Episode Description: In this episode, we get to know Benny Ausmus and his journey getting to starting his company, Big Change Agency. We discuss the differences and affects on leadership to going on a complaining detox to give yourself and the world a chance to level you up.
LinkedIn – https://linkedin.com/in/bennyausmus
Big Change Agency – https://www.bigchangeagency.com/
The Bold Type – Mentioned Show from Hulu
Fyre Festival Documentary Trailer Hulu – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljkaq_he-BU
Fyre Festival Documentary Trailer Netflix – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ0KNVU2fV0
Posh Incredible Transformations – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/posh-incredible-transformations/id1377517663?mt=2
Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyrz1fZpMDHSfGm7t29ieOA/featured
Website – Poshinc.com
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Intro – 0:00
- Clearing Up a Moment in the Show – 0:35
- Who is Benny Ausmus? – 3:18
- Big Change Agency – 3:48
- My Day to Day – 4:18
- My Interests – 4:30
- How Did You Get Into This Work? – 4:50
- Similar Stories and Variety – 9:00
- Needing Variety and Adventure – 9:58
- Did You Find Some Books Repetitive? – 10:27
- Did You Start Seeing Consistencies In What You Learned? – 11:22
- What is Leadership Awareness? – 12:45
- My Definition of Leadership – 14:09
- People Centric Leadership – 16:15
- Power In It’s Simplest Definition – 17:25
- Examples of People Centric Leadership – 18:20
- Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz – 19:15
- Triggering a Transformation – 21:41
- Leaders Affecting to a Change – 24:19
- What Makes a Difference in These People – 25:31
- A Belief That Every Leader Has the Answer – 28:54
- An Example: Fyre Festival – 31:44
- What Would a Leader ‘A’ Do vs. Leader ‘B’? – 36:10
- The Paradox on Personality Traits – 39:50
- Influence and the Ego Drive – 41:01
- The Biggest Problem With Self Awareness – 42:37
- Do Unaware Leaders Attract Unaware Employees – 43:40
- Will Leader ’B’ Attract and Train More ’B’ Typer Leaders – 45:11
- There’s No Going Backwards – 45:55
- How Would You Able to Look for a Leader ’A’? – 49:45
- The Issue with Self-Awareness and a Leader – 53:00
- How to Move Towards Empathetic, Courageous, Responsible and Resourceful – 55:10
- Closing – 58:12
Tiffany: I’m Tiffany Lopez, and you’re listening to “Posh Incredible Podcast,” where I interview ordinary people who are making extraordinary transformations, in their lives and for others. I believe we’re all here to transcend and assist the ones around us to grow into the people they were born to be. The pathway of awakening is a noble life pursuit, and it starts now.
Hey, guys. I don’t usually do post-production add-ons, but this one deserves a little bit of an explanation. So sometime last year, I did this interview, and I have listened to it, I think, more than I’ve listened to any other interview podcast that I’ve done. And the reason is because the entire time I was talking with Benny, I had these thought explosions that were going off in my head. And this podcast continues to deliver for me. I feel like it was a personal…it was like a personal therapy session, where Benny was saying all of the things that I needed to hear. And I think you guys are going to find that I stumbled and I mumbled and I paused my way through this interview, while Benny just kept describing and providing examples and everything.
So I just wanted to create a follow-up and clear some things up. One thing was, there’s this part about a cookie factory, probably about 30 minutes in. And Benny was not sure if he wanted to keep that in, but I was like, “Let’s please keep it in,” because what happened was, I was just trying to…my mind was just trying to grasp this whole idea of the hero’s journey, which Benny described in a way that I had never heard it before. And it’s something that I understand now. But basically, the cookie factory plus a, let’s say, people-centric leader, the cookie factory example is an example of the hero’s journey, and of a people-centric leader, and what a people-centric leader would do in a situation that regards having going through this hero’s journey.
From what I had understood, the hero’s journey was…I couldn’t…I didn’t understand what it was until this interview, I think. And so, thank you, Benny, if you’re listening. Hope you do. This was an awesome interview. The other thing is, the show I’m talking about that I can’t remember is called “The Bold Type.” The boss is kind of a very people-centric leader. And also, I’m reading “Principles” by Ray Dalio, and I would say he is an example… He also talks about the hero’s journey, but he is an example of a very people-centric leader. So if you guys want more information about people-centric leadership and the hero’s journey, go and read at least the first part of Ray Dalio’s book called “Principles.” And I hope you guys enjoy the show. Thank you so much for listening.
Hey, Benny. Welcome to the show.
Benny: Hey, Tiffany. Thanks for having me.
Tiffany: Thanks for coming. We don’t really do formal introductions, so if you want to just do a little introduction about yourself, that would be great.
Benny: Sure, sure. So, hi, listeners. My name is Benny Ausmus, hailing from Melbourne, Australia. What should you know about me? Well, I am, by all terms and definitions, a change agent. I have a company I’ve been running for five years called Big Change Agency. And we’re a small group of rogue facilitators, consultants, and coaches that have the privilege and honor of working with leaders in business, to shape their culture, to improve their work environments, and ultimately, to help them get better results. So my day-to-day is about really facilitating high-stakes, high-engagement conversations with groups and individuals to make change happen. That’s me. What else should you know?
I love yoga, I love this work. My why I get up every morning, because I get to influence change and be part of change and progression in people’s lives. And if I had all of the money and all the time in the world, I’d be right here with you. So thanks for listening.
Tiffany: How did you get into this work?
Benny: So wherever it began is, I was a classic early millennial. I’m 36 now, so I think the term is “older millennial” now. I think that’s the formal term. I was a classic job-hopper in my late teens and early 20s. Well, look. It all started when I dropped out of high school to join a rock-and-roll band. That’s where it began. And then, I got real bored of that and became really interested with psychology and philosophy and sociology, and basically, started reading every book in the local library, and then, the library in the neighborhood across, and then, the library in the neighborhood across. This was…
Benny: Yeah… Well, on these topics, right, on the topics of change, business, psychology, philosophy, these interesting takes on change. So I just started reading that, and got really bored with partying and playing music. Not too bored, but bored enough to pursue a…some sort of academic discipline. So I asked the university if I could come and study, and they put me through a bunch of tests, and they said, “Yeah, come on down.” So I went to Murdoch and studies philosophy and business and psychology, which I did while I worked four or five different jobs in nightclubs, and I sold vacuum cleaners, I…and what else did I do?
I was a waiter. I still played in bands a little bit, but was studying. And got really sick of academia really quickly, and then, just went job-hopping like crazy. So I’ve got a list of probably 60 different roles I did over 10 years, from my late teens up into my late 20s. So, gosh. Pick an industry, I’ve worked in it. I tried everything that they would let me try. So I was a kids’ face painter, a landscape gardener, I ran cafes, I owned a couple of little businesses, I found myself working in finance companies, and IT companies, in sales roles and technical roles, and really, just jumping around. And as soon as I couldn’t learn anything anymore from a teacher or a leader or a boss, I would shift and move to the next job.
So it looked terrible on a resume, of course. But I found myself thriving where I got to either work with the team that was super cohesive, and the people were there for the same mission, or work with good, clear, intentional leadership. And I found that whenever I arrived in an environment like that, that’s when I felt alive, and when I felt engaged, and I felt like I was meeting my potential. That’s where I was switched on and in flight. So I started to use my reading to start to create this. So I found a couple of mentors who were coaches, and started working with them.
I started working with a lady that runs the biggest coaching school in the country, and she became a mentor, and started really finding my stride in coaching and development and individuals. And then, that went to groups, and then, that went to departments, and then, that went to business transformation. So…
Tiffany: That’s really cool.
Benny: Yeah, that’s a…it’s a long-winded story. But I’ve been facilitating and coaching for about 10 years now, and yeah, that’s how I got here, I guess. I think it’s really a matter of just…I just tried everything and found my song. Yeah.
Tiffany: That’s actually… We have somewhat similar stories, up until the job jumping around. But one thing I’ve found about variety is, it attunes you to know what a cohesive team feels like. If you’re on one path, you don’t… And it’s almost like, when you grow up with your parents, you don’t know of life outside of that. It’s like, when you’re on one kind of job path, you don’t really know what it feels like to be on anything else. So you don’t know what, maybe, a cohesive team feels like. Or maybe you don’t know what a non-cohesive team feels like, until variety kind of allows you to learn how to…like, what environment and what kind of people you really thrive around. Which I think is really cool, that you took the time in your 20s to do that, because I don’t think a lot of people do, at least…
Benny: Well, you’ve nailed it with variety. I need variety and adventure in my work, or I’m bored by the end of the day. So that’s what I was seeking. And I think it’s a wonderful thing, if leaders can learn to understand people’s need for certainty, and also people’s need for variety, and learn to resourcefully play on that balance, and help them find their edge and find the excitement of getting past it, whatever that is. So…
Tiffany: So that’s a great segue into what we’re here to talk about today, which is leadership awareness. But I have one question…
Tiffany: …before that, kind of, like… It was when you were talking about reading a bunch of books. And my question to you is, did you find that a lot of them, after a while, became repetitive? Or that you could find certain things that were in every book, almost like certain aspects of whatever you are reading about? Could you…? Like, after reading, let’s say, a bunch of philosophy, could you say, like, “These five things are the most important, because I’ve read pretty much every book under the sun about that. And these are the five things that came up in all of those books. They’re the five consistent things,” or something? It doesn’t have to be five, but that was just an example. Did you start seeing consistencies…
Tiffany: …in what you learned?
Benny: Definitely. There’s a quote that says, “All philosophy is footnotes to Plato.” I’m not sure who said it, maybe Plato. But yeah, that’s… There are themes and consistencies through all of this, and you find these categories. And I still read, probably, 100 books a year, thereabouts, and I threw out a half of them, looking for gaps in the knowledge and gaps in the work. Now, I don’t do this in academia. But I think as a change agent and a coach, you need to distil that wisdom down to stuff that’s actionable. So finding those consistencies in the work, and the wisdom, and then presenting it in a way that people can use and digest.
So yeah, there are definite points of wisdom that are expressed again and again and again, in different tones and timbres, and different expressions. Yeah, yeah. I don’t know how to summarize it. Maybe I will in my book, and then credit it to everybody else.
Tiffany: That would be cool. Okay, so what is leadership awareness to you?
Benny: What is…?
Tiffany: What does it mean, and why is it important? Or, what’s the significance? I mean, I’m not really sure… I feel like I can intuitively, maybe, describe what leadership awareness is, but what is it to you?
Benny: So to do that, the first thing we’d have to do is decide and define what leadership is, which there isn’t really a… There’s a difference of opinions in defining that, right? So I define an authentic leader as somebody who is inspirational, they can influence people around them, they make an ecological impact. And what I mean by “ecological,” of course, is, they do things that are good for themselves, others, the greater good. They’re not evil. So what do I mean by that? Well, they’re in a position where they can effect change and are aware of the power they have to do so, and they do that for the good of other people.
They have people that follow them, not because they have to or they fear them, but because they choose to, they want to, and they believe it’ll take them to somewhere better than they are today. That’s a roundabout definition of leadership. What do you think? What’s yours?
Tiffany: I have a harder time explaining things that are in my head. Like, I have a lot of… When I…when… Oh, it’s almost like when somebody says a word, and you’re like, “I know the essence of that word, but I can’t define it.”
Benny: I think we’re still figuring that out. I mean, if you just look around. I’m a big believer in this…the [inaudible 00:14:33] of the world that put leadership on the front line, and they believe in people that lead, and people that influence other people around them, and all that feel-good stuff. I like that. I like the empowerment of the individual to make change happen. In fact, I’m all about that. I bet you ask somebody on the street what they think leadership is, and they’ll maybe point to a CEO or a politician, or someone like that. So perhaps we should narrow it down to giving it another name. I don’t have one, maybe we can make one up now. “Authentic leadership.” “People-centric leadership” gets around a bit. I like that idea.
I just believe that it’s the responsibility of a leader…it’s the tough responsibility, and it’s possibly one of the most difficult things in the world to look after their people and to make tough calls, as well, because there’s complex problems. So…
Tiffany: And to also take responsibility.
Benny: Yeah. And it’s a tough gig, it really is, for people. And I think there’s a tendency to…particularly with groups and movements and factions, to try and simplify things that cannot necessarily be simplified when we’re discussing leadership. And we could go into complex world problems, we could go into complex business problems, and problems of ethics, and… But I think we need to start from a premise of, what do we mean by leadership, for this conversation. And why don’t we just call it…? Let’s call it “people-centric leadership.” And people-centric leadership is about empowering people to be able to make tomorrow a little bit better than today. How’s that? The people-centric leader’s job is to create more people-centric leaders who are capable of making decisions that are better for the group.
Tiffany: That’s very… I like that, because I actually…I have the same belief about a leader. I think that one of the challenging things is, I think leadership and power have, kind of, a…they’re kind of related, in people’s minds. And a power comes from a really…wanting to have power over people, or is almost the opposite of people-centric leadership, right? But it’s something that we deal with, kind of on a daily, well, over the centuries.
Benny: Yeah. People have funny associations and triggers around certain words, and “power” is definitely one of them. It’s like, if we talk about power in its simplest definition, right… I don’t know who to put this quote to, but it’s the ability of A to make B do C, when B would not normally do C, right? Like, if we want to just turn this into the simplest possible explanation, that’s what it is? So what does that mean, “A make B do C, when B would not normally do C?” It means to effect change. It means, to make something happen, so that if the empowered or the person or the entity with power was not there, it wouldn’t have happened. So it’s to make some sort of difference, good or bad, right?
Tiffany: Do you have any examples of people, either characters or real people, that lead in a people-centric-leadership way?
Benny: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Tiffany: I have in mind one character right now. And the name of the show is slipping my mind, but I’ll put it in the show notes. But it’s a show on Hulu, and it’s about a group of girls in New York, and they work for a fashion magazine. And the… Have you ever seen “The Office,” the American version?
Tiffany: Do you remember Jan?
Benny: Jan? No.
Tiffany: Michael Scott’s boss who he ended up dating?
Benny: No, no. I didn’t get that…
Tiffany: Okay, so…
Benny: …that far into it.
Tiffany: …Jan, the actor that plays…the actress that plays Jan plays the boss of these three girls. And she’s a very people-centric leader.
Benny: Okay, okay. Maybe I’ve got another example that might help. Dorothy…
Tiffany: From “The Wizard of Oz?”
Benny: …from “The Wizard of Oz” is a people-centric leader and a hero. How so? How is Dorothy a people-centric leader?
Tiffany: I think she was supportive.
Benny: She was supportive.
Tiffany: She encouraged…and encouraging.
Benny: And encouraging. She had a mission, which was to…
Tiffany: She did have a mission.
Benny: And what was the mission?
Tiffany: She wanted to go home.
Benny: She wanted to go home, yeah. But to get there, she had to do what?
Tiffany: She had to do some scary things.
Benny: And she developed allies and friends and helpers along the way, right? So she found… Who was the first person she found? It was the…
Tiffany: Was it the scarecrow?
Benny: …scarecrow. And the scarecrow needed a…?
Tiffany: I don’t remember. A heart?
Benny: A brain.
Tiffany: A brain?
Benny: A brain. It was definitely a brain, I think. It was. And they decide that they’re on the same mission, right? The scarecrow wants to go off to see the wizard at the Emerald City, and so does Dorothy. But Dorothy just wants to go home. The scarecrow goes, “Well, geez. If I come with you, maybe I can get what I’m looking for there.” So they follow the yellow brick road, right? This is the journey, the path. And they go along the road, and things happened, and then, they meet another character. And the character is…?
Tiffany: I think, the tin man.
Benny: The tin man, who needed a…?
Tiffany: He needed a heart.
Benny: He needed a heart, right? Then, onwards and onwards. So they’re on a mission together, and this is an archetype of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. If we’re talking transformational change, we’re talking ordinary-world Kansas, change happens. There’s a tornado, goes into the extraordinary world, finds allies and helpers, goes through trials and tribulations. But Dorothy’s an example of a people-centric leader, because she brings everybody on a journey, left nobody behind, and they’re better, having gone together. And the punchline is, when they get there, they find out all the resources they need were in them all along. Yeah.
And this is a…what Joseph Campbell would call a monomyth that plays out in people’s development, right? So when we talk about variety, when we talk about getting out of where we are, we decide… Okay, so we decide what’s ordinary. Let’s plug this into a…the CEO of a $100-million turnover company with 200 staff. Let’s make them Dorothy. I’m sure they won’t mind. Sorry to any of my clients that are listening to this. You’re not actually Dorothy. They won’t mind, they’re quite open-minded. So let’s plug them into this story, right? So what do they do? They’re in the ordinary world, business as usual. And they decide, either through a personal realization, or an external set of events that force change, that they have to go through a transformation.
They have to change something, they have to do something different. The status quo is no longer acceptable. Ordinary isn’t good enough, yeah? So something happens to trigger that. Let’s say that, for example, they run a cookie factory. This isn’t anybody real, by the way. But let’s say the CEO runs a cookie factory, and the price of cookie dough goes up threefold, because of something going on in the market. So change has to happen, they have to go on a journey, right? So what could they do? Well, they’re going to have to find better ways of doing things. They’re going to have to find some sort of change.
Now, they could go about cutting costs and removing things and changing that, which they probably will, from a strategic level. But what tends to work is going on an exploration and a journey, and using the wisdom of the people in the business to find different ways of improving and tackling this problem. So then, they’re out on this quest to… So rather than sit in an enclosed room and go on this journey themselves, and go, “Okay, I’m going to pore over these answers with a small group of people,” they engage the whole environment. And they listen to the collective wisdom, and they find a solution that’s beneficial for the whole group, rather than just a couple of people. So that’s a way to plug in that hero’s journey to the business-transformation journey.
Tiffany: Interesting. My wheels are turning.
Benny: Yeah, there’s a bit there. I love going of script like this. It’s a…not that we have one, to begin with. So let’s break this down, right? The business leader decides, for one reason or another, that they want to effect some sort of change. Now, they might do this constantly. This might be something that they’re… The idea of continuous improvement is that it never ends, right?
Benny: So you might have a leader that’s into the idea of continuous improvement, which is… The whole philosophy of this is, every day is a bit better than yesterday. It’s incremental change. In which case, they would go on this journey with people, again and again and again and again. They would go from how things are, they’d explore, they’d fail, they’d stuff it up, they’d come back, things would be a little bit better. And they’d run this cycle again and again and again. That’s the kind of leader that we need, someone that can do that and take people on a journey.
Then, there might be a leader that’s in a bit of trouble. Like, there’s been a huge change that’s happened. And they’re forced to go on this journey, and they’re not used to going on this journey of… It’s the old thing of, “This is the way we’ve always done things,” until it can’t be, anymore. And then, they’re forced through this journey. And these are two very different type of people.
Tiffany: What makes the difference in these people?
Benny: Okay, so let’s use a contrast. The person that does change as business as usual, that does continuous improvement, that is always looking for a way to do things better, is what we would call a growth mind-set, but also is somebody that is constantly seeking improvement and learning, and is constantly looking to better themselves and their business. And this person also wouldn’t think they had the answers themselves…all the answers themselves. So let’s call this archetype “Leader A” here.
They’re a person that they have a growth mind-set, they are really open to listening to the wisdom that’s within their company. Their decisions and judgements are based on what they can constantly learn and iterate on from people around them. So this is Leader A. And then, you have Leader B, who’s a bit old-school. They’ve been in this game for long enough to know what’s what. They will have a very tight group that make decisions with them. Their word is based on knowing best already. They already have the answer, and they’re looking for confirmation, they’re looking for people that say, “Yes, you’re right.”
And this big group of leaders tends to be surrounded by “yes” people. They tend to attract people that will be validated…or validate their judgement and decision. Which works in an old, clunky world where it’s more predictable. But as the speed of change increases, we become less predictable, right? So we need more…the buzzword is “agility,” which is Leader A’s domain. So Leader B is old-hat. They know what they know, and they know that they know it because they’ve known it always, and that’s what’s always worked. They do things the way they do, because they’ve always done it this way.
They have already made their decision. They’re looking for people to agree with them and sign off on it, as well, to abscond them of some responsibility. And they closed in the fact that they know best, because they’re paid to know best, and that’s why they get the big bucks. That’s Leader B. Leader A, by contrast, is still responsible for making the decision, the buck still stops with them. However, they will employ all of the resources, wisdom, and knowledge they can, to make the decision. They’ll go to, like the Japanese say, “gemba,” or, the place of the problem, the front line. They’ll really go straight through to where the challenge or the problem’s happening, and find the answers there. They’re the one that embrace the journey, the challenge, all of the difficulty that goes with resourceful, people-centric leadership. So that’s the contrast.
Tiffany: I think there’s a belief that leaders need to know all of the answers. What do you think?
Benny: I think that’s a very dangerous belief.
Tiffany: I agree.
Benny: Why do you think that belief exists?
Tiffany: Well, the easy answer is, at some point, it was beneficial to believe that to somebody, whoever the believer is, or whoever the leader is.
Benny: Yeah. There’s a dangerous thing that happens, where people follow certainty, right? So if you have a leader who can point to the direction of the future and say, “That’s where we’re going. I know, 100%, how to get there,” that’s the game. Well, what does that give you, as a follow-on?
Benny: Security, trust. You feel safe, right? And it is the leader’s responsibility to make people feel safe, to make them feel like, “It’s going to be okay. We’re going to get there.” So here’s the paradox, and here’s the danger of that. In order to…for a leader to show certainty, they have to be strong in always knowing the answers, knowing the next step, not second guessing their judgements or decisions, and being able to move with speed as well. So this is the dangerous part, because unless they’re willing to be certain in their own uncertainty and vulnerability, they’re going to make some really bad decisions, right?
So there’s this fine line between coming across like you have the answer all the time, and being open and vulnerable enough to not know for a period of time before you make the decision. And that gap of judgement, that’s the game. It’s the pause between the problem or the challenge being revealed, and the decision or the point of judgement being made. So, what happens in that gap? And that’s worth exploring, how do you make that gap? I mean, there’s this idea of, good leadership is moving into uncertainty or adventure, or the chaos with certainty and with strength. But I think there’s this fine line between really having strength and certainty, which people need to follow, and being delusional. Look at Fyre Festival, for… Did you see that doco?
Tiffany: Oh, my gosh. What a disaster.
Benny: So this is a cool example of this. And so, I’d put a link in the show notes. Fyre Festival was this festival that was heavily publicized on social media in the States, where it was the most…
Tiffany: Supposed to be a luxury festival.
Benny: Yeah, like it was going to be the most high-end, luxurious, celebrity, prestige-status experience you could have. People were paying, what, hundreds of thousands of dollars for tickets…
Benny: …on this island? There’s a documentary about it. But look, it’s funny, because when you watch the documentary, the leader, the guy that’s running this…I forget his name, but has just unshakeable certainty and conviction, and, “This is where we’re going,” like, “This will be okay.” And he’s not surrounded by stupid people. He’s surrounded by bright, smart, experienced people in events. But this guy’s certainty was so strong that even when things were completely falling apart, and even when, from an outsider’s point of view and from the viewer of this documentary, like, “This is never going to work. It’s so obvious,” his certainty prevails, and people just keep going.
So there’s is the danger. There’s the gap, right, because from one side of the coin… Let’s call it…let’s come back to this example again, of Leader B, right? Leader B is command-and-control style. Leader B is, “Okay, I have the answers. I’ve been there before. You will follow me because I am top dog. I know what’s what, I have the best advisors, I’m going to make the tough strategic calls,” yeah? And they have total status, total certainty around where they’re going, and they’re unshakeable. Once they’ve made a decision, it’s done, and they’ve got the power of their steadfastness to their own way. They’re fixed, yeah?
Leader A is still certain, but they’re flexible enough to adjust the course. They’re able to say, “Okay, I know that we’re going to get there. How we do it, we’re going to have to figure that out together. We’re going to readjust that course as we go, to make better decisions along the way. We’re going to be…” Again, a buzzword. But, “We’re going to be agile, because we’re the dumbest we’ll be now, and we’re going to get smarter along the journey.” So let’s now plug this into our journey of Fyre Festival, right? So this is a typical Leader-B style, because he’s mapped out a plan. He’s going, “Okay, here is the way this event’s got to go.”
And he’s going to make decisions behind closed doors all along the way, and you see this in the documentary. He’s not even letting his management team or his crew know he’s out raising more funds, making more promises. And then, he just comes back to the group and goes, “Right. I’ve decided to release another 50 luxury bungalows,” and they haven’t even built the other ones yet. They’re like, “Well, we have nowhere to put this,” and he goes, “We needed the money. I’ve shifted it here.” He’s making these decisions for a fixed mission he’s got with himself. The mission’s in his head, he’s got to make the decision, he’s…and then, everybody else has to figure out how to deliver on that.
This plays out quite a lot in the corporate world, and in even the larger end of the small-medium business section. “I’ve got a vision, you’re going to come on that vision. I’m going to make a decision, and then, it’s your job to figure out how we fulfil on that promise.” It ends badly. Let’s contrast that to a Leader A-type scenario, which is accepting that change is the norm, accepting problems every step of the way, and then iterating and changing on that, based on what you know today, yeah?
Tiffany: So can we just use Fyre Fest as an example, what a Leader A…? What would…a Leader A would have done in this situation?
Benny: Yeah. Okay, so first of all, instead of making decisions in isolation, look at what’s going on and take the input, a people-centric input, from all of the wisdom you’ve got in the business. So at this point, there’s people around you, saying… And I’m not putting shit on the organizers of Fyre Festival, by the way. Here’s one piece of credit I will give. The leader never abandoned it. He’s still there, yeah? He didn’t run away. Props to you. And it’s tough. But let’s say Leader A here, what would have happened differently? Okay, so everybody’s telling you that what you’re doing is reckless and dangerous, and you’re plowing forward like a bulldozer.
How could have that happened differently? Well, you could have been open enough to sit down and reassess the situation, and harness the wisdom and use the wisdom of those around you.
Tiffany: Get everybody in one room: the investors, the people…the Bahama locals, the event planner, the…or the festival planner, the marketing team, everybody in one room. And say, “Hey, this is the situation laid out. We’re kind of in a little mess here.”
Benny: Yeah, yeah. Spot on. So basically, saying…calling a point where you go, “Okay, lets re-assess the map, because the first map we had isn’t the way there.” Leader A will cling to the first map that they draw, and try and adjust the territory to fit the map. Leader B is drawing the map as they go, with the assistance of people that know the lay of the land. They don’t have all of the answers. They’re vulnerable enough to say, “I’m certain that I will find the answers with you. But I’m uncertain of exactly how to get there. And that’s okay.”
And that idea of Leader A going, “Right. We have to find another way to reach our goal, because there’s been this problem, this hasn’t been delivered, this weather warning has created this. We were wrong.”
Tiffany: But I also think…tying it back to the topic here, leadership awareness, it takes a certain level of awareness to be able to call that meeting…
Benny: A hundred percent. Yeah.
Tiffany: …and to say, like, “Wow, we missed…we’re kind of in a hole here. But I have the best team that I could, and I know I can… I’m the leader of this ship. We’re going to figure it out.” And I’m not sure what components of awareness that takes for Leader A, but to know…to be able to identify your weak spots, or your down…your, kind of, like… Not weak spots, but…okay. When you draw a map of something, you kind of need to know where you could fall short. You kind of have to have, okay, the positive side, the positive outcome on one end. But you also have to know, like, “Okay, this may go wrong.” And sometimes, being able to look at both of those aspects is the difference in awareness, or not.
Benny: Yeah. This is really interesting, because the personality traits… and when I say “personality traits,” I mean things that are quite fixed within people. So personality doesn’t tend to shift a lot in the person’s adult life, right? It may change slightly, over time, but not much. So the innate personality traits, right? So here’s the paradox. The innate personality traits of what makes a leader people will follow around what we call ego drives, or the propensity to seek people saying, “Yes,” in agreement, resilience, being able to have enough empathy to be able to connect with people. These are traits that leaders need to have. But it also can, at the same time, prevent them from being open and aware enough to be able to change their course.
So let’s say a trait of leadership is around influence, and being able to get people…or getting a kick out of getting “yes” from people, and influencing people. Caliper Profiling calls this “ego drive,” right? It’s kind of a Freudian term, but it’s like, “Do you get a buzz out of getting people to agree with you?” And that’s a really important thing to have in leadership, because you need to influence those around, you need to take them on the journey. Whether we’re going to the island or Oz, you need to influence them. But at the same time, this is a trait that even when it’s obvious you’re wrong, you’re still going to seek that “yes” from people.
So, awareness and how do we create awareness. Now, we’re moving towards the topic of knowledge of self, and self-awareness, and how much do leaders know themselves. So you’ve got to have that, because if you don’t have that, your internal compass will just lead you barreling down a particular path. And people will follow, because, “Okay, this is what we’re doing now. What I say won’t change anything.” So we’re going to follow Leader B to, “We’re going to keep going down this path, because geez, maybe they can pull it off,” or, “Hey, I’m just along for the ride now.” Or maybe they leave, and you’re just out for a walk by yourself. So how do we develop this? Well, here’s the problem. The biggest problem with self-awareness is that you don’t know if you don’t have it, because you’re not aware of it.
Tiffany: …I’ve never…yeah. I’ve never had it put that way. The biggest problem with self-awareness is, you don’t know if you don’t have it?
Benny: Yeah, because how could you? So you talk to a hard-nosed, real strong leadership person, or person in a position of leadership, are they self-aware? Do they have a high level of self-awareness? So do they understand their traits, their innate personality, their compensatory behaviors that they do, to…their strengths, their own weaknesses, their blind spots? What do you think all of them are going to tell you?
Tiffany: They know.
Benny: Of course, they do. How could you know a blind spot if it’s a blind spot? You’re going to… That’s what the definition of a blind spot is, it’s blind. So that’s our problem, generally. And that’s what I see.
Tiffany: So two…a couple questions have come up, just from that statement alone, and I’m trying to formulate how to put them. One thing that I’ve noticed about you that I’ve…just from this interview or conversation, mostly, is how easily you’re able to put things into your own words, or describe or concisely describe, or… What is it called when you…? It’s almost like you’re… I can see you thinking, but it all comes out. So I’m a thinker, too, but I’m a…I take a long time to process things. So one of the questions is, do unaware leaders usually attract unaware employees? Or whatever. They’re maybe employees, maybe they’re other…you call them something else.
Benny: You’ll always get the team you deserve. That’s a belief I have. And whether that’s true or not, it’s a good lens to be able to see team development and all development through. Because if, as a leader, you get the team you deserve, well, then that puts the onus on you to develop your team. So if you’re not getting the results you wanted, it’s not the team, it’s you, because you created the team, right? So let’s start with that level of ownership. Will a leader…? Let’s go back to these A and B. Will Leader B attract and develop more B-type leaders, more leaders that are command-and-control, closed-mindset, self-centered decision makers? Yes, 100%. They will surround themselves with people like that, for sure. Until they get really stuck. And then, they’ll call a rogue like me to come in and shake things up.
Tiffany: Okay. And then, if a leader moves from…is wanting to move, or has already moved from Leader B to Leader A, how…? By the way, I said that because there’s usually no going backwards. Like, I’ve noticed if you’re on the path of awareness, you become more and more aware. But if you don’t know, then, you’re kind of always in, like…and I don’t want to say “the dark,” but you kind of… You don’t go…you can’t… Usually, people who are not aware don’t go back to unawareness, in my experience. That’s just one thing that I’ve learned.
Benny: Well, first of all, there’s a pretty big caveat to all of this stuff, this Leader A and B stuff, that we’ve created right now, yeah? First of all, it’s a contrast. So we’re now discussing things in terms of Leader A being super-awake, wonderful leader of people-centric change, and Leader B, archaic, clunky, command-and-control leadership. You will find people that are totally on Leader A, or totally on Leader B. But most people will sit somewhere between, right, in that area. So the good models allow us to see the world through a contrast, so we can make sense of it better.
And you said to me before, I’m able to just have a conversation and structure things, and then present them in a way that’s hopefully understandable. I’m on a bit of a rant today, but hopefully, somewhat structured and useful, right? So I do that because I think in terms of models and maps and contrast, and then, try and present that in a way that people can understand. So to do that, you need to have a spectrum, you need to have opposites. So Leader A is the archetypal, people-centric leader. It’s Jesus, it’s Gandhi, it’s…you know? It is the philanthropic CEO that’s…it’s the superhero, you know? On the good side, yeah?
And Leader B is the opposite of that. It’s dark, it’s evil. It’s still leading people and leading change, but it’s the opposite of that. Truth is, we sit somewhere between, and we’re either moving one way or another. So Leader A, Leader B, you’re sitting somewhere between the archetypal, greatest, the humanitarian change-maker, in whatever respect leader possible. So, like, the idealized leader. Or Leader B, you’re on this side, looking very, very dark, very destructive, chaotic…or “tyrannical” is probably the best word, right?
Benny: So let’s say that every leader’s on this spectrum somewhere. Here’s the way to visualize it. Which way are they moving towards, over time? And that’s a journey worth mapping. Are the decisions and choices they’re making bringing them closer to a style of leadership that is ecological, better for the people, the company, the world? Or, is it the decisions they’re making on a day-to-day basis moving them across into command-and-control, tyranny, and change? And that might jump around based on day-to-day decisions, but it’s fun to have a framework to be able to look at things, right?
Tiffany: Yeah. I certainly appreciate it. So if you’re an employee looking for a leader on this spectrum, how would you…? Or you don’t have to be an employee, I just keep going back to that word. But how would you identify, or how would you be able to look at the history of a leader, maybe, of your company, where it’s not as obvious? And maybe you don’t even get in contact with the leader at first, until you join the company. So if you’re looking for a place of work… And I’m just using that as an example. It could be a different type of organization, or whatever. How do you…? And that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for a more, type of, Leader A. What do those companies look like, or what do those organizations look like, or what does the interview process look like?
Benny: So first of all, this works best if you accept that you are the leader of your own life. You’re the hero of your own journey, you’re the captain of your fate, master of your destiny, whatever feel-good tagline you want to put on it. At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the individual to make their own choices. And I get that you can be in a tough place. Been there, to some degree. I get that some people have limited choices, but I also get that there is always some sort of choice, right? That’s always there. So the best position, to begin with, is becoming and deciding to become the hero of your own journey, right?
If you don’t have that, you’re going to be constantly looking for something outside of yourself to change you. And that doesn’t really work. So begin with the audacious idea that you’re the hero in your own story. And nobody is likely to give that to you, you have to figure that out and decide that. That’s what I think, anyway, if you want to be a person who leads. If you don’t, that’s okay, too. We just probably won’t hang out. And that’s okay. I’m all right with that, and I’m sure you are, too. But if you want to be… If you want to effect change, good change, or if you want tomorrow to be better than today, you have to take responsibility for that.
So that’s the premise. Then, from that premise, you can then start to make changes happen. Or you could then look for a leader or a company that enjoys that, supports that, respects that, will empower that, will grow that. And that’s the Leader-A side of things, the leader that you’re looking for. It’ll become obvious if you’re that, right? So if you take that responsibility and go, “I’m going to own shit,” “I’m going to be responsible,” “I’m going to take hold of my own life and really own my actions,” you will then be able to see… Your blind spots will lift, and you’ll be able to see A-type leaders, people that value that, very clearly.
I think…and coming back to this issue of self-awareness, I think one of the issues is, we’re looking for a hero, right? We’re looking for this Leader A, or we’re looking for this guiding force that’s going to make tomorrow better, when…just as Dorothy, the tin man, and the straw guy realized, at the end of the day, it’s got to come from within you. Now, that might sound like self-help drivel, but you asked me about the things that reappear in every text, again and again, and again. Well, the answer is your own resourcefulness. The answer is that the heart, the brains, and…whatever the other thing, home…
Benny: …courage, is within you. How could it not be? If you didn’t have that or show that, why would Leader A even hire you? They’re looking for people that are going to be like them, that are going to be open, brave, courageous, smart, empathetic leaders that can effect change. So to even get a look to be on the team, you have to develop that within yourself. You have to awaken that within yourself. And then, when you do that, you’ll start to notice it around you. You’ll start to notice the companies that have a leadership philosophy of developing more leaders, that have a growth mindset, that value the type of people that courageously step up and courageously fail and courageously learn, with smarts, with empathy, with human-centric leadership.
So you can find this, even a little bit, within yourself by doing a few basic things. And when you do that, it becomes obvious that there’s more of it around you. How does that fit?
Tiffany: That fits great. If you could, just real quick… We’re coming up on our time here, so I want to be cognizant of that. But what are a couple things that somebody can do, if they want to move towards being more empathetic and courageous and responsible and resourceful?
Benny: Yeah. This is a good, practical thing to land on in this conversation. Not a popular message, by the way, so hold on to your hats. Things you can do to empower yourself. Let’s roll with that. Well, you could start by not complaining about anything for 30 days. You can look that up on the internet. There’s, go on a complaining detox. And if you catch yourself… Every time you say something outside of yourself is shit, or difficult, or the moment you put yourself in the place of a victim…even if you are. And you may very well be. We all are affected by those around us. But the practice is to go, “Actually, I completely own the way I respond to that. I completely,” you know, Victor Frankl, “choose my attitude about the situation.” By the way, read “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It’ll help.
So for 30 days, catch yourself every time you blame, you put power outside of yourself, you point your finger at somebody, you allow something external to you to completely affect your own attitude, your own perception. So here’s the exercise. And you could look this up, a lot of people do this. Go on a complaints detox, just to see how it feels. And the benefit of this is, you are then empowered to own your own reactions, and turn those reactions into responses. So if we talk about self-responsibility and the responsibility of the individual, the difference between reacting to something…like, a knee-jerk reaction, and responding to something, is the thought that you put between it.
So I encourage you to pause and put enough calm thought between the trigger, or the event, and the way that you respond, to give yourself and the world a chance to level you up. And that’s what I’ve got.
Tiffany: Awesome. That’s a very powerful one. I think I should probably go on a complaining detox. I’m not a huge complainer, but I think it would be…because I don’t think I’m a huge complainer. I think it would bring awareness to any complaint that I do have, which I think would be an interesting experiment. Anyways, that’s…I guess that’s a wrap. Thank you so much for being here.
Benny: Cool. Hey, I know it’s been a long rant, and we went off on some crazy tangents. But thanks for letting me…just waxing lyrically on these subjects. I really appreciated it, it’s been fun.
Tiffany: Yeah, of course. Also, do you want to mention the book?
Benny: No, it’s not done yet. I’ll let you know when it’s out.
Tiffany: Okay, we’ll…
Tiffany: …keep an eye out for 2020. We’ll have some news for you guys, super exciting. We’ll leave any show notes down below, and also, any links to your…either website, or business, or a personal…
Benny: Thank you.
Tiffany: …that you’d like.
Tiffany: Thank you so much for coming.
Benny: You’re welcome. Bye.