Scott Miller on What Makes a Good Leader
The Executive VP of Franklin Covey on The Literary Life
with Mitchell Kaplan
“The role of a leader is to model, engage and inspire people,” Scott Miller, author and executive vice president at Franklin Covey. “And that’s not for everyone. After lots of messes in my career . . . I wanted to author a real, relatable, raw book that brought to life a lot of my own messes in the hopes to inspire people to avoid some of theirs and move towards greater success.” Join Scott, Chris McKenney, founder of independent publisher, Mango and Mitchell, for a motivating conversation on this episode of The Literary Life. Recorded at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida.
From the episode:
Scott Miller: I have had the fortunate privilege of being in the leadership development industry for almost all of my life. Really what I came to learn is that leadership is much more difficult than most of the authors tell you. Too many of the leadership books written are academic. They focus on mission, vision, and value, which is very important, and strategy systems and process, also very important, but at the end of the day the role of a leader is to model, engage, and inspire people. That’s not for everyone.
As I became a little more competent as a leader, after lots of messes in my career, I wanted to evangelize the fact that it’s okay if people don’t choose to be a leader of people. It’s not for everyone. It’s hard and relenting. It’s often not rewarding immediately. I wanted to author a real, relatable, and raw book that brought to life a lot of my own messes in hopes to inspire people to avoid some of theirs or minimize them and move toward greater success.
Mitchell Kaplan: What I was very impressed with was the fact that you are so open about the messes you have encountered in your own life and you use them as examples throughout the book, making the book more than your typical business book and more of a business autobiography where it’s telling the story of you in a way that’s compelling and informative and a way that we can learn from as well. I know you can’t go through all of them, but talk about a few of the messes that you encountered. The first one that you encountered got you started down this road.
SM: I have no shortage of messes, so that’ll be easy. The book is really built around a framework of 30 challenges that every leader faces. Of course, there are more than thirty, but my colleagues at Franklin Covey culled together a list of about 150. We narrowed it down because that would be a suicide read at 150 messes and brought it down to 30. Out of these 30 messes ranges from protecting your team from being urgency-addicted to having life balance. Taking time for relationships. Declaring your intent.
Of all of them, the one that is most challenging for me is challenge three, which is “listen first.” That’s no surprise. As leaders, we are trained to be great communicators, speak well, be persuasive, evangelize your message, clarify your message, and “repeat it, repeat it, repeat it.” How to speak from stage and master Powerpoint or Keynote. Too few of us have had much formal training on listening, because listening is a communication skill. Listening is a leadership competency, and because leaders are so often encouraged and reinforced to have all the answers and solve all the problems . . . we don’t take the time to say that maybe should be listening more effectively.
I spend a whole chapter on how important listening is to being a persuasive leader. It’s counterintuitive; humble, confident, and secure leaders don’t always have to be talking. They can step back and not be the smartest person in the room and listen to the wisdom that’s all around them that they may be suffocating. You mention the book being vulnerable, and it is very raw. . . . In the future, I feel that one of the key competencies that every leader is going to have to demonstrate is vulnerability. I think vulnerability is as important as reading a P&L, as putting together partnerships, and as it is understanding the science and math of your business. People want to be led by people who have messes too. Everybody is a human; some of us are just masquerading as leaders and trying our best to model and be trustworthy and inspire people.