Are You a Leader Worth Following?

Dr. Relly Nadler: Let me tell you a little bit about the person that we are going to interview today, Tim Spiker. Tim is the founder of the Aperio and the author of the book, The Only Leaders Worth Following. So, he has this idea; it’s the who, the person, not what principle. A profound research-based truth that has powered fifteen years of his leadership development success.

We are really interested in tapping into this with Tim.

He reveals in his book that 77% of leadership effectiveness comes from who the leader is and not what they do. So, using this principle, Tim has helped tons of people to become and stay leaders who are actually worth following. It’s one of those things, when we talk about leadership, if you are leading the way and your charging ahead and you turn around; is there anybody behind you? Ideally, leaders can have a bunch of folks behind them.

Tim has worked with leadership teams in North America, Australia, and Asia. Currently lives in Atlanta with his wife and four kids.

We will be talking about his book, but you can go to his website which is We will find out from Tim a little bit about what that means.

So, Tim, welcome to the show.

Tim Spiker: Thanks so much for having me. Really excited to visit with you and with your audience.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Oh, great. We are excited. And I know you have done a bunch of podcasts and it really does seem like, at this point, everybody’s got a podcast. It just pretty exciting that Cathy and I have been doing this for quite a while.

Do you have a podcast also?

Tim Spiker: Well, you know, like everybody else, we haven’t started ours yet, but it is in the pipeline. I must admit.

Dr. Relly Nadler: It’s in the making, okay. It does seem to be a great venue. We have, over the years, about 4 million downloads of these shows and it’s there forever so people can tap on it.

So, we have some questions we want to ask you. This whole idea ‘Are You a Leader Worth Following?’ To get into how that came about and also to get an idea about you and your influences. Who and what have been the most powerful influences that have led you to be who you are today?

Tim Spiker: Oh, wow. Well, on a personal front, I’ve had a great business mentor, a man named Mike Cane, who has led a variety of organizations around the world who I was fortunate enough to bump into right around the age of thirty. As great leaders do, the impact of that person just seems to multiply and ripple out in your life for much longer periods of time than when they initially bump into you. So, Mike is one.

I have to admit, probably other people may have had a similar experience, but I have a family member, my father who has been a huge influence in terms of a small business owner and a medical practitioner who I got a chance to watch. I didn’t necessarily know that I was in the leadership development process as my own as I was growing up, but I look back on it now and I see that it is really evident.

Those are a couple of folks in terms of my own personal development that come to the top of my mind.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Well, it is interesting, I’m sure you talk with the folks that you coach – you know both Cathy and I are coaches – and those early learnings are so important from one or both parents and how you’ve made the most of that.

Tell us a little bit about what is the who and not what principle. How did that come about?

Tim Spiker: Sure. Well, the who not what principle was not something that I was looking for. I had the opportunity to work for a leadership development wing of a small boutique consulting firm. We would take people up to the west side of Pike’s Peak in Colorado here in roughly the center of the United States for a week at a time. We put them through a number of leadership experiences, but we had assessments that went along with the experience.

Our clients would routinely ask us, what’s the magic mix if I have this particular personality profile and I have these particular strengths, does that give me a better or worse chance of being a more effective leader?

Ultimately, we had enough data with the three assessments that we were using to go ahead and do that investigation because we wanted to be able to answer their question. So, my colleague, Vanessa Kylie, who was our resident number cruncher, took all of our data and she went off and put it through its statistical phases, and here’s what she found.

Absolutely nothing.

She found no statistical correlation between personality, natural ability, and leadership performance. But, because statistical software operates the way that it does, it actually looked for correlations in places where we were not looking. Thankfully, Vanessa paid attention to that data, and as I was getting ready to leave her office one night after she told me that we hadn’t found anything. She said that we did find something that we weren’t looking for.

Frankly, I really love that part of this story because we didn’t set out to prove something, not that there is anything wrong with that, but we weren’t looking for what we found.

What the statistical software showed is that – we had an eight-part leadership assessment – it showed that just two parts of those eight were driving almost 70% of the variability on the assessment. She reran those numbers a few years later when we had ten times the data points – at that point twenty thousand data points. That number went up to 77%.

That’s when we discovered the thing that we call the “who not what principle.” Because of those eight areas of leadership, six of them were about what leaders do and two of them were about how well-developed leaders are as people. It was those two. It was the who aspects that were driving 77% of the variability on the leadership assessments.

So, that’s how the “who not what principle” was born. We were looking for something else, but the statistical software showed us just how critical who we are is and how it lands on top of our effectiveness as leaders.

You can listen to the entire interview above by clicking on the play button.

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