5 Timeless Leadership Lessons from the Life of Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh, the retired CEO of Zappos.com, has died after being injured in a housefire at the age of 46.

Megan Fazio, a spokesperson for Hsieh’s, confirmed on Friday that he died peacefully on Friday, November 27th, surrounded by family. The cause of death is still under investigation. 

Zappos current CEO, Kedar Deshpande, released a statement saying,

“The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being. We recognize that not only have we lost our inspiring former leader, but many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend. Tony played such an integral part in helping create the thriving Zappos business we have today, along with his passion for helping to support and drive our company culture.

Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, as his mantra was of “Delivering Happiness” to others. His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos, and we will continue to honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he was so passionate about.”

Personally, I was saddened to hear about the news of Tony Hsieh’s passing. People say books hit you at just the right time, and in 2010 his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose did just that. It opened my eyes to the higher calling of leadership and the power of culture in business. It had so many gems in it:

“Money alone isn’t enough to bring happiness . . . happiness [is] when you’re actually truly ok with losing everything you have.” – Tony Hsieh

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.” Tony Hsieh

“Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships), and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).”- Tony Hsieh

“We must never lose our sense of urgency in making improvements. We must never settle for  “good enough,” because good is the enemy of great.” – Tony Hsieh

“When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.” – Tony Hseih

A Powerful Lesson in Leadership

Hsieh had retired as the CEO of Zappos in August 2020 after running the business for 20+ years, which included being sold for $1.2B to Amazon in 2009. He spent a decade revitalizing the downtown area of Las Vegas for tech companies and people to live called “The Downtown Project.” His positive impact went far beyond the walls of Zappos and “The Downtown Project.” He often spoke about leadership, culture, and customer service to audiences far and wide. 

While I didn’t know Tony personally, his passing provides us a powerful lesson in leadership we too often forget.   

Leadership is Temporary, its Impact is Lasting.

Just think about it. Every single job in the world, including the one you have right now, will eventually be held by someone else. Look no further than the President of the United States, The Pope, or Zappos’s CEO. 

It’s a humbling thought; these positions and titles that we work so hard to earn are only temporary. However, the impact you have on other people is lasting and can never be taken away. Your leadership position is temporary but your impact as a leader is lasting.

The hard truth is, the only day a title matters is on the first day, after that it’s how you do it.  

The only day a title matters is on the first day, after that it’s how you do it.  

Closing

While there is no doubt Hsieh had his share of failures during his 46 years on earth, he positively impacted other people will last for decades if not generations.  

The best part, you get the opportunity to choose if you will make your temporary leadership position have the kind of impact on your circle of influence as Tony’s did in his life.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

4 Essential Career Lessons Great Leaders Teach Their People

People discussing with team leader

Think of the person who has taught you the most important life-lessons you carry with you today. Can you name them? 

When I ask this question during coaching conversations or Building the Best workshops, most professionals say a parent, others focus on a grandparent, some think of a mentor, but occasionally it’s a former boss.  

This makes sense because moms and dads are supposed to transfer essential life lessons, most grandparents are more than willing to share wisdom, but for some reason, many managers drop the ball, and I am sick of it. 

So many young professionals are entering the workforce and their expensive college degrees failed to teach them essential lessons required to have a successful career.  This is why we need leaders at work to transfer meaningful lessons to their people.  

Here are a few essential life and business lessons you should transfer to your people. 

Patience is a virtue

Patience which I covered in a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  While it’s easy to write and comprehend the definition, most of us struggle to practice patience. In today’s instant gratification world, if anything takes more than 5 minutes, we move on.  (I am lucky you got this far in the article.)

There is proof that patience pays off. Starbucks didn’t open its 5th store until 13 years into its history.  Sam Walton only had one Walmart store for the first 7 years of the company. Rachel Hollis wrote blogs and books for 15 years before writing Girl, Wash Your Face and selling millions of copies.  

Focus on readiness, not opportunities

One of my favorite leadership quotes is from Mark Miller of Chick-fil-A,

“Others control our opportunities, we control our readiness.” 

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be ambitious or apply for the promotion, but it is saying the only thing you truly have control over is how ready you are when the opportunities present themselves.  

Usain Bolt won 8 gold medals across 3 Olympics.  To do so, he ran for less than 115 seconds on the track. For those two minutes, he trained for 20 years. Bolt knew all he could control was how ready he was when the gun when off. 

While it can be difficult in the professional world to be ready for the next job, putting in maximum effort on a daily basis towards the development of both your technical and soft skills is something you will never regret. 

Things that matter are hard

We love to think things are going to be easy.  But as Mike Tyson said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

The only thing guaranteed is the struggle, because things that matter are hard. Here are the things I know matter but are hard:

  • A marriage
  • Being a parent
  • A faith journey
  • Building a thriving business
  • Getting elected to a public office
  • Being elite in your current professional role

Things that matter are hard and you and the people you get the opportunity to lead get to decide if you are going to persevere or if you are going to give up.

Nunc Coepi

Since things that matter are hard, it means we are going to fail and make mistakes.  This is exactly when we need to remember “Nunc Coepi.” It’s a Latin phrase that means that I wrote about in Building the Best and it means, “Now I Begin.”

Assuming you aren’t six feet under, you get the opportunity to start anew each day and do better than you did the day before.  This relates to everything in your life. Give yourself and others some grace and go attack the next day. 

When you transfer meaningful lessons like this to your people through both your words and your actions, something beautiful happens.  One day they will be asked, “Who is the person who has taught you some of the most important lessons you carry with you today?” Their answer might be you. 

What lessons did I miss?

What are some other critical lessons you carry with you today or you make a point to teach your team?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades

Lessons From The World Cup: The Best Teams Have Learned These 4 Things

As you almost certainly know, the World Cup is currently taking place in Russia. It has attracted the largest audience of any sporting event in the world. These captivated spectators showcase their support in the most intense display of national pride. Entertainment factor aside, there are many valuable lessons to be learned as the most anticipated tournament is underway.

The World Cup Champion will not be the team with the most talent, but rather, the one that is the strongest cohesive unit.

This has already proven to be true as the defending champion, Germany, failed to make it out of the group stage. Arguably the most talent-rich team participating, they missed the mark anyway.

While you continue to enjoy the World Cup over the next few weeks, allow yourself to watch for and observe what the best team’s do to be successful. I guarantee you these four lessons directly contribute:

1. One player does not make a team.

During the first season of the Revisionist History podcast, Malcolm Gladwell highlighted the research of economists Chris Anderson and David Salley around their idea of weak-link vs strong-link networks. They asked: What matters more, how good your best player is or how good your worst player is?

In soccer, your worst player matters more than your best player. Mistakes are an important part of the game, and having a superstar doesn’t mean you have an outstanding team. While the TV and media coverage has been dominated with talk of the top players like Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Mohamed Salah, the depth of the teammates that surround them will determine who hoists the World Cup trophy on July 15th.

Most companies and teams are run like strong-link organizations. They focus primarily on satisfying top performers to keep them at the company. In my opinion, you need to at least think long and hard about moving to a weak-link organization for one key reason: social media. It only takes one employee hiccup or poor customer experience for an issue to go viral and massively impact your business.

2. Fundamentals are more important than flair.

Every fan in the world falls in love with the player who has the most flair. But, the only way these great athletes can complete these eye-catching tricks is because of their deep commitment to the fundamentals.

Each and every one of the World Cup players has spent an uncomfortable amount of time rehearsing the fundamentals of their game. In soccer, it is dribbling, passing, communicating, ball control, and alignment.

The team that raises the trophy will not forget these. They will take care of the ball, make the right pass at the right time, and communicate like it is the most important game of their lives (because it is).

It’s amazing how many professionals forget to work on the fundamentals as they progress in their career. The best leaders of teams don’t allow this to happen–they set standards of practice time and hold their team members accountable. That’s how you hone the foundational skills of those around you.

3. The managers matter.

Most fans only focus on the players on the field. The coaches behind the scenes are just as necessary for success.

Teams will only go as far as their leaders can take them.

In soccer, the best managers focus on culture, strategy, defining standards of performance, and creating an environment that helps their players be successful.

Same goes in business. As a leader, you can’t elevate a company all by yourselves, but you play enormous roles developing the ceiling of your organizations. That’s why having intentionally thought-out leadership development programs at every level of your organization is a must.

4. Positivity will always prevail.

Jon Gordon, author of the new book The Power of a Positive Team, has studied many of the best teams–and according to him, having a positive mindset is one of the most influential factors for success. However, the achievement will not come from just thinking positive. Gordon writes:

“Negativity exists and you can’t ignore it if you want to build a positive, powerful team,”

You must address the negativity and not allow it to breed and grow. Confront it, transform it, or remove it. Put simply, the team that wins the World Cup will have made a conscious effort to keep negativity out of the locker room. You’ve probably worked in an organization with a negative or toxic culture. If so, you know: It drains you. Put a huge focus on setting standards for positivity and not allowing anyone to bring negative energy into the office. If someone does, they’ll have to find another place to work.

A version of this article just appeared on Inc.com.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a full-service organizational health company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is also the author of FML: Standing Out and Being a Leader and the upcoming book “The Welder Leader.” You can follow him on instagram @johngeades.