Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Randy Conley of ‘Simple Truths of Leadership’ Is Helping To Change Our World
Take your work seriously, but yourself lightly. Work can be hard and stressful, but it can still be fun! The best leaders I’ve worked for have always taken their work seriously and done the best they are able, but they’ve also used humor to make work enjoyable. Happy people produce better work!
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Randy Conley, coauthor of Simple Truths of Leadership (https://simpletruthsofleadership.com).
Randy Conley is the Vice-President of Global Professional Services and Trust Practice Leader for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is a founding member of the Alliance of Trustworthy Business Experts, and INC named him a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. Randy is a contributing author of three books, including Leading at a Higher Level, with Ken Blanchard. Randy’s award-winning blog, Leading with Trust, has influenced over 4 million viewers since its inception in 2012.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
The Bible has been the most influential book (technically a collection of books) in my life. I became a Christian when I was 15 years-old and it sparked a life-long passion for reading, studying, and trying to apply what I’ve learned from Scripture.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I’ve made so many mistakes that it’s difficult to recall a specific one! A common takeaway from all my mistakes has been developing the ability to view them as “learning moments.” I’m reminded of the saying, “Success isn’t forever, and failure isn’t fatal.” Mistakes are part of life. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not trying anything new. Rather than beating myself up for mistakes, I try to take an attitude of “Well, that didn’t work out the way I thought it would. What can I learn from that experience?”
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book Simple Truths of Leadership?
Ken and I believe the answer to today’s most pressing leadership challenges is to be a trusted servant leader. The world is filled with too many self-serving leaders who think being a leader is all about accumulating more power and control. The best and most successful leaders are those who place the needs of their followers ahead of their own. Leadership is a complex topic, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. What I mean by that is it’s easy to forget the simple truths that lead to leadership success. Trusted servant leaders set a vision for their team, clarify goals, and then work alongside their people to help them perform their best. We hope our book redirects leaders back to the basic principles that drive true and lasting success.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
Simple Truth #14 in our book is, “The best use of power is in service to others.” Ken shares the story of being elected president of his seventh-grade class. He came home excited about his accomplishment, and when he shared the news with his dad, who later retired as a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, he received a valuable leadership lesson. His dad said, “Congratulations, Ken. But now that you’re president, don’t use your position. Great leaders are great not because they have power but because their people trust and respect them.” What a great lesson about how trusted servant leaders should view and use power!
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
Rather than a singular “aha moment,” Simple Truths of Leadership was a “slow boil” over the course of several years. For more than 40 years, Ken has been distilling the complex ideas of leadership into simple truths. Having worked with Ken for over 25 years, I’ve adopted a similar approach to trust. Trust is a topic that goes wide and deep, so I’ve tried to take this nebulous idea of “trust” and communicate it to others in a way that helps them build trust in their relationships in simple, practical, and powerful ways. Ken and I had talked about writing a book together for many years, combining his work on servant leadership and mine on trust. We dabbled with it here and there, but the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 afforded us the opportunity to slow down and really get clear on what we wanted to do with the book.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
A president of an organization contacted us to share how impactful Simple Truths of Leadership was to him. He felt the leadership principles we covered were exactly what he wanted he wanted to be exhibited in his organization, so he has started sharing one of the simple truths each week with his entire company. It serves as sort of a “leadership devotional” for his team for that given week as well as a point of discussion they can leverage for their own development.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Yes! First and foremost, leaders can remember that “it’s not about you” (Simple Truth #25). Too many leaders are wrapped up in their own ego, and the first step to countering toxic leadership is to realize that leadership is about serving others, not yourself. Second, people need to know that “leadership begins with trust” (Simple Truth #27). All good things in life begin with trust, and for leaders to be successful, they need to model trustworthiness and gain the trust of their followers. And third, “servant leadership is the best way to achieve both great results and great relationships” (Simple Truth #1). Too many leaders think their job is only about achieving results, and they’re willing to trample anyone, or anything, that gets in their way. The most successful leaders understand that great results are only achievable if they have great relationships with, and among, team members.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Put simply, leadership is an influence process. Anyone who is trying to influence another person is engaging in leadership. That means everyone is a leader in some aspect of their lives. Parents raising children, coaches teaching players, volunteers serving others, teachers instructing students, or supervisors managing employees — they’re all examples of people acting as leaders.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- People are messy. Anyone considering a formal leadership role needs to remember that it’s all about people and people are messy in the sense they have hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, talents, blind spots, and all the other things that make us human. People don’t leave those things at home when they come to work, and leaders must learn to manage the whole person.
- Leadership is an inside-out proposition. Most of us move into leadership positions because it’s the next step in our career progression. I’ve learned that leadership is much more about who you are than what you do. It’s critically important to be clear on why you want to be a leader.
- Leadership is about serving others, not “bossing” them around. Too many leaders let their power go to their heads and relish lording it over others. The most successful leaders have learned that their primary role is to be of service to their team and help them achieve their goals, not just boss them around to do all the dirty work.
- Integrity is your most important asset as a leader. My first job was working at a fast-food burger joint. The manager was a real hardcase and hammered me about following all the rules and procedures, yet on his break he would go in the back of the kitchen and smoke a cigarette which was against the rules. I knew at that moment I couldn’t work for a leader I couldn’t trust and respect, and if I ever became a leader, I would do my best to make sure I walked the talk.
- Take your work seriously, but yourself lightly. Work can be hard and stressful, but it can still be fun! The best leaders I’ve worked for have always taken their work seriously and done the best they are able, but they’ve also used humor to make work enjoyable. Happy people produce better work!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mine is a passage from the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11 — ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”’ I grew up with a single mom and we struggled financially. There were times we were on welfare, and I was always one of the kids at school who qualified for free lunches. I didn’t have much hope for the future, but God provided purpose and direction in my life and has given me hope and a future.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
From a leadership perspective, I would like to hang out with Mike Krzyzewski. As the all-time winningest coach in college basketball history, I’d like to pick his brain about leadership and trust. From a writing perspective, I think it would be interesting to share a meal with Stephen King or John Grisham. I enjoy reading their novels and it would be fascinating to learn how they come up with creative ideas and their process for writing.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can stay in touch with me via the following sources:
- Twitter: @RandyConley
- Linked-In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/randy-conley/
- Blog: https://leadingwithtrust.com
- Book: https://simpletruthsofleadership.com
- Web: https://kenblanchard.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Randy Conley of ‘Simple Truths of Leadership’ Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.