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.

Now is the Time to Lead Your Best. Don’t wait on your company to provide another leadership development program Join the Ultimate Leadership Academy. Make 2021 your best leadership year ever with proven courses and weekly leadership lessons.

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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.

Why You Should Be a Leader Even Though It’s Hard

Top view on plastic fork and spoons on black background

Do you remember how it felt the last time you were forced to let someone go? Chances are, you felt terrible and didn’t sleep well for days.  

While these feelings make you an empathetic leader with a good heart, they could unfortunately cause you to run away from leadership before you reach peak impact.

Take Jessica, an exceptional regional manager in a fast-growth company, for example. For years she embraced her role and poured into the people she had the opportunity to lead.  While she was far from perfect, her growth and development as a leader are one that any young leader would want to mimic.

Everything was going well until she and her new boss couldn’t find common ground and Covid-19 hit the business.  At first, Jessica hung in there.  She worked hard to build a stronger relationship with her new manager, and did all she could to shelter her team from the growing dissension.  But Covid-19 added pressure she didn’t feel she could handle.  Reluctantly, she asked for a demotion; moving from her leadership position back to an individual contributor role.  

While the move made logical sense, it was unfortunate for the people who grew so much under her leadership. 

Leadership is hard

There is no denying that leadership is hard.  The pressure of performance, making tough decisions, and guiding other people are just a few of the obstacles that leaders will come across. But the hardest part of leadership is this:

Leaders are required to take full responsibility for things they have little control over.

Most people avoid leadership, not because they can’t develop the skills to lead, but because it’s easier to stand outside the fire. Those that do embrace leadership in their career or in their families, often fail.  But the best leaders don’t give up because they know failure isn’t final; failure is feedback. 

If you have chosen to be a leader, now isn’t the time to give up. Your people need you more than ever. If you find yourself at a breaking point like Marie, and you don’t want to give up, here’s what you can do.

Focus on Your #1 Job as Leader

I know you think your job is to execute the tasks and devise a strategy for your team. While you absolutely have to do those requirements well, your primary role of being in a position of leadership is to elevate others.  

I define leadership in Building the Best as “someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time.”

But simply knowing this definition isn’t enough — the real difference lies in living it out, because actions speak louder than words. I have yet to encounter a strong leader who isn’t keenly aware of how important their actions are, as far as setting an example to the people they lead. Many are borderline fanatical about the decisions they make, and the positions they put themselves in.

Lead Right Where You Are

When leaders start to feel overwhelmed, it’s because he or she is doing too much.  They have loaded their schedule and responsibilities with so many things they can’t keep up with all of it.  

Instead of trying to boil the ocean or solve every problem, make your leadership circle of influence smaller.  When a good leader is stuck inside an unhealthy company culture they can’t fix the entire company as one person. Instead, they start with changing the environment for their own team to make it the best it can be. 

Reconnect Yourself to the Cause

It’s easy for leaders to get lost in the monotony of their everyday work, failing to consider how the work impacts people at a deeper level.  Tony Robbins famously said, “activity without purpose is the drain of your life.”  

Having a deeper purpose and cause behind your work can be tough for some leaders.  If this is an area where you struggle, remember that leadership has a built-in cause; serving other people.  Speaker and author Damon West, told me on a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, “Every one of us has the ability to be a servant leader.”

Ponder the Positives (regardless of how small)

While work can and absolutely should be a place that helps create positive energy for people, it is easy to lose sight of that during difficult times. A powerful, evidence-based line of research called Positive Psychology, shows why pondering the positives instead of the negatives is a good idea.  

Chris Peterson described Positive Psychology this way; “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It’s a focus on what’s right with us rather than what’s wrong.” Jon Gordon, followed that up, “being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.”

Choosing to be positive and looking for the good in things regardless of how small, is a competitive advantage and in your realm of control.  

Closing

If you have been forced to let someone go or your team has been negatively impacted by Covid-19, don’t give up. Your leadership is needed more than ever.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making victual training easy and effective. 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 Successand 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.

The Keys to Successfully Leading Remote Teams

Poor signal. businessman searching for mobile phone signal in desert

“Hope is not a strategy.”

In season 23 episode 4, John Eades covers five key strategies for successfully leading remote team members.  


5 Key Strategies for Successfully Leading a Remote Team

  1. Remember Remote Team Members are Human
  2. Build and Maintain Trust-Based Relationships
  3. Set Clear Standards
  4. Constantly Communicate Culture
  5. Get Them Together Face-to-Face

Specific topics include:

– Why trust is so important with remote employees

– Why employees deserve to be led better

– How to see people as human when they are remote

– Why clear standards are important

– How often to talk about values and culture

Elevate the Way You LeadBuilding the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill and debuted as a #1 Best Seller on Amazon. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead.

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. 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.

Why So Many People Hate Their Manager

There are too many professionals who don’t like coming to work.  The list of reasons are long; it could be because they aren’t passionate about the industry, the work they do, or more often than not it’s because of their boss. 

There is a simple concept all managers need to be reminded of if they are going to change the tides.  It’s called shared purpose.   

Ultimate Leadership Academy Do you lead a team and want to elevate the way you lead? Apply to join the Ultimate Leadership Academy. A virtual leadership development program which includes the EO 360° Assessment and Report, 4 Live Instructor-Led Training Webinars and One-On-One Coaching. Learn more here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals 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 author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand 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.

How the Best Leaders Energize Their Team

The clock strikes 6 PM and you’re finally ready to wind down your workday, only to see an email that includes a project that just can’t wait. Instead of shutting it down, you grab a coffee and hunker down for the next couple hours.

This situation happens in almost every organization on a daily basis. Not only am I not here to bash it, but I am guilty as charged. In today’s fast-paced business world time and urgency are of the essence. Instead of trying to change the tides or institute a 30 hour work week, there is a different strategy you can implement that the best leaders know.

Give your team a greater purpose to come into work every day.

If you want to energize your team on an ongoing basis it’s time you connect them to a purpose deeper than making money. Put in the work and effort to understand what your team does, why they do it, and for whom it is done.

When you understand this and communicate it to your team on an ongoing basis, the energy will go up, and the willingness to knock out those important projects at 6 PM won’t be in question.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development 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 author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and 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.

Why Your Company’s Purpose Must Go Beyond Making Money

Twenty years ago Jay Shah got his first job in finance and in the course of a year, he went from selling credit cards to collecting overdue balances on those same cards. It didn’t take him long to figure out the industry had some things backward, and he wanted to be part of a company doing it the right way. 

Fast forward to 2019. Shah is now the CEO of Personal Capital, a hyper-growth financial services and technology firm who exists to bring clarity and confidence to financial lives.

I sat down with him for an interview on the Follow My Lead Podcast and as we wrapped, I thought, “I don’t know another company in the finance world this purpose-driven.”

The words purpose-driven and finance don’t seem to even go in the same sentence because of a vast majority of people think the purpose of a finance company is “making money.” While making money is incredibly important for any business, not just in finance, a purpose-driven organization connects its mission to a deeper meaning in order to align its employees and make better business decisions.

Purpose isn’t just about words on a website or hanging on a wall. Shah and Personal Capital live out their purpose-driven culture. Here’s what we can learn about purpose from them:   

The Purpose Has to Go Beyond Money

Wealth Management is a $30 trillion industry and most companies in the financial services space have always made money on profiting, in the short-term, from their clients. The financial services industry is broken because lack a focus on truly serving the consumer. And because of their size, the right-hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Remember what happened with Wells Fargo?

Personal Capital’s purpose statement doesn’t read, “maximize shareholder value,” it reads “we bring clarity and confidence to financial lives.” That’s the point Shah proclaimed, “I wanted to focus on the long-term and being more outcome oriented. This way our clients can clearly understand the short-term decisions and the opportunity path forward to improve their personal outcomes.”

The better the organization does at making their purpose come to life for their clients, the better its own balance sheet is going to look.

Define and Celebrate Core Values

Core values are the fundamental beliefs an organization holds to be true. Unfortunately, many organizations define their core values, plaster them on their websites, and rarely look at them again. They’re so generic they could belong to an organization in any industry.

Shah, along with his 400 person workforce, defined five core values and put them in phrases that drive the behaviors of each and every employee:

  1. We get behind being upfront.
  2. We work hard to make things simple.
  3. We make all our business personal.
  4. We team up and break down any challenge.
  5. We build and uphold our legacy of trust.

They didn’t stop there, Personal Capital celebrates those who live out their core values on a daily basis. At any point, any employee can highlight another. Talented people aren’t interested in the defining of core values but rather the exercising of them.

Don’t Focus on the ROI of Being Purpose Driven

Being part of a company whose mission statement is “transforming financial lives through technology and people” is exciting. Admittedly, Shah knows that doesn’t guarantee anything, “Just because you are a purpose-driven company, doesn’t mean you will succeed. If I could have a choice between being purpose driven or profit motive or whatever else might drive you, I am going to choose purpose driven because it’s inspirational for all of us. Energy and transfer of enthusiasm that happens from our employees to our customers I don’t know the return but it really increases the odds.”

If a company in the difficult finance industry can be purpose-driven, I know yours can, and should as well.

Ultimate Leadership Academy Do you lead others but your company doesn’t offer a leadership development academy? Don’t worry, join LearnLoft’s Ultimate Leadership Academy designed specifically to shorten the time it takes for you to be an effective leader. This special virtual program includes the EO 360° Assessment and report, virtual instructor-led training and a learning library. Learn more here.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development 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 author the upcoming book Building the Best: The Proven Leadership Framework to Elevate Others to Successand 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.

4 Timeless Things a Leader Can Do to Improve Immediately

Unfortunately, we have a lot of bad frontline leaders in our organizations and it comes at a tremendous cost. Here are 4 timeless things a leader can do to improve immediately.

  1. Remember the Purpose of Leadership – Leadership is about serving and empowering other people.
  2. Build Relationships Based on Trust – Trust is the ultimate human currency
  3. Envision a Better Future – Team members need a vision of a better state in the future
  4. Define Clear Standards – A Standard is ‘defining what good looks like’

Learn how LearnLoft can help your organization here.

3 Flawless Leadership Lessons You MUST Learn from Chick-fil-A

I have always been enamored with companies that blatantly outperform the competition. I marvel in everything from their CEO’s decision making, habits of their leadership team, marketing, strategy, all the way down to their execution. What’s even more fascinating is for companies to separate themselves in industries that have an equal playing field like food and beverage.

Enter Chick-fil-A. The company generates more revenue per location than any other fast food chain in the U.S. and consistently ranks first in restaurant customer service surveys. So what exactly are they doing to crush McDonalds, KFC, Burger King among others?

Here are 3 terrific leadership lessons you can learn from Chick-fil-A:

Make People The Priority

Chick-fil-A’s founder Truett Cathy famously said, “We aren’t in the chicken business, we are in the people business.” This organization is about something bigger than themselves and the food they serve is just a means to impact the world. Making people the priority isn’t just a Chick-fil-A thing. Just this week on the Follow My Lead Podcast former Starbucks Executive Howard Behar said, “Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business serving people, they are in the people business serving coffee.” Two great companies on opposite ends of the political spectrum, acting the exact same way. Think it’s a coincidence?

According to Glassdoor, Chick-fil-A doesn’t pay their hourly employees much more than the competition ($8.44 vs $7.98) but they invest in them heavily. They know that the more training, leadership opportunities, and career advancement they provide, the longer people will stay.

Takeaway: Be in the people business

Do Common Things in an Uncommon Way

We all think of good customer service at restaurants as common practice, but Chick-fil-A does the common in an uncommon way. DeeAnn Turner, author of It’s My Pleasure, told me, “When a guest says thank you, what you hear back from our employees is, ‘my pleasure’ because what it really means is, ‘it’s my pleasure to serve our customers.'”

Chick-fil-A cares about you personally when you walk in their stores. It’s a genuine care, not manufactured. This service mentality is embedded in their culture all the way from hiring through day-to-day execution. One of their presidents said, “If you aren’t serving chicken, you better be serving someone who is.” You as a leader have 100% control over the service to your customers just like you have control over your culture.

Takeaway: Make customer service a competitive differentiator.

Be Driven by Purpose

People in organizations don’t get burned out because of the work they do, they get burned out because they forget WHY they do the work they do. In 1982, Chick-fil-A had hit its first sales slump ever and instead of making major corporate cuts, Cathy and his executive team came up with a corporate purpose statement, “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that’s entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all those who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The Chick-fil-A purpose statement has withstood the test of time and remains in front of their corporate office for every Chick-fil-A employee to see. Purpose driven companies continually outperform companies that lack purpose.

Takeaway: Know your organization or teams purpose and communicate it relentlessly

So whether you agree with the politics and or values of Chick-fil-A, there is no denying the impact they are making on the world and the results they are achieving. Open your mind to learning from them.

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

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, a contributing editor on Inc.com, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

The Unforgivables Most Leaders Get Wrong

In the year 1988, there was a small and struggling company that couldn’t quite find its way in the world. It was purchased for $3.6M by a man and group of investors that had big dreams and a great vision for the company. Fast forward to today. The little struggling company went on to expand to 10,000 stores in 75 countries and has one of the most recognizable brands. Can you guess the company?

If you guessed Starbucks, you’re correct. The man was Howard Schultz and Starbucks transformation can be attributed to Schultz’s leadership.

“Success is empty if you arrive at the finish line alone. The best reward is to get there surrounded by winners.” – Howard Schultz

Starbucks is a perfect example of what is possible when a leader gets the formula right. They set themselves up with a foundation to be successful that gives their people a fighting chance — not only to be successful but to be fulfilled in the work that they do.

Here’s the formula Schultz attributes his success to:

  1. Start with a vision and core purpose of being
  2. Know success is best when it’s shared
  3. Create a culture and set of values where people feel they are a part of something larger than themselves
  4. Treat people with great respect
  5. Exceed the expectation of your people so they exceed the expectation of your customers.

After studying Schultz and interviewing other successful leaders on the Follow My Lead Podcast, we’ve identified our own list – a formula called the “Unforgivables”. These are a list of things, which under no circumstance can a leader be forgiven for lack of. They simply must get these things right. The list consists of 8 core elements and here is a brief description of each:

Purpose

People in organizations don’t get burned out because of the work they do, they get burned out because they forget WHY they do the work they do.Purpose driven teams continually outperform companies that lack purpose. Purpose is knowing, WHY you do what you do.

Mission

Having a mission that the team is willing to buy into and agree on will ensure your team is fulfilled – which ultimately impacts their performance over time. It follows a simple formula. We do X in order to achieve Y for Z.

Vision

Vision is clearly important in leadership but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It boils down to, a clear goal and a completion date.

Strategy

There are many different strategies to getting results, but which will get you there the fastest, most efficient way with the best outcome? Answer: by having a well thought out strategy that’s nimble enough to change based on the current environment.

Values

Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what’s important in life. We all believe values are important to have as individuals, but they are just as important for the team.

Beliefs

Beliefs are judgments – things a team believes to be true or fact. Sometimes beliefs become very strongly entrenched or emotional. In this way, beliefs can influence our behaviors, even our thoughts, in very powerful ways.

Leaders will be forgiven for a lot of things because they are human just like everyone but getting the “unforgivables” wrong, is something I am just not sure they should be forgiven for.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, a contributing editor on Inc.com, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.