The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

April 16, 2017

Are You Making the Leadership Choice? Pt 2

The world needs YOU to be a leader – especially since a “leader” is anyone who has influence over anyone else. Isn’t that you? Jim & Steve discuss what you need to take with and leave behind on your leadership journey, as well as how to deal with failure, and how to transform destructive tension into constructive tension.

View Transcript

Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is, or has a boss. This is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.  
Jim Hessler: Today on The Boss Show we are continuing a conversation from our last episode in which we talk about a concept called “Making The Leadership Choice.” This is where leadership begins. This is the very essence of where it starts. I’m Jim Hessler. I’m The Business Guy. I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership and the co-author, along with my co-host, of the book Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face. How are you doing partner?  
Steve Motenko: I’m doing well, Jim. Thanks. I’m the co-host, the co-author, I’m just kind of co-everything.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah you are.  
Steve Motenko: I don’t do anything by myself.  
Jim Hessler: No. You’re not co-ed.  
Steve Motenko: I’m not that. Yes.  
Jim Hessler: No.  
Steve Motenko: I went to a co-ed school.  
Jim Hessler: At least not yet.  
Steve Motenko: Yeah. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  
Jim Hessler: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  
Steve Motenko: Hi everybody! Steve Motenko. I’m The Psychology Guy. I do executive coaching work as well as personal development coaching work right here in the Seattle area, as well as all those leadership trainings that we do together for clients large and small.  
Jim Hessler: And in line with that, this concept of making the leadership choice comes out of the book that we wrote. It’s Plank 1 of the 12 Planks in the leadership platform in our book Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face. It’s called Make The Leadership Choice. We talked about this in our last episode. Again, you can go to and listen to any of our previous episodes. This is kind of part two of this concept.  
  We ask you to consider a picture of yourself jumping over a gap, say between two places with a chasm in between. As a leader, our suggestion is that this is your perpetual state of affairs. This is where you live; constantly suspended between what is and what might be. We describe that “what might be” as a vision. We talked about how that vision needs to be concrete enough to know whether you’ve achieved it or not. The vision is what compels you to take the risks and expend the energy to make that leap.  
Steve Motenko: And we’ve also said that being suspended in that gap is not for everybody. You might not choose to do that. It might be too scary for you. On the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that you’re born into. It’s something that you can develop so that you can express more of your potential than you’re expressing now by leaping toward visions.  
Jim Hessler: We suggest that it starts here. It’s not when you get your first promotion. It’s not when you’re elected captain of the basketball team. It starts when you decide that you can make a difference in the world. This is the essence, this is the, boil it all down, all the skill, all the claptrap about what it means to be a leader, it starts here. If it doesn’t start here, none of the skills that you can be taught to lead will make any difference at all if you haven’t made this choice.  
Steve Motenko: If you don’t have the why in you, then the hows will never take root.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah. Good point. That’s a very good way of saying it; a popular way of saying it nowadays because of the concept from Simon Sinek, S-I-N-E-K. If you haven’t read … Is it The Power Of Why? I think is the book?  
Steve Motenko: I don’t remember. I think what’s more popular is the TED Talk.  
Jim Hessler: The TED Talk, yeah.  
Steve Motenko: Which is, I think, one of the top 10 TED Talks ever.  
Jim Hessler: He draws a circle with “Why” in the middle, and then the outer circles are the how and the what. His point is, we spend too much time talking about the what and the how without starting with the why. So this vision is your why. It’s a good way to look at it. It’s why you take the risks involved with leadership, why you put yourself out there, why you courageously-  
Steve Motenko: Why you show up.  
Jim Hessler: Why you show up. Right? We’re going to explore some other things that happen to you on this journey; the way that you make this leap, and the things that you have to have in mind in your mindset as you’re making this choice to be a leader. I also want to say, before we go any further, and I know you’ll agree with me, Steve, boy, we need more people to make this choice.  
Steve Motenko: We almost need everybody to make this choice.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah.  
Steve Motenko: I mean, on one hand we’re saying, “If that choice is not for you, we respect that.” On the other hand, the world needs nothing so much as principled leaders who are living their why in courageous ways.  
Jim Hessler: We also need people who enter into the world and into their relationships every day feeling that they have a hand in creating what they see; that they can change things for the better, they can make a difference.  
Steve Motenko: They’re living a proactive, as opposed to a reactive life.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah.  
Steve Motenko: I want to say that, we would love to hear from you in terms of show subjects you’d like us to treat. Or we would even love to hear from you if you want to tell us how bad and wrong we are in our opinions. Anything you want to say to us, we love to hear from our listeners. Our listener comment line, 206-973-7377, or just go to our website,, contact us there.  
Jim Hessler: You had something you wanted to tee off here, so fire away.  
Steve Motenko: We have said that leadership is not for everybody. We’ve also said that often what we think of as leadership, this kind of visionary desire to influence, is often not required in entry-level jobs.  
Jim Hessler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  
Steve Motenko: Often not supported in school, I would add to that, and by our parents. So sometimes it doesn’t come that easily to us. But if you choose to be a leader, there’s certain things that you have to kind of diligently leave behind, and certain things that you kind of have to diligently take with you. Jim, talk to us about-  
Jim Hessler: Yeah. Take withs and leave behinds is what we call it in the book. Let’s talk about the leave behinds. Any journey of leadership, I think for most people, is going to involve some fear, some questioning about whether you did the right thing. As a leader you’re going to come up against difficult circumstances. The first thing you have to leave behind in your journey to leadership as you make this choice is discouraging influences. This can come in the form of bad habits that you have that you need to get rid of. It can come in the form of people who are in your life telling you why you can’t do worthwhile things. So, discourage. I mean, we like to talk about the word. It means to remove courage. It means to take your courage away from you. If you have negative voices, negative people in your life, they will dis-courage you, and you need that courage to lead.  
Steve Motenko: Similarly with bad habits. We all have bad habits. We all have things that are internal to us that keep, in addition to those external influences, the internal things that keep us from showing up as effectively as possible, maximizing our potential. So what are those things for you? What are those habits that, if you really want to show up to be the most positive influence you can be, to make the biggest contribution you can make in the world, what do you have to leave behind? What habits do you have to get over? How will you choose to function at a higher level?  
Jim Hessler: One of the great tests of leadership, when you made this choice, I characterize it as the moment in the bar after work, when you’re hanging out with your buddies and somebody brings up some incredibly negative thing about the workplace, and all of the sudden there’s this chorus of negativity that comes from that. One of your important choice moments if you want to grow as a leader is the moment at which you choose to stand up to negativity. When you hear somebody using a victim stance, or being harsh, or overly critical of another person, and you stand up and say, “Well, you know, I don’t see it that way.” Or, “What are you going to do about it?”  
Steve Motenko: Right. How helpful is it for you to consistently focus on the negative? What does it do for you? What does it do for everyone around you? That’s a courageous thing to say to someone.  
Jim Hessler: It is. And often we’re negative until somebody challenges us to be otherwise. We say one of the first things that happens when you make this choice is you begin to challenge other people’s perspectives, and not just go along to get along, not just be one of the guys. Right?  
Steve Motenko: And to kind of extend your metaphor, Jim, about being suspended in the gap between what is and what could be, you’re doing that in that relationship in that moment. You’re pointing someone toward what could be instead of just allowing them to retreat into victim mode.  
Jim Hessler: Absolutely. You will likely lose friendships in your lifetime when you choose not to buy into someone else’s negativity. These things that we have to leave behind when we choose to be a leader, we can’t travel heavy. There’s certain things we can’t be burdened with. The one that I think maybe is hardest for many people, maybe even most people, is when you lead you often have to leave behind something you’re really good at. You have to leave behind an old competency.  
Steve Motenko: Yeah. You know, we’ve made the point several times that leadership is not positional authority. It’s not necessarily about managing projects or managing people. And yet, if you do get promoted to a position where you’re managing projects or managing people, you do have to let go of what you’ve always been rewarded for in a way, which is getting the work done to high-quality standards.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah. I remember when we had Tom Douglas, the renowned restaurateur here in Seattle who’s got some national chops as well. And he talked about the transition of moving out of the kitchen into the management role. The guy loves to cook. He loves food. But he can’t be in the kitchen anymore. He’s got to manage.  
Steve Motenko: That’s part of making the leadership choice. You can choose to stay in the kitchen. If that’s your passion you can choose-  
Jim Hessler: You could be a leader there.  
Steve Motenko: Right. Exactly.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah.  
Steve Motenko: Yeah. You can do that within that [micro-chasm 00:10:31], and it’s important for you to understand what your passion is, what your mission is, what your purpose is, what really lights you up, however you want to say it. That might not be being promoted to higher levels in any organizational hierarchy. And yet still, everything we’re talking about today applies to leadership in whatever context you’re in.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah. And I think this is … In many organizations people feel pressured to accept promotions. They feel like, “Well, they want me to be the foreman now.” Or, “They want me to be the supervisor or the manager.” And I think that’s a really important point where this choice issue shows up. Because if you love what you do, if you work with your hands, or you love diving into the numbers and doing analysis work, you might not get to do that anymore if you get promoted. And that’s really part of the equation that you need to consider.  
  So, leave behinds, you know, you’re going to leave behind some safety, maybe some security in your old job. You’re going to leave behind some old competencies, and you’re maybe going to have to choose to leave some old relationships behind that are too negative for you to carry with you. So what do you want to take with you? Well, the opposite of a discouraging influence is an encouraging influence. So who do you surround yourself … Who do you spend time with now that you’ve chosen to be a leader in the world?  
Steve Motenko: I think that is under … This question is undervalued in our culture.  
Jim Hessler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  
Steve Motenko: We tend not to realize how big an impact the people that we spend time with have on us. And conversely, how limited we can be by spending time with people who are negative, who are not supportive, and who are not appropriately challenging of what’s possible for us. So choose your friends. Choose the coworkers that you choose to hang out with.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah. I think we could talk about this some more. It’s an interesting thing about American culture I think, is that we believe so strongly in the self-made man, and the individualistic hero who found their way through all kinds of obstacles to become successful.  
Steve Motenko: Regardless of everything around them.  
Jim Hessler: Regardless of everything around them; despite everything around them. That’s kind of a fable and myth I think that we need to put behind us. Nobody becomes successful completely on their own. We’re talking about that fundamental beginning mode of leadership when you decide that you want to make a difference in the world. One of the things that’s important to consider is what you take with you on that journey.  
Steve Motenko: Jim, before you get to that. You said “beginning”, but truly it’s a choice that you make every day.  
Jim Hessler: Thank you.  
Steve Motenko: Yeah.  
Jim Hessler: Thank you.  
Steve Motenko: Because, I mean, it’s the beginning of every leap into that gap that we talked about earlier. But as a leader, you’re doing that constantly.  
Jim Hessler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  
Steve Motenko: It’s not like you make the choice once and it’s over.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah.  
Steve Motenko: Pretty much every day you’re putting yourself out there. You’re expressing your vision. You’re expressing that dissatisfaction with a positive orientation toward what’s possible.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah. Thank you, Steve. Because I think you are very much in the moment as a leader, and you’re looking for opportunities each and every day, each and every moment, where your leadership might add value or benefit to what’s going on around you. So we talked about encouraging influences. I would also consider encouraging influences to be books; good books.  
Steve Motenko: Podcasts.  
Jim Hessler: Podcasts.  
Steve Motenko: Like The Boss Show.  
Jim Hessler: Like ours, right. You need a lot of fuel in the engine if you’re going to be a leader. It takes a lot of energy. Now, you could argue, it’s also energizing in many ways, and you gain energy from leading others. But there are times, situationally, when being a leader is just really hard.  
Steve Motenko: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  
Jim Hessler: You need to be supported. You need people in your life who have got your back on that journey.  
Steve Motenko: And you also need practices in your life so that you have your own back.  
Jim Hessler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  
Steve Motenko: You need to be exercising regularly, physically, strength training and aerobic. You need to be … It’s beneficial for you to be meditating or, if that word bothers you, then just find quiet time to recharge your batteries whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. You have to have the practices in your life that support you in being the contribution that you want to be, at whatever level you want to be that.  
Jim Hessler: The other thing that will happen on your journey is, your vision will take a beating. This idea that you have about the future, where you want to go with your team or your group or your organization, there will be all kinds of things that will happen that will make you kind of take a deep breath and say, “Is it really worth it?”  
Steve Motenko: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  
Jim Hessler: And you’ve got to believe in your vision enough to hold onto it, despite maybe a lot of evidence that you’re not going to get there.  
Steve Motenko: One of the practices that, as a coach, I recommend to people to believe in their vision, is to articulate their vision often.  
Jim Hessler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  
Steve Motenko: Because it’s easy with the day-to-day incoming to lose sight of vision. Vision is a strategically oriented thing that we tend to sacrifice to getting stuff done. So take the time. Whether it’s once a week, once a month, spend half an hour journaling about what you would like to see better in your situation, your relationship, your company, whatever. Or having a conversation with somebody where you’re just kind of purely brainstorming what’s possible. What the outcome is of that leap that you are in the process of suspending yourself over, taking risks about in order to get to.  
Jim Hessler: And you made a good point. I think it might have been on the previous show. If you have a vision, you know, you say, “Well, I want to be an Olympic athlete.” Well, you need to break that down. You need to chunk that down. How does your vision show up today; before noon, this morning. “What am I going to do between now and noon today that’s going to lead me towards being an Olympic athlete?” I think people, when they carry vision with them about the future, that vision often defeats them because it’s so big, and they don’t measure their progress against the vision effectively enough. You as a coach know this better than I do.  
Steve Motenko: Yeah. You’ve got to chunk it down. You’ve got to make it tangible. We often say this to our clients in leadership situations. Any strategic project, strategic idea worth pursuing, has to be made actionable. And the best way to make it actionable is to break it down into very small pieces so that you can get each of those pieces done.  
Jim Hessler: And we do that with our 30-day commitments and our workshop, where, if you go through one of our programs you’re asked to make a lot of very specific smart goal commitments to the rest of the group. If you make this choice to show up in the world as a change agent, as a leader, as a person who believes yourself capable of creating positive change in the world, you have to invite a certain amount of tension into your life.  
Steve Motenko: Yeah. This whole idea of … The metaphor we use for this concept in our book, which is one of 12 core leadership concepts, we call it the planks of the leadership platform. The metaphor we use, as we’ve said in this show, in part one of this short series, is, “A person standing on the edge looking to leap to a preferred future. But what you’re leaping over is a chasm that’s fraught with danger.”  
Jim Hessler: And you might fail.  
Steve Motenko: And you might fail. Exactly. But the very feeling of standing and looking to leap, and anticipating the leap, is a feeling of what we might call creative tension.  
Jim Hessler: And that can show up in a meeting when you’re trying to decide whether you need to speak up. That can come up when you say, “Boy, I don’t like the way that business process works. I need to change that.” That can show up if you need to have that conversation with your boss that you’ve been putting off. This tension shows up in so many ways. And it can really defeat you if it’s destructive rather than creative tension.  
Steve Motenko: You can imagine, I think this is Peter Senge’s metaphor from the book The Fifth Discipline. You can imagine a rubber band between the state, between the possibility for what things could be in any of those circumstances Jim mentioned, or any other circumstance, between that place where things could be, and the place where things are now. That rubber band is what pulls you toward that future. You’re on the other end of it. And it also creates tension.  
Jim Hessler: Right.  
Steve Motenko: There’s a natural tension when things are not what you want them to be.  
Jim Hessler: One of the most common misconceptions that I see people having about leadership is that they feel the leader’s job is to make everything kind of happy for everybody. Right? “If I can just be this laid back person.” Right?  
Steve Motenko: No tension.  
Jim Hessler: “And everybody loves me, and we’re all happy, and we never have any conflict.” And they conflate that with a functional team. In fact, a good team has a lot of tension. A good team is, there’s a battle going on for the best idea. There’s a sense of competition that’s positive. There’s a lot of tension in any good team. I think when you and I are at our best in our working relationship, I think we, lovingly, I’ll call it, create a certain field of tension between us that we need to grow into in order to get better at what we do.  
Steve Motenko: You know, it’s an [inaudible 00:20:25] to the distinction you make between morale and motivation.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah.  
Steve Motenko: You can have morale with no tension, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s not being pulled forward in any significant motivational way.  
Jim Hessler: Yeah. Thanks for that. Because I think that’s a really important concept. Many people describe their organization as being a really happy and high-morale organization. Well the fact that you have high morale, all that tells me is that you like where you are. You’re proud of your company. And there may be really good reasons for that. And it’s a nice thing to have high morale in your organization. But it certainly doesn’t equate to motivation to change.  
Steve Motenko: And, of course, there’s destructive tension on the other side that ruins motivation at work.  
Jim Hessler: And high morale can actually get in the way of change, because people who operate in a very high-morale environment are so bought into the way things are now that they don’t want them to change.  
  We’re going to wrap up a couple of thoughts about this idea of making the leadership choice. That’s where it starts, when you get up and say, “I can make a difference in the world.” We’ve covered in our last two shows a concept called Make The Leadership Choice, which is out of our book Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face. Really the question that we pose for you I think, in these conversations, is whether or not you’ve made that choice. You can make that choice right where you are. You don’t have to have a promotion. You don’t have to have a big salary. You don’t even need to be loud and obnoxious like I am. You can just lead. You can just say, “I deserve to make a difference in the world.”  
Steve Motenko: The Boss Show is produced by Path Forward Leadership. Our sound engineer is Kevin Dodrill.  
Jim Hessler: If you missed any of this show, you can get it in its entirety online at All of our past episodes are there. And you can also go there to subscribe the podcast, or to contact us for any reason at all.  
Steve Motenko: You can also find us on Stitcher, and on iTunes, and on SoundCloud.  
Jim Hessler: Thank you for listening!  
Steve Motenko: And don’t forget, Rule #6!  
Jim Hessler: Rule #6!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *