What is your background briefly?
I entered the U.S. Army at age 17 (weighing 114 pounds), and spent six years in Special Forces as a medic and “A” team executive officer, and three years as a military intelligence officer. I am the founder of Self-Reliant Leadership, LLC, leads Crucible expeditions with executives and transitioning special operations veterans, and the author of “The Littlest Green Beret: On Self-Reliant Leadership.” I also the co-host of The Leadership Podcast. As a senior instructor at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, I teach leadership to MBA and Doctor of Nursing Practice students in the U.S. and Ireland.
Looking back was it a logical progression to what you do now?
In some ways, I do the same work I have always done. I was trained to be a trainer and to bring out the best in people. That is, to become a force multiplier – a developer of leaders. I always sought out leadership roles, and I consider myself a student of leadership to this day.
— TheLeadershipPodcast (@westudyleaders) December 10, 2016
How would you describe what you do now?
I am the author of The Littlest Green Beret: On Self-Reliant Leadership, founder of Self-Reliant Leadership, LLC, and creator of the Self-Reliant Leadership methodology. I work with leaders and teams to help them understand and apply the principles of Self-Reliant Leadership to drive positive change and produce meaningful and sustainable results. I deliver transformative keynote presentations, workshops, executive coaching, and wilderness expeditions designed to move individuals, teams, and organizations from compliant to committed, and from excellent to extraordinary.
In short, “I WORK WITH LEADERS WHO HAVE HEROIC ASPIRATIONS, AND BELIEVE THE BEST WAY TO GROW AN ORGANIZATION IS BY DEVELOPING THEIR PEOPLE.”
How quickly can people implement a positive culture in their working place?
I think you’re actually asking about the recipe for accelerating team success…
There may actually be a “terminal velocity” for team development, because human relationships require an investment of time, but I summarize it this way:
• Select Audacious people who are Adventurous, Aspirational, and Selfless.
• Set expectations that the team will operate at an extremely high standard.
• People support what they help create, so work together to create goals that resemble a journey the team is taking with a Point of No Return that requires a deep commitment comprised of personal discipline and sacrifice.
Why do you think some people are not such great leaders?
In one word… they’re not curious. If they’re curious, they’ll ask great questions because they care. When they care, they’ll listen. When they listen, they’ll understand. When they understand, they’ll know what motivate people. When they realize it’s not about them, and that their job is to create commitment versus compliance, they’re well on their way to effective leadership.
Your podcast is great, how do you decide who to have on it, and has it made you reflect on your own thoughts on what makes a good leader?
Thank you! Our tagline is, “We Study Leaders.” We look for thought leaders and actual leaders we find interesting. We then ask questions to determine how they lead (versus manage) through adversity, and what they would like to pass on. So far, what most of our guest have in common is thirst for knowledge, they’re readers, and they have a genuine, self-deprecating sense of humor.
How was 2016, what were you big wins? Anything you would have done differently?
It truly was the best year ever in every respect. On the work side of things, Self-Reliant Leadership has been running Crucible expeditions for a few years now with the primary goal of assisting Special Operations veterans with their transition to the business world. With a recent international expedition to Patagonia, Argentina & Chile, we expanded our goal to include figuring out the recipe for accelerating team development. Based on our work, we know that most teams struggle with some degree of dysfunction, and our aim was to prove the hypothesis that a team can gel extremely quickly if the right “recipe” is applied. We found that selection for audacious people, the expectation of adaptability, and relentless positivity and big, tough goals were the keys (or the “recipe”)
— Jan Rutherford (@JanRutherford) November 19, 2016
Startup Island, Spike Island, what did you get out of it, and what do you feel the startups learned from it?
Actually – I saw the same thing on Spike Island I saw on the glacier in Patagonia. Audacious, Adaptable, Positive entrepreneurs with truly aspirational goals and a desire to make a difference in the world – in the service of others. Pretty cool experience – and honored to have been a part of it.
What’s next for you? And when will you next be back in Ireland?
I am always in Ireland in May with MBA students from the University of Colorado. We place them in start-up companies where they do “real work.” As for 2017 – looks to be a busy year as I split my time between Denver, Colorado and Portland, Oregon – with occasional trips to Phoenix, Arizona. It’s not too bad of a “triangle!” Also – we have three U.S.-based expeditions planned for 2017, and the New Zealand in 2018, and somewhere in Africa in 2019. I am very grateful I “get” to do the work I do, and always honored to work with exceptional leaders and their teams. It really is a privilege to help leaders and teams become more effective so they can execute their mission and fulfill their vision – all while staying true to the values upon which they were founded.
Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?
No matter what I do for the rest of my life, nothing compares to raising kids. That is what I am most proud of, because they’re both leaders in their own right. We have a duty – yes a solemn duty – to pass on what we learned to the next generation – whether they’re your own children or not. And I believe this with all my heart – we’re in better shape with today’s up-and-coming leaders than any previous generation. They get that the speed today is the new normal, and I think they’ll be the ones who leverage technology to slow down so we can accelerate our transcendent growth.