BeALifter Leadership Interview Series: Sharing Leadership Lessons with Bruce Waller…
10 Questions from Leaders that make a difference!
Jim Rohn once said, “Your success in the next 5 years will be determined by the books you read and the people you meet.”
This is a testimony to my personal leadership growth over the past 20 years. I continue to learn each day by connecting with some of the most talented people in business. In this series, I want to add value to your leadership growth by introducing you to leaders that make impact as they share challenges, successes, and perspectives on their journey as a business leader or in their personal life. So let’s get started…
Today, we are going to hear from Lee J. Colan, co-founder of The L Group. I was honored to hear Lee speak earlier this year at the North Texas Relocation Professionals. Lee has authored 13 popular books that have been translated into 10 languages and has been nominated for Top Management Thinker globally by Thinkers50!
I really enjoyed some of the leadership lessons below and think you will too…
Now, let’s hear from Lee…
1. Where did you grow up?
I was born on Long Island, New York. When I was 7 years old, we moved to the southern tip of Long Island also known as Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
2. How did you get started in business/career?
I attended a very applied doctoral program in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at George Washington University. I had the chance to work for large consulting firms and participate in cutting edge research for the Army during my graduate studies. Not that I really knew what I was doing at that young age, but it got me started, and I gradually wove my patchwork career into my own business in 1999.
3. Do you remember a challenge or life lesson that you had to overcome early in your career which made you a better leader?
In my first executive role, I struggled with having necessary tough discussion with employees. As a result, they did not go smoothly, and although I was liked, my leadership credibility was taking a hit.
Once I reframed in my mind that it was my job to help my employees not only become better employees, but more importantly, to become better people (i.e., to grow professionally and personal), it was easier for me to have those discussions and they were more effective. I think they could feel that in my heart, I wanted them to succeed, and they responded accordingly (with more respect and commitment).
4. What was that moment when you knew that you had found your lane, your purpose?
In 1999, before I started my own business, I asked myself, “Who am I?” My answer was “a helper”. I realized that I did not need to go into social work to be a helper. I could use my God-given gifts and education to serve other anyway I could. Years earlier, a mentor of mine, Denis Simon told me that his work was his ministry, and that resonated with me. So, I decided if I fully aligned what I did with who I was, I would never work a day in my life. That was and continues to be a blessing.
5. What is your most favorite achievement in your current role?
I enjoy helping clients improve their business, but I LOVE helping clients improve their lives.
On a more concrete note, it was rewarding to help my three kids get their first book published titled “Please Listen Up, Parents: 12 Secrets YOUR Kids Want YOU to Know”. It was even more rewarding to hear the life changing testimonials from readers.
6. Is there any one person that inspired or mentored you along the way?
A very wise graduate school professor, James Mosel, told me, “The key to success is not to know everything. The real key is being able to plug up your ignorance within 24 hours.”
Initially, I responded with a chuckle since this advice came from someone who spoke 14 languages fluently, was a black belt martial artist and a competitive racecar driver, in addition to being a college professor! However, once I let these words marinate in my mind, I appreciated how poignant and practical they were. It became a defining moment for me. I gained a quick and heightened appreciation of the value of being resourceful. As a result, I honed my ability to quickly access people and information, so I could confidently address any challenge. This advice was liberating in that I did not feel like I had to be the expert at everything… or anything for that matter. It inspired me to build a strong professional network of experts and other resources. Now, in today’s hyper-speed, mega-wired world, the standard for “plugging up your ignorance within 24 hours” has been cut to 4 hours… or less!
7. Do you have a saying or mantra that you live by?
As a youngster, I always thought Rose Colan, my mother, originated the phrase, “This too shall pass,” since she used it so frequently. Since then, I have learned that this saying appears in the works of Persian poets and in Jewish folklore from King Solomon … quite a few years before I heard my mom say it. The context is from a fable of a powerful king who asks wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad, and vice versa. After deliberation the sages handed him a simple ring with the words “This too shall pass” etched on it, which has the desired effect. When you are on top of the world, that is but a fleeting moment – things change. Always remember, this too shall pass. When you are in the pits, at your lowest moments, remember also, all nights are followed by day – this too shall pass. External circumstances and material things change. I tell our clients, “No trend goes on forever” (my version of this ancient saying). Although running an excellent business or leading a high-performing team certainly has an important emotional component, excellent leaders keep an even keeled perspective. This balanced perspective prevents complacency in good times and despair in bad times. It also keeps us hopeful and humble, appreciating how circumstances can quickly change. Taking these words to heart will keep your team’s edge sharp and their performance peaked.
So, no matter what my circumstances, I always remember, THIS TOO SHALL PASS!
8. What book are you reading or audio to help grow your leadership right now?
Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute
I believe that the greatest knowledge is self-knowledge which gets to the core of this book.
9. Can you share any of your daily disciplines that help you stay focused as a leader?
I have quite a few disciplines, but only a few of them I do daily:
- I read the Bible or a devotional (nearly) every morning.
- I pray for strength, wisdom and opportunities to serve. I praise God for all my blessings and for being alive.
- Before I wrap up my day, I review my calendar for the next day, prepare all needed documents and confirm appointments for the next day.
- I end my day in reflection and prayer.
10. What advice would you give others to help them on their leadership journey?
- Keep on learning. Leaders are learners, and learners are earners.
- Keep on serving. True leaders are servants, and servants rule.
- Stay humble and hopeful, because whether you are at the peak or in the valley, this too shall pass.
Very Inspiring, Lee! Thank YOU for sharing your wisdom and leadership perspectives with us. I was definitely lifted and encouraged by everything you shared from self-reflection to the mantra “No trend goes on forever“. Mentors are key for growth. We always need to be evaluating where we are today, and keep an even keeled perspective because “this too shall pass”. Keep learning, keep on serving, and stay humble… I love this! We can all be better leaders by learning from others, so feel free to share with your network too. It’s a win-win! If you would like to learn more about The L Group, check out their website www.theLgroup.com. The newsletter is a great resource!
Bruce Waller, CRP, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Vice President of Armstrong Relocation and Companies in Dallas, Texas. You can visit his BLOG “A Relocation Minute Update” with Bruce Waller at https://brucewaller.com/ for more information on employee relocation resources, call 972-389-5673, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @brucewaller on Twitter too!