MDD Keynote Message – Foundations of Leadership

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Presented by JB Spisso

JB Spisso has over 30 years of leadership training experience. He is a veteran of the United States Army with 26 years of service, including ten years in Special Operations with the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. He has conducted team building and leadership training for several professional sports teams, including NFL and NHL clubs. JB holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management & Leadership from Nyack College and studied under notable sports psychologist Dr. Derek Anderson. He recently published his first book, Warrior Leadership: Steps to Success for Leaders on the Ground. Here are just a few of the thoughts he shared at MDD:

Leadership is a “Learned Trait”

Too often, we limit ourselves by thinking we are born with “something” that magically makes us a leader or prevents us from becoming the type of leader we have imaged. In reality, leadership is a learned trait. It is a skill developed through positive actions, education, commitment to your craft, resilience, and challenging yourself both personally and professionally. If you feel like you are not currently a leader or not the leader you want to be, do not worry! You just haven’t learned all the steps yet.

What Skills Must You Have?

Positive values are fundamental! It is not enough to speak those values; you must also live those standards (rules & regulations) of excellence. You set the example through your actions. I like to say, “choose courage over comfort.”

Just as necessary is your attitude. Generally speaking, psychologists and behavioral experts agree that individuals are not born mean, cold, or callous. While yes, some individuals are more predisposed to certain traits, for the most part, such behavioral traits are learned. A strong leader manages through a positive spirit and utilizes an approach founded on compassion, empathy, accountability, commitment, and challenge. There are many things in life that we cannot control; however, you ARE in control of your effort and your attitude.

Be authentic!

Your leadership position requires you to be “authentic.” At times, this can be challenging, such as when you perceive your role demands you to act differently or when you may feel as though you are alone in a particular thought process. If you try to be someone that you are not or relinquish your standards, your team will notice and their trust may waiver.

Find the leadership style, or styles, that works for you. There are several – democratic, autocratic, laissez-faire, strategic, transformational, transactional, coach-style, bureaucratic. Whatever style speaks most to you, lean into it and make every effort to be vigilant and be present in whatever you may be doing. Take time to stop, look, listen, and, most importantly, observe what is happening around you. Some of the greatest leaders listen much more than they talk and lead without making a sound.

Finally, “Press on!”

Bad days happen! Your project may be behind schedule; you may have spilled your coffee in the car; your child might have forgotten their lunch at home; on and on. It is in these moments that you need to count your blessings, be confident in your abilities, hold your head high, and take another step forward. Press on! Take each mistake, misstep, or failed attempt as a learning moment and then strive to be present and plan for the future! Run YOUR race and do it with a smile!

In today’s business world, we often observe too many managers and not enough leaders. Managers focus on timelines, budgets, structures, and controls. Leaders focus on vision, buy-in, motivation, culture, and most importantly – people. While you may reach the top of the ladder by excelling in management, you thrive at the top by excelling in leadership.” ~ JB Spisso