Fearless Leaders: Sharpen Your Focus

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Today on Leadership Development News we are having a special interview. I am getting the chance to interview Dr. Cathy Greenberg, my esteemed co-host,  about her brand new book with co-author TC North, called Fearless Leaders, Sharpen Your Focus: How the New Science of Mindfulness can Help you Reclaim Your Confidence, which is about to be released.

Cathy is a 25 year veteran of the consulting and coaching industry. She began her career as a physical anthropologist with a degree in behavioral sciences studying monkeys and apes for over a decade focusing on the evolution of the brain and behavior. Cathy has been instrumental in developing human performance and organizational change methodologies for global Fortune 500 companies with consulting groups like The Computer Science Corporation and Accenture. She is also the co-founder of the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change where she completed one of the most comprehensive research projects to date on leaders of the future with luminaries in the leadership industry, including Marshall Goldsmith, Noel Tichy, Warren Bennis, and the Drucker Foundation, just to name a few.

Cathy has supported professional coaching, one of the fastest growing industries that we have today through her research, publications and insights on emotional and social intelligence including the Science of Happiness. She has over 50 featured publications and countless media appearance across industries, that are national and global, like NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, Fox, and BBC.

Cathy, welcome!

Cathy Greenberg: Thank you Relly, I am so happy to be here today to talk about our new book, Fearless Leaders: Sharpen Your Focus, by myself and TC North. We are so excited to share some of the secrets of being fearless and how it compliments the world of, as you and I both know, emotional and social intelligence and the positive psychology field.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I know you’ve been tirelessly and fearlessly working on this new book. Where did the idea of the Fearless Leaders come from and then what does fearless mean to you?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Well, those are two great questions, Relly, and I’ll start off with where the concept came from. Essentially, as you know and many of our audience members know, there was a series of books on the Science of Happiness that we had done culminating in a #1 Wall Street Journal / #2 New York Times Best Seller book called What Happy Working Mothers Know. That was based on a long series that was started by Dr. Dan Baker, What Happy People Know and then we did What Happy Companies Know, What Happy Women Know and then we had What Happy Working Mothers Know. What we found across all of these books was an inspiring resilience that leaders were able to continually build upon in the face of adversity and challenges. In the introduction, you talked about the many challenges that companies are facing in retaining and managing their top talent. You and I talk every week about the importance of using emotional intelligence to inspire those star performers to get above that 85% mark and to become truly outstanding professionals. Gary Burnison at Korn Ferry clearly has done his research and his company knows that only 30% top performers are actually high potentials.

What we saw throughout our research on the book, and what I saw throughout our research and mine over the years on this radio show and talking to the many authors and researchers in this industry, is that being fearless comes from a capacity for dealing not only with a great, inspiring aspect of your inner self as a leader and being able to take people and directions by creating, if you will, a vision that is so clear that they can smell the paint on the wall, but by recognizing that failure is not an end point. Failure is simply a result that occurs when we are not ready, prepared, or in a state of mindfulness to achieve that goal. It gives us an insight—what do we need to be the inspiring leader, to get past that failure? How do we gather the courage around us, within our teams, our organizations, to manage that fearless insight?

As you know, because you and I have both been working with a very special group of people over the last several years, special forces has been very, very, instrumental in managing that mindset for a very long time. Our learnings from them, our learnings from sports and Olympic athletes, and from the wonderful, wonderful CEOs and inspirational young leaders in today’s digital marketplace, we’ve come up with some concepts that are now encapsulated in this book that help us understand the science of courage and fearlessness.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Cathy, I’m so intrigued to hear this, specifically where it came from. One of the things you talk about in your book is mastering fear and increasing courage, confidence and becoming more mindful is a lifelong journey. For any of our folks, to get these kind of tips—anybody that watched the Wimbledon yesterday—Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer went down to five sets and Novak won it and basically the last set. He said in his interview, which would be great to get a copy of, is it’s all mental. It was all mental preparation. They are both superb athletes and it is somehow diving deep into that well and reservoir to come up past some of the doubts and the fears to be a winner and that was just shown yesterday.

Cathy, you have a phenomenal forward written by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith who is basically one of the top management thinkers in the world today. He says how you and him have had a relationship for over 20 years. I’m sure you have helped him with some of the books that you have together. Part of that, he shares a little bit about your story and then you kind of go into your story about being fearless. So, whatever you are comfortable sharing—it is in the book so millions are going to read it. If you want to tell us a little bit about your deal with being fearless.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Relly thanks for the kind introduction. Marshall has been an inspiration to me for many, many years. We worked together, as you know, on one of the largest leadership studies to date. All of his recent books like Mojo: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, I believe and most of his presentation materials over the years are a reflection of that legendary research that we had done at the Institute for Strategic Change at Accenture. I could not think of a better person to write the forward. He gets it very quickly.

I had a series of events in my life, as everyone does. We are all human beings, we all have sadness, we all have bitterness, we all have sweetness. We all have, as they like to say, a Silver Linings Playbook. I think what you learn in this book about me is that what I have learned over the years I have applied to myself. I wouldn’t give it out to others as, if you will, a recipe for personal success, if I hadn’t had experience with it myself.

The Four Principles that TC North and I came up with are as follows. I call it the Art of Fearless Leading, ARTE.

  1. One who Acts with inspiring Courage.
  2. One who Responds with Resilience.
  3. Thinks with a Higher Consciousness and
  4. Excels with Unrelenting Fire.

In my life there seems to be a reoccurring theme of challenge, adversity, success and then a period of calm, building that resilience. Then what I have learned from you over the years that we have worked together is, self-actualization, a very special quality of high star performers requires self regard; what many of us, especially women, tend to fall short on. It’s that well-being, that caring that we do for others—somehow we don’t invest in ourselves as much as we should, as much as we invest in others.

The story you’ll read about me in the book may surprise some of you and may not surprise others of you. It includes the death of my parents at a very important time in my life, but more importantly they wanted to go on major holidays. Why they had to go on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I laugh about that until this day, even though it’s bittersweet. As though I’m going to forget them so they had to go on their birthdays and then be buried on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I laugh about it’s because having built the resilience around the experience now, those kinds of things stay with you.

My life has been a bittersweet saga of great success and then depth of despair over many different issues. Sometimes it was skydiving and breaking my back with special forces. Sometimes it’s putting together an award winning book and having someone in the greater audience who decides that they want to take stabs at you because they can. Then there’s also the unfortunate, bittersweet divorces and separations, you know, all kinds of things. Lucky for me, I have learned the art of resilience, I have learned how to respond with it. I have learned how to act with inspiring courage even when the challenges are difficult.

I may be delusional, and as we like to say in emotional intelligence, I need to check on my reality once-in-a-while, but I can’t help but excel with unrelenting fire especially when I have great partners surrounding me like you.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Yes. I love that last term, excel with unrelenting fire. I have seen you numerous times when we have done presentations where things get stressed out, you are the calm in the storm. It storms around you and you are the calm one, I know, for people close to you, your family, and also in the book it’s a really nice saying at those lows. You had this vision of what you needed to do for your daughter Elizabeth, that kind of clarity of vision of who you need to be for the people around you. That is a great story and I’ve seen you practice these principles over and over.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I’m glad I have at least one person in my life that can validate that I do some reality checking.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I have seen it. Tell me a little bit about why today you think that, in the current business climate, being fearless so important?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I think what people like you and TC North, and many others in our industry are seeing on a regular basis is that all leaders, whether they are business leaders, humanitarian leaders, military or athletic leaders, can all apply some new secrets and the science of what we are quickly calling Fearless Leaders. We are all seeking an edge to become truly as great as we can. We all have either conscious or subconscious fears that block our success. So, in the book, what we try to achieve is helping people learn to overcome and resolve their blocks to success by mas ing a few techniques and tips, as you like to say when you talk about leading with emotional intelligence. If you can give people some quick, as you like to say leadership keys, to getting to the root of the problem quickly, recognizing it, naming it, and then as you like to say, getting on your side and off your case, and to the meat of the problem. It’s very simple to take these success secrets, principles and these tips and tools and apply them every day. Just like you build resilience, you build fearlessness.

I just want to say before we move on, I always thought, wow, happiness is the end point. This whole positive psychology; optimism, mindset, working with Marty Seligman’s ideas, being a part of the resilience and writing this program at the Pentagon myself and listening to this, I thought this is it. This is the recipe. What I realized is, no, there is a missing link here. The missing link is when you are truly inspired and you are truly courageous with your talents and the experiences you’ve had, and you can fail quickly, get up and move on; you can, in fact, achieve greater life satisfaction and overall positive well being much more so than just with the happiness and optimism alone.

Learn more about the Four Principles and how to be a Fearless Leader as Cathy and I discuss more about her book. Listen to the complete recording, without commercials, above.



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