge gap in leadership. I ask a lot of people, “Can you be a great leader?” There were a lot of great leaders in the past and not so many right now. I hope others see others that I don’t, but that’s been my impression.
Many of those leaders like John Maxwell’s work on Level 5 Leadership of those who are grounded in knowing who they are and are able to inspire other people. That’s the leadership ideally you’re talking about.
Business is one place. Politics, sports, military, lots of different areas and also personal leadership for everyone.
One of the things I talk about in my own work is being a leader of your own life, being a conscious creator of your ideal life.
There are a lot of people who may have done very well in school, they might even rise up the ranks in corporations and they’re still following. School teaches a lot of compliance and it teaches great knowledge and content, but facts and abstract analysis aren’t necessarily what motivate other people. They aren’t going to inspire other people. It’s knowing how to make people feel comfortable, sharing what motivates them so that you can work with their emotions and their motivations and not just convince people to do things. I don’t think that’s effective to make people feel comfortable sharing what motivates them. When you connect to that motivation that’s already there to a task, that’s inspiring but we don’t teach that. A lot of people learn it on their own. A big passion for me has been how we teach that systematically and effectively, consistently, reliably and predictably.
It seems like in your own path here because it didn’t happen naturally, that you had to learn it explicitly, it puts you in a much better position to then teach it step by step to other people.
I think of it like learning a language. I speak English fluently, but I’m not a particularly effective teacher of English. I learned French when I was older and I know all the rules. Back when I spoke French, I know why the subjunctive here and why the past perfect there. In English, I just do it. I don’t know-how. A lot of people who are effective leaders aren’t necessarily the best teachers of leadership.
I think you see that in athletics too. Sometimes the most natural athlete, you can’t teach someone or coach someone else how to do that.
We can learn a lot from them, from our role models and mentors. I think teachers and coaches are something else entirely.Leaders work with emotions and motivations. A leader who's very effective makes people inspired. Click To Tweet
Can you explain that differential a little bit to our audience?
A couple of examples come to mind. It’s hard for me not to think of basketball. I was reading some stuff. Michael Jordan was a great basketball player and he wasn’t such a great coach. Phil Jackson was a pretty good basketball player. He was great but as a coach, he was off the charts. It’s a very different thing to put the ball in the hoop yourself versus to motivate multiple people to work together to share a common vision. Sometimes to sacrifice their own best abilities in order for the team to do well. I say basketball, but it could be anything. It could be corporate, it could be another sport, it could be lots of different things. One of them is functional skills and the other is people skills and one works with the functional thing.
If you’re a company that makes widgets, if you work the line and you build the widgets or you’re the salesperson and you sell the widgets, then those are the things you do. If you’re a leader, you don’t actually touch the widgets. You might not make the widgets. Your tools of the trade are emotions, motivations and organization and vision. To me, it’s a very clear difference. The difference between leadership and management is also very clear to me. Leaders work with emotions and motivations and less tangible things. A leader who is very effective, people feel inspired. People would want to do things for their own reasons. Whereas a manager, it’s more about things that are more measurable and visible, like someone’s behavior and when a leader works really well, people are inspired. When a manager works very well, people comply.
I love that distinction.
They’re both important. I don’t want to say one is more important than the other. A leader without management skills or without someone to work with who will fill in what that leader lacks is a dreamer. A manager without leadership, that to me is the DMV. The DMV gets things done. I don’t want to work there.
An inspirational place to work that’s going to bring out the best in people in terms of their creativity.
When you have a person or a team that have both leadership and management, that’s fantastic because you dream and you make things happen. You have to not do some of those dreams because you have to be practical. Some of the dreams you make happen and the rewards are hopefully monetary, but generally much deeper than that like the feeling of teamwork, the feeling of accomplishment. The title of my first book, Leadership Step by Step, for a while was playing around with how to lead people so they want you to lead them again. That feeling as a leader of someone coming back to you and saying, “What’s next?” Especially when they worked really hard.
It’s the sense of meaning and purpose that comes with being part of something larger than yourself.
Many people view that as some ethereal thing that maybe you have to be born with. It’s actually very systematic how to create a sense of meaning and purpose, how to inspire people. I’m not saying I’m the only one who knows how to do it, but I can teach my students and my clients consistently how to do it. It doesn’t even take very long.
I’d love to hear a little bit more about some of the specifics. You mentioned your book, Leadership Step by Step. One of the things that you talk about that a leader starts with is self-awareness. It’s knowing who you are, what your passions are, what your why is and what you bring to the table. In your book, you talk about specific exercises that you use with your clients. I was hoping you can give us a little sense of a couple of them and how you may have applied them to your clients.
Leading begins with self-awareness in the sense of when you lead effectively, a strong sense of self grounds you. Although, in practice to get there is not a linear thing. It may take a long time to become self-aware. I think the greatest leaders always still have some doubt and you have more self-awareness than you did the day before or the year before. It’s a forever path and you’re always discovering new things about yourself that you never knew, which is part of the fun but also it’s funny because it leaves you very humble. I am not the Dalai Lama. I think I know more about myself than I had before. You cannot lecture self-awareness into someone. You can’t read enough articles about other people or literature to get self-awareness. It may raise some to read psychology papers a bit, but I find you have to do things that provoke social situations and emotional situations that lead to reflection and introspection.
My book has four units, which are to understand yourself, lead yourself, understand others and lead others. We begin with understanding yourself and there is a lot of stuff there is on self-awareness. One of the early exercises that I do is to write down your inner monologue. The nuts and bolts of it are for one week, carry a piece of paper and something to write with. You can do it on your computer notebook if you prefer typing. I don’t recommend using a phone and using your thumbs. Several times a day, maybe two, three, four times a day, write down your inner monologue, the exact words that are going through your head. When I work with clients or work with students, I’ll usually ask, “What are you thinking right now?”
People are listening. If they’ve done an exercise like this, they might answer differently but most people say something like, “I’m thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow or I’m thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. I’m thinking about what you mean by that question.” Those aren’t the actual words that they’re thinking. They’re not thinking, “I’m thinking about what you meant by that question.” They might be thinking something more like, “What am I thinking? I don’t know what I’m thinking. I’m thinking words. Is that what he means? He can’t mean that.” The example I like to give and probably people know this one is when you’re at the airport, sometimes you think something like, “How come my bag never comes out first? I’m in a hurry. When I’m not in a hurry, my suitcase comes out early. How come their bag came out before mine? There’s my bag. No. That one’s blue, mine’s black. It looks like mine, but that’s not my bag. I’m not sure if I’m going to make that meeting.” It’s that pattern that goes through your head.
Most people have a hard time writing that down, which is why I say do it for a week because the first couple of times you’re drinking from a fire hose. You can’t write as fast as those words come out. By the end of the week, you start picking up patterns and there are a lot of things that you realize. A lot of people feel like, “I’m so much more detrimental than I thought or I’m so much more repetitive than I thought, or I tend to think about other people so much.” There are lots of patterns that show up and everyone has the same patterns. The first time that they noticed them they think, “There’s something wrong with me. There’s something unique about me.” Everyone is unique, but you start picking stuff up and it doesn’t cost anything. It takes maybe a minute per day. As you pick those things up, you start realizing that you can change those thoughts a little bit, which is what I do and lead yourself. You start picking up, “I can influence my thoughts a little bit more than I thought.” It’s at a lower level than most people think.
You’re talking about becoming more aware and that’s when I talk about mindfulness. For me, it’s like trying to become a better observer of your own mind.
This is at a very low level so some people might think, “Who cares about the individual thoughts?” Everything builds on that. The next exercise is build to higher and higher levels. You get to beliefs and you get to how to change beliefs. I like to start simple and easy and accessible. By the time you’ve done the fifth exercise, if I’d started with a fifth, it would be too much but having done the fourth before that and a third before that and the second before that, then the fifth is not a bit particularly a big jump given the skills that you’ve developed along the way.Leading begins with self-awareness. Click To Tweet
We have first the awareness trying to get that inner dialogue and I love the simple check in with yourself during the day. Most people, because our thoughts are so automatic and happen so quickly, they haven’t taken the time to learn, “What are the patterns that am I preoccupied with, am I thinking about? I spent way too much time dwelling on that little interaction at the donut shop this morning.”
Everyone is unique of course, but the same thing, “I can’t believe how much I judge people.” They start thinking, “I’m such a terrible person.” It’s a big relief to realize it’s not me that’s that way. Human beings are that way and then it leads you to, “What can I do about it?” Some of the later exercises are to change that inner monologue, to change the beliefs that the inner monologue manifests. Then you start realizing, when you change your beliefs, you start changing your perception. When you change your perception, you start being able to change your mood and your emotions and your motivations and then you start changing behavior.
I’ve jumped ahead ten exercises or covering different parts of ten exercises, but I designed it to flow that way that you start simple and build up to more challenging things. Since the last thing I talked about was changing your beliefs and that changes your perception, then you read something like Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and you realize he was doing that. For me in my path, I realized I could do what he was talking about. I can do what some of these great historical leaders have left for us. They didn’t say these things just to show off or to talk about for no reason. They wanted us to learn from them.
It was a gift to the next generation here.
In some cases, for our future generations.
One of the things that sometimes when people start becoming aware of their own thoughts and then like you said, you go down to a little bit more of the core beliefs that they may have. One of the things that I find with people is that people sometimes struggle with trying to change them because our subconscious mind in particular gets into these habits and it doesn’t particularly change. Our conscious mind may be thrilled with saying, “I want to think differently about this. I want to approach things differently.” The subconscious mind, once it’s programmed in a way by what it’s learned from growing up, it tends to want to think in that way, approach the world in that way. Do you find that and if so, what are some of the strategies that you use to help people actually change their beliefs?
My strategy is to give people rewarding experiences where they feel good about what happened. The sense of reward is that you’re training yourself in terms of new senses of reward to make you do the next thing. For example, one of the later exercises that build on writing a monologue and this is an advanced one. It’s hard to do this one, but it’s to speak your inner monologue and actually to verbalize your thoughts as they come through your mind. It’s like what I did with the waiting for the baggage carousel thing. Most people are freaked out by this. When I teach it in class, most people are like, “What if I say something horrible? What if I tell my best friend that I hate them or I tell some sexist joke that I wouldn’t say?” Which never happens, but they don’t know that.
I say at the beginning, first do it in empty room your inner monologue. If you’ve written it, just say it and then maybe work up to a mirror and then maybe we work up to your camera phone and then work up to other people. I tell a story in the book and it’s actually the longest quote from one of the people who did the exercises. This was an undergrad and she was on spring break with some friends. She was driving and she thought everyone else in the car was asleep. She started doing the inner monologue that you have when you drive, “Should I pass this car? I don’t know if there’s enough time, maybe I’ll just wait here for a little bit. It looks like I’ve got space. I’ll speed up and I’ll change lanes,” talking like that. It turns out the other people in the car were not asleep and they heard her talking. They started hearing her speak in an uninhibited, unfiltered way. Even though she had known them for years, they started talking to her in an unfiltered, uninhibited way. They started opening up a relationship they never had before. She said the whole rest of the spring break, they were speaking in ways that they hadn’t before.
I call that exercise the authentic voice exercise. When you speak with an authentic voice, at the beginning you don’t because we’re guarded, we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. We’re afraid of embarrassing ourselves, but then you get a rewarding experience. It happens with everyone. When you do this exercise, people start responding with also doing what you’re doing and speaking more openly and that rewarding experience, people constantly come back and say, “Now that I’ve done this, I want to do it more.” I try to build the exercises, whether I’m coaching someone one-on-one or in the book, I try to give exercises that will give a rewarding experience. I use that word deliberately, reward. It’s like training. When a dog does something right, you give it a reward so it does it again. When your mind does something right, you do something so it gets a reward and then it will want to do it again. It takes time. It takes effort. You will face anxiety and fear and trepidation and things like that. If you stick with it and it may be mechanical what you stick with, but that reward keeps coming and then eventually it would become natural to do the thing that you want to do if the exercise is designed effectively. That’s my strategy.
I love that because the subconscious mind responds to experiential data rather than logic and reason. When you practice that and when she saw the experience in the car and how it deepened her connection to other people. Your mind is recording that and saying you had this fear of, “You can’t make yourself vulnerable or you can’t share that with other people,” that it actually wasn’t true. The relationships become much more enriched. One of the things you were talking was I don’t think many people realize how many thoughts go past their consciousness.
You couldn’t count them if you tried. Once you start trying to count and then that becomes a new thought and then you’re like “What’s going on? I can’t keep up.” You are drinking from a fire hose.
One of the things you talk about in terms of trying to inspire other people and with the self-awareness. There’s one thing about being connected to your thinking and being aware of that, but do you also do work with helping people realize their core values and passions? It seems like the best leaders are doing something that’s truly aligned with their true self here.
If you don’t mind my jumping to my next book, Initiative, that is much more on that topic of a lot of people when you ask them if they haven’t taken the initiative in the life that they want to, a lot of times they’ll say, “I don’t know what my great passions are.” They’ll say something that’s functionally equivalent but sounds very different but it’s actually a very similar thing that they’ll say, “I have so many, I don’t know what to act on.” In both cases, they don’t know their priorities. People have stuff that they care about. Generally, the reason that they’re not in touch with their great passions is not that they don’t have them, although they might think that. It’s that generally we protect ourselves. We’re vulnerable if we share our passions.
If you know what I care about, you can manipulate me, you can laugh at me, you can judge me, I can feel bad. You don’t get your heartbroken by a casual friend. Your heart is broken by someone you love. Likewise, if you get a bad grade on a test on a class you don’t care about, it’s not that big of a deal. Whereas if you work on a project that you care about and you don’t do well and you fail that, it cuts to the bone. It’s visceral. How do you make people feel comfortable sharing with others and themselves what their passions are? What I do is to give people exercises that get them working on what they have access to, which may or may not be a great passion.
Sometimes it’s not a great passion, but if they develop the skills to make something that they created happen, then the combination of developing those skills, of taking the initiative and acting on something that they care about combined with an expectation of success, it makes them become more sensitive to things that are more meaningful to them. The first time someone takes the initiative on something that they think they care about, almost always it’s something that’s interesting, but it more likely leads them to realize, “I like this other thing more.” Oftentimes, that will lead them to something they like to get more.
After two or three-year cycles of creating projects, in my courses with my clients, it’s doing a certain set of exercises that lead to these things. Oftentimes they say in the end, “What I love to do is I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do this. I never thought I could actually do it and so I dismissed it before I even took it seriously.” Because it’s so easy. If you say, “I’m going to do a blockchain app.” Everyone’s like, “That sounds cool. Tell me more about it.” Just because it’s popular or in the news doesn’t mean that you’re going to love it.Resilience, grit, perseverance, determination, and discipline are what makes a great leader. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t mean it’s going to be a passion.
If you do work on it, and there’s a very important thing that I find, is that exhausting would-be passions. You have to exhaust these things. People often think they’re scared to start. Let’s say you have three or four different things you might want to do, A, B, C, and D. You think, “What if I start A, but B is the one that I really want to do, but I don’t know that until I do it. Maybe I’m so deep into A that I’ll never get to do B.” People are afraid that they’ll regret their choice. It’s an interesting idea but that’s not actually how things happen. How it actually happens is if you have A, B, C and D and you’re not sure which one you like. If you start A first and then you love it, maybe you got lucky the first time and that happens. Let’s say it’s somehow B is the one that you would like more, but you have no way of knowing that, what happens is you start doing A. You’ll do it for a while and it will start to lose its luster and B will not lose its luster. At some point, A will lead you to B. The feeling you’ll have switching from A to B is not regret that you wasted time with A.
On the contrary, over and over again, people look back at A and look at it with gratitude and realize there’s no way I could have found out about B except by exhausting A. If there’s any regret, it’s that they didn’t start sooner because once you reach your passion, everything else is less interesting. When you fall in love, all the relationships that led up to it, you’re glad that they happened. They made you the you that is you so that you can fall in love with the romantic interest that you have. It’s like that with ideas, except you’re not breaking the idea’s hearts because the idea is an abstract thing. There’s no one getting hurt. It’s just that you wish you had started earlier.
It’s all part of the growth path of finding that true passion. Once you hit a true passion, that it will sustain over time.
There’s nothing like it. The people that you know who are the most passionate, they will get their heart broken sometimes. Sometimes you try something and it doesn’t work out, but when that happens to you, you have to heal and then you look back, “It’s better than not to try it.” It doesn’t feel like that way. I certainly didn’t feel that way when I was squeezed out of my company. There’s no way I could have reached the heights I reached after that had I not done that.
It seems like when it is connected to a true passion, that’s when you can find resiliency to keep going.
Resilience, grit, perseverance, determination and discipline. There’s this amazing thing that happens that you’ll turn things down before you would have loved, but they just don’t measure up to the new thing that measures up. I was invited to this conference. For people who don’t know, I act very much by my environmental values. I’m still struggling with that to get more so, but I haven’t flown in a long time by conscious choice and that was a very difficult thing to implement. I was invited at this conference and I was actually trying to get a boat there to sail there because I’ve been learning to sail. They held the space as long as they could but eventually the content team was like, “This is our drop-dead date. If we can’t book you for sure by now, we have to book someone else.”
I passed. The next morning I woke up and I thought, “That event is invitation only. It’s expensive. A lot of people dream of being able to go to that event. I was invited. All the costs are taken care of and all the stuff. I would have been the speaker and it would have been a great thing. I didn’t even consider it because it was not as important as living by my environmental values,” which was to me much more important. I realized that thing that was great for me before doesn’t measure up now. To me that is the definition of a better life. If something that was once great now is not as great as something else that is a bigger part of your life. That’s the definition to me of a better life. You have more good things, more things that you like.
It seems like you’re living life in such alignment with who you truly are with your core values and realizing what I consider your true purpose. As you talk, you can easily see the energy, the engagement, the passion you have for life, which so many people, are living life according to maybe other people’s prescription in terms of what they should do, what they’re supposed to do and what makes the most sense. Even though you can go through life and you might have the job with the 401(k) or whatever, their experience of life is nowhere near the way you’re describing your life is.
They’re doing what I did for most of my life, which was to do what school taught us to do and follow that path and you can be very successful at it. You may become very rich at it. You may have lots of fame and fortune. There’s something when you build it yourself and it’s yours. It doesn’t have to be something you’ve built yourself. It can be in service of others and almost always is in service of others. That inspiration is tough to match otherwise. I also want to point out, I have been down and I’ll be down again. It’s not like all roses and there were lots of uncertainty. It’s not for everyone. For me, once I’ve gone in this direction, there is no going back.
How do you deal those down moments, if you don’t mind me asking?
The biggest answer is an experience. There’s nothing like experience because until you feel it, people can say, “You’re going to feel down later.” Social and emotional challenges, especially the emotional ones are not like feeling sore after a tough workout, like physical downs. If you’re trying to lift a weight and you can’t, it’s a struggle and you push your muscles as hard as you can. It’s difficult. It’s a challenge. When you’re depressed, you feel like a different person. There are lots of things that I’ve developed over the years. Part of it is when things are great, I try to save up a little of that because I know that later I’m not going to feel that way. I know that I’ve felt down before. I’ve gone through it before. I saved some of the feelings when things are up and when I’m down, I can’t fully feel that way but intellectually, I can conjure up a bit of that feeling of I am going to be back up again.
You know it’s going to pass.
That period when my company was borderline bankrupt and I was getting squeezed out and before then I felt like, “We’re all in this team together. We’re going to win, everything’s great.” When things are going down, it felt like everyone was trying to get what they could before it was gone. People who I thought were on my side suddenly felt like they weren’t on my side. I didn’t know whom to trust. My relationship with my mom, that was probably the time when it grew the most as an adult. She was the only one that I felt like she actually is on my side. One of the things she did was to put me in touch with people who had been through challenges like that. I was pleasantly surprised when I would tell them a few things that are going on and these are people I didn’t know. They’re friends with my mom. I would say this is happening and that’s happening. They would say, “How about this and that?” I was like, “Exactly, how did you know?” They’re like, “What do you think? I’ve been there.” I tried to do that with others as well. Definitely using other people’s experience is a big thing.
The power of a mentor or a coach is that someone who’s been through something that you’ve been through and has gotten to the other side. Just that belief that it’s possible.
It’s possible, that it’s common, that it’s not all your fault. It’s not terminal. Many people have gone through it before. In fact, your greatest role models have been through it. They might not talk about it so much, although we’d like to hear those stories in some perverse way. You want to have people like that around you. You want to have people like that in good times so that when the times are bad, you’re not floundering, but you have that stable foundation when you don’t feel so good.A lot of people who are effective leaders aren't necessarily the best teachers of leadership. Click To Tweet
I think so many people when they see successful people, they just see the success. They don’t see the times of struggle. The times of being down, the times of anxiety and doubt. A lot of people just assume those people never felt that way but the reality is they felt that way and they continue to take constructive action in spite of those feelings.
The phrase that I like to say to myself and I say this to others as well is, “People who suck at things tell you how great they are. People who are great at things tell you about the disasters that got them there and their stories are much more interesting.” Also, if you look up quotes from any great hero, Babe Ruth struck out more than anyone else. Michael Jordan missed how many would be game-winning shots but missed. Oprah Winfrey’s Harvard speech. She started OWN, her own network, Oprah Winfrey Network and it failed. Even the cover of USA Today the headline was upon it, it said, “Oprah strikes out on her own.” She goes, “Really? They’re the nice paper.” Most of us when things go wrong, it’s not front-page news on one of the most widely-read newspapers in the world. For her it was, so it’s not all roses.
Just to see how she rode with that and pressed on, it’s perseverance.
The only way she could have done that was she had to persevere on something smaller before that. This is my belief. I haven’t talked to her yet to ask, but I think she must have struck out on something smaller before that and something smaller before that.
I love your step-by-step approach to helping people move beyond here and live an ideal life. Thank you so much, Josh, for sharing your insights. I understand too, you have your own podcast and that is Leadership and the Environment. Would you like to share a little bit with our audience about what that’s about?
I grew up caring about the environment. I’d turn off the light when I wasn’t in the room. A few years ago, the headlines were getting to me. I thought I got to start not just talking but doing more. As I started taking on more, I would give myself these challenges to see if I could go without packaged food for a week and things like that. A crazy thing happened that I thought that these things were going to be hard. At first they were hard, but then they got easy and actually fun and enjoyable. When I think of my food now, more than anything else, it’s delicious but also once I’ve learned to cook, it’s cheaper and it’s more convenient and people come over more so it’s more social.
I realized everyone’s got it wrong. Everyone is saying it’s like this big chore. The switch may be a challenge but once you get there, it’s brought me closer to my family, with my friends. I had a Nobel Peace Prize winner over to my place because I bring people over for my food more. I started thinking, this is missing. Leadership is missing from the environment. I see a lot of people telling people what to do. I don’t call that leadership. I see people telling people doom and gloom and guilt and blame and shame. I don’t call that leadership. There’s no Mandela, there’s no Gandhi, there’s no Martin Luther King of the environment. I wanted to bring leadership to the environment. If you listen, you’ll hear me bring this world around people.
I walk them through to act on their environmental values, not other people’s values, but their own. They enjoy it. The people on the podcast, you can hear them have an experience so that people listening at home aren’t feeling like it’s not just me. The Superbowl winner or this Pulitzer Prize winner or this presidential Medal of Freedom winner or this Olympic gold medalist, they’re also doing this. I want people at home to feel like, “I can do it too.” The tide has turned and it’s not weird. It’s not out there. I want to build this community of people acting on their environmental values so that we don’t have to feel like doing something of straws is a big deal. We can go onto the things that are bigger deals like changing the economy and things like that.
Just do it through inspiration. I love what you’re saying about bringing your model of leadership to the environment.
Anyone who reads unit four of my book and does the exercises, they’ll hear me. I’m doing the same thing over and over again. The end result is there are world-famous people saying, “Thank you for getting me to do something I wish I had done earlier. Thank you for motivating me.” I’m like, “I didn’t motivate you. I just brought out the emotion that was already there and made you comfortable doing it. You already wanted to do this.”
You seem to have applied your step-by-step process to that as well.
It took me about a year of doing the podcast before that technique fell into place. I was like, “This is my book. I could have done this from the start,” but how else do we learn?
Josh, is there any final word or wisdom or guidance that you’d like to share with our audience?
The biggest thing in terms of learning to develop as a leader or learning to be more effective in organizational behavior, learning to work with others, one of the most corrosive things I think is thinking that other people are born that way. One of the biggest things that helps me learn and I believe helps anyone learn is if someone else has some behavior that you wish you had, if someone else does something well better than you do and you want to be able to do it like that, not to say they were born that way, but to say that they must have learned it somehow. They weren’t born doing that unless they cry well. They weren’t doing that when they were born and so they had to have learned. If you go through experiences that teach you those behaviors, you will be able to do it as well. You can learn what others have learned. You just have to find the right experience to get you there to learn from.
It’s such a powerful message because then it makes it possible.
What would make it possible is to find out from others, to go to your role models. You go to the people who know. There are lots of resources out there of finding out, “How do I learn to do X? How do I learn to listen, to empathize, to make people feel understood, to make people feel inspired?” If anyone else can learn to do it, then you can learn to do it too.You can learn what others have learned by finding the right experience to get you there and to learn from. Click To Tweet
I like your motto about learning a second language. Even if you didn’t learn this stuff as a child, you could still learn it as an adult. A quick example came to mind. I had a client that I’ve worked with for a while. What I’ve done with him is empathy training. It wasn’t something that happened that he came with naturally. In the beginning, he’d come into a session and take explicit notes step-by-step. He’s like, “When my wife is doing this, this is probably what’s going on.” During conversations with his wife, he would reference our notes and everything like that, but over time it became more and more natural to him.
You make me think of myself. If you’re bullheaded like I was when I was getting my PhD and soon after, you can learn all the stuff on your own. If what you want to do is a struggle and work hard, do it all by yourself. If you got a coach, you can save a lot of time and then you can struggle with the big challenges of what you want to do once you have the leadership skills, if that’s what you want to learn. With a coach, it’s faster and it’s more efficient. It’s still challenging, but the stuff is the basic. I recommend making that part easier because that will bring you to the big passions of bringing leadership to the environment, that’s hard. No one’s doing that. For anyone, find out what you want to do. That’s where your struggles are. I recommend struggling on the challenges that no one has done before that required leadership. Struggle there.
Especially with a coach, you can make such exponential progress.
It’s like if you want to learn to play the piano, get a coach, get a trainer, get a teacher to help you with the scales and the easy pieces. Then when it comes time for you to play Carnegie Hall, then you can work on, “Who am I? What do I want to express here? Who is this audience? What was the composer trying to say?” That’s you. That’s something that no one else can do. That’s your voice coming out. The scales and things are leading up to that. That’s learning the basics. That’s what a coach is for. Of course, coaches help with the later stages too.
Josh, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, your insight, your passions with our audience. It’s truly been a pleasure having you on the show.
I appreciate you having me here. It’s an honor and I’m flattered to be a part of the community that you’ve created and brought together.
Thank you. Josh, are there other ways for people to reach you?
Thank you again, Josh. It’s been my pleasure.
It’s been my pleasure as well.
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- Josh Spodek
- Leadership Step by Step
- Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work)
- Leadership and the Environment Podcast
- Man’s Search for Meaning
- Contact tab on Josh Spodek’s website
About Joshua Spodek
Joshua Spodek is a highly accomplished coach who works with everyone from executives to college students providing life, executive and leadership coaching.
Joshua is the bestselling author of the book Leadership Step by Step and his more recent book Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work).
He has been a TEDx speaker, appeared in several major media outlets, and is also the host of the award-winning podcast Leadership and the Environment.
- Lentino, L.M. (2014). Constructive thinking how to grow beyond your mind. Sudbury, MA: Grow Beyond Your Mind.