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How Leaders Can Develop a Peaceful Core

March 23, 2016

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Are you aware that having a peaceful lifestyle can benefit you as a leader? John Addison is a world-class speaker, motivator, and author. He is the newly-appointed Leadership Editor of Success magazine and CEO of Addison Leadership Group. John recently sat down with AMA to discuss concepts from his new book, Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose.

AMA: What’s the John Addison definition of real leadership?

JA: Too many people think leadership is being loud, being bossy. There’s a huge difference between a boss and a leader. A boss is a double SOB spelled backwards. Leaders light fires within people. Any organization, any business, anything that succeeds, is driven by leadership. My goal, now that I’m not running a big company anymore–the company that I was with for 33 years–is that I want to be an evangelist for leadership, because the world is crying out for leadership. But what we need is real leadership: people who take care of the team, take care of the family, take care of the business, all the stakeholders, and I think that’s needed now more than ever.

There’s any number of historical stories, legends, myths, etc., that talk about what makes a good leader: a sea captain whose vessel always sails on smooth seas. What do you really know about this captain’s leadership skills? Especially when things change–turn ugly, go south, there’s bad weather, or pirates, or whatever the case might be–that’s when this person is truly tested. In your opinion, what’s the most important quality for a leader during times of significant change?

Leaders, when you’re in the storm of change, when your organization is under stress, those are times when you’ve got to be a calming influence. You’ve got to be the eye of the storm that helps the organization navigate. People are looking to you. They’ve got to see you as a rock, as somebody they know they can count on.

So, I believe having a peaceful core–the ability to be in touch with yourself and to transmit that to the team–is going to ensure you get through this.

How do I achieve this peaceful core? What is it?

I think you achieve it in different ways. I think, number one, having a stable marriage and family helps: not creating a bunch of craziness and psychosis in your life.

So, outside the job, you’ve got your life squared away.

I think that is very important. I have a 45‑acre “farm” where I live in north Georgia. I mean, it doesn’t make any money, but I spend a lot of money on it. I love to garden; it’s my hobby. I would just tell anybody who’s an aspiring leader, have hobbies. Have things you enjoy. You know, don’t just be one-trick ponies . Have interests, have something you like to read. If you like to write, write. If you like to paint, paint. Have things that you can draw on as a well of peace in your life.

Most of the stuff you’re saying is very positive, aspirational, in a sense. We’re kind of in the era of snark and severe doubting. And, you know, why should I believe the optimism? Why should I buy into it? What’s in it for me? Why shouldn’t I take that defensive posture of assuming you’re only going to disappoint me anyhow?

A couple of reasons. I actually think we’re in the era of narcissistic snark. You can either be an optimist or a pessimist, and, really, it doesn’t make much sense to be a pessimist. If you get up every day expecting things to get better, you’re a happier human being. Enjoy life, be happy! Most people just go through life. YOU need to go through life where you get better every day.

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About The Author

John Addison is the Leadership Editor of Success Magazine and serves as CEO of Addison Leadership Group. From 1999 to 2015, as co-CEO of Primerica--the largest independent financial services marketing organization in North America--he spearheaded the company through a period of rapid growth in the early 2000's, then helped navigate the company through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the separation from their parent company, Citibank, which created one of the most successful IPOs of the decade. He is the author of the recently published book, Real Leadership.

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