Leadership Secrets to Success

Kevin Lawrence, advisor to CEOs and executive teams, talks about listening to the cues that tell leaders what they need to work on to grow and to achieve success – and then finding the courage to do what scares them most, and the humility to be uncomfortable as they learn something new. The benefits, he says, spill over in unexpected ways.

Video Transcript

The biggest secret I think is, as a leader – and as a person – we’re given natural cues of where we need to focus next, and where we need to improve. We’re all given them.

I’m just a normal guy, who grew up in a normal suburb, who is fortunate to get to do some really exceptional things with my life. And the secret is that I’ve been given these little cues of things that I should do, and I should try – and over the years, I’ve got better and better at just doing them.

But the reason I didn’t, initially – and the reason most of us don’t – is that they’re scary, and they’re hard.

Basically, if you just look at all the things that scare you, and make you uncomfortable, and are presented in front of you, when you do them – and you focus on them – things get better.

There’s always a way.

There’s always a way to work through those challenges. If I look at the leaders that I work with, how do I figure out what they need to work on next?

I ask them.

And they have ideas in their head of what they know would make them better – and make them stronger. The answer is always there, but they’re usually afraid, or uncomfortable, to deal with them.

What I’ve learned for me – for myself – and the way that I’ve leveraged my own growth: pay attention to the cues of what you need to work on next.

And as a coach: to listen to the CEO, or the leader, about what they know they need to tackle next – and then help them find the tools. And let them borrow a little bit of inspiration or courage from me or someone else, and then get some ideas of how to, from another place. And then just push through in doing it.

Because it seems to be that if we’re committed to it – and if it’s aligned with doing something good or creating more value – it’ll work. But it’s about that courage, or taking that leap to do it, cause it’s scary doing something you’re not good at.

And the best way I ever heard someone say it is – and this is a person who was an expert river rafter: “You know, when you look at people who excel in river rafting, the people who do the best, it’s the men who are willing to be a mouse for a period of time – who become the best.”

You come in as a man. You have to be willing to admit that you don’t know everything – that you do need help, and you do need some expert guidance.

And if you’re willing to be humble enough to let that in, then you’ll learn all your lessons – and you can be an amazing river rafter.

But if you come in as a man too proud to admit that you need to learn and improve and, let’s say, be a mouse for that few hours, you won’t be very good – and you’ll get some incredibly hard lessons that will probably make you hate the sport.

That willingness to deal with those things that are uncomfortable and scary will help you to grow – and you need a fair amount of humility to do that.

I guess, in summary, my secret is that the most successful people – and in my most successful moments – go and tackle the things that scare them, and make them really, really uncomfortable.

And it stretches me. But then when you get to the other side, there’s no feeling like it, in the world.

You get the confidence of knowing that you tackled another thing – and you get this amazing energy that you spill over into other areas of your life.

And if you don’t keep doing that, you get stale. And a stale leader is, well, not very good for a company.

We have to stay fresh, and we have stay challenged.