Leadership Boils Down to “Don’t be an A**hole”

GUEST: Jeffrey Hayzlett, Author and CEO of The C-Suite Network


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In your business, be greater than a leader: be a hero.

It’s not profit over people that will make your business successful—it’s when you combine people and profits that you become a hero.

On a recent B2B Revenue Executive Experience podcast, I spoke with Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures. He’s also the CEO of C-Suite Network, the world’s most powerful network of C-Suite leaders. He shared his ideas about how a leader can make or break a company.

Definition of Leadership

If you’re an effective leader, you can:

  • Gather a team of people with different abilities and outlooks to work together.

  • Present a clear goal that everyone can see.

  • Inspire your team to give their best to achieve that goal.

You become their hero.

There is no I in Team

“In 1988, a man by the name of Rob Ryan sold his company for over $20 billion,” says Hayzlett. “He set aside a percentage for all the employees, making the largest number of millionaires ever created in one day. He didn’t need to do it. But employees would come up to him and say, ‘You don’t know me, but I’m the night watchman or the janitor and I can send my kids to college now, or I can pay from my mother’s operation thanks to you.’ And they would say, ‘you’re my hero.’”

Assembling Earth’s Most Heroic CEOs

At the C-Suite Network, CEOs sign a pledge that says basically, “you’re not going to be an a##hole,” says Hayzlett. That when you make it big, you’ll remember and you’ll run your business in a hero fashion, which means a hero culture.

Hero leaders put people over profit and change the way we look at how companies serve communities, customers, vendors, and the world. And by and large, most companies are heroes.

Heros Earn More Zeros

Then there are “ass(et)” companies. (Hayzlett picked that word so that it could get through the censors.) He used to call these companies much worse. He describes them as bottom-feeders like Bernie Madoff or the people who charge exorbitant prices for EpiPens.

What’s interesting is that hero companies are off the charts in terms of making more money than anyone in their categories or industries, in any index. And they also have happier customers, happier employees and happier vendors because they operate with great value.

“This is about the recognition that there’s a bigger point in this world than just you and a bigger play than just the bottom line and the top line. It’s about doing the right things for the right reasons.

Jeffrey Hayzlett,
author and ceo of c-suite network

C-Suite has hundreds of value-based organizations as members in their hero club. The first step to joining this group is to pick a side.

Pick a Side

You have to decide what you want to be. It’s tough to do the right thing all the time, but when you start practicing right from the start, it makes it easier because it becomes part of the company culture. If you have a bad culture, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much time you have, how good your product is. You can be crushed by it.

Leaders have to say: we’re going to be inclusive. We’re going to be diverse in thought, people and the way we do things. We’re going to be transparent, and we’re going to talk about the elephants in the room. Someone can raise their hand when they see a problem in a production line or elsewhere without fear of repercussions.

You constantly try to live a better life. Everyday, hero leaders ask themselves, ‘how can I make it better?’

Hayzlett recalls, “The first week of January I said to my team, ‘Are we living up to what we want to do in the C-Suite Network?’ And the team said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘You’re right. So how do we change that?’ And immediately everybody was in a better mood and coming to me with ideas, all because we got clarity around what we stand for.”

Heroes Care About The Truth

A leader has to be grounded and centered. You have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Hayzlett admits to sometimes being a very emotional guy. He shares, “I just want to punch the person who says my stuff doesn’t work right, or our company sucks.”

A leader has to take a deep breath and say, okay thank you. You have a healthy debate about it, go back and forth until you come to a realization of what may be the real truth, or what you perceive it to be.

It’s not easy to do. If it was easy, everybody would do it. But these are the kinds of leaders that Hayzlett himself would follow to the ends of the earth.

“And then sometimes it takes 72 hours for me to say, ‘No way in hell’ and I jump ship.”

The Hardest Choice

A leader can only move as slowly as the lowest common denominator.

As a former CMO, when Hayzlett’s team changed course he said, “We’ve got to make this happen. Here’s the direction we’re going. And for those of you who don’t, I will hunt you down. I will find you and ask you to leave this company. We will love you, we will miss you, but you will be gone. And I went around looking for those people.”

Hayzlett has a rule of thirds:

  • A third of the people get it right away.

  • A third will eventually get it.

  • A third never do.

Start replacing that last third as soon as possible because they are going to drive your company down.

The hero leaders know that there is no magic panacea and that creating a hero culture takes a lot of hard work.

“An idea without implementation is nothing but air. And that’s the difference between most of the people who wanted it and those who do it.

Jeffrey hayzlett
author and Ceo of c-suite network

” I think a lot of people don’t realize how freaking hard it really is.”

This post is based on an interview with Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures and CEO of the C-Suite Network. To hear this episode, and many more like it, subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.

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