John Spence on life and leadership

A month or so ago, John Spence caught up with me on twitter. He offered to send a copy of his book “Awesomely Simple.” I’m glad I accepted. I found his book very useful. I thought you would enjoy learning from John so I asked him some questions. Here is the first half of our exchange.

Leadership Freak:

John, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with the Leadership Freak community. Let’s jump right in. I’m interested in you as a person. What key events made you who you are today?

John:

Being named the CEO of an international Rockefeller foundation at the age of 26. I realized quickly that I was in over my head and learned the value of mentors, asking for help, reading, and surrounding myself with the brightest, most talented and high integrity people I could possibly find. That experience was a turning point in my life and my career.

Leadership Freak:

Thanks John. I’m glad to hear you say you felt “in over your head.” Every leader faces these feelings, if they don’t they aren’t leading. I hear you saying one aspect of forward movement is realizing you can’t go forward alone. Great advice.

Speaking of being in over your head, if you could do something over, what would it be and why?

John:

I have made many mistakes and errors in my life, but I would not change many of them because of the incredibly wonderful lessons I’ve learned from them. I guess if I were to have to change one thing, it would be that I would have taken much better care of my health when I was young, as I am paying the price for years of football, rugby and karate as I enter my 50s – and now realize how vital good health truly is.

Leadership Freak:

I appreciate your candor. I couldn’t agree more about the value of our errors. In many cases, if we work through them, our mistakes make us.

Speaking of health, it’s nearly impossible to break the perceived invincibility of youth. I think that makes your response to early success all the more remarkable. Many young leaders may not have sought help.

I’d like to focus on leadership qualities for a minute. What are the top three qualities  every leader should have?

John:

This is a very challenging question, as I believe there are many qualities and skills needed to be an effective leader, but if you force me down to just three my list would be:

Character: first and foremost every leader must… (continued tomorrow)

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I’ve already exceeded my word limit so I’ll post the rest of John’s response tomorrow.

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I’m asking the Leadership Freak community the same question I asked John. What top three leadership qualities should every leader have? Let’s share our thoughts today and then tune in tomorrow to compare responses with John.