Leadership with Les Donahue

Recently, I had a very moving and insightful conversation with Les Donahue, former CEO of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital in Atlanta, GA. We discussed what it took for leaders to be successful. Les provided insights from his experiences as a CEO that might surprise you. While leadership is difficult to grasp and defined in many ways, Donahue looked through a wider lens at leadership. It begins with one’s self. “Not so much as how to be a leader, but how you have grown as a person in all dimensions of our lives. Our DNA, life experiences, family culture, psychological makeup, spirituality, friendships, etc. coupled with our own personal desire to reflect and grow, and the choices we make create the person we bring to professional and personal relationships.” He goes on to explain your experiences, title or position does not determine if you are a leader, but rather how others view you as a person, not only what is in your head but more importantly how do your behaviors reflect what is also in your heart. How we grow in our “whole lives” will often form how successful we are as a leader and if we are worthy of following. To illustrate this point here are 9 eye-opening leadership insights from Tony Robbins that mirror what Les Donahue and I discussed that will change your outlook on success:

Giving is the beginning of impact. You have to start beyond scarcity. Tony mentions that when you start giving away something from the start, it will grow upon you whether or not you have money. He tells an impactful story of his saying he would pay for college education without knowing how he would be able to.
The secret to living is giving. No matter how much money they have, giving it away is what gives many successful entrepreneurs joy. Tony mentions a story of frustration and where he pulls over to the side of the road and writes, “the secret to living is giving” on his notebook.
Your closest family members, no matter how successful, can be highly influential. Tony talks about his mother, who was a drug addict and made him the psychologist he is today. He talks about how he was constantly faced with the challenge of looking after his younger siblings.
Hunger is the precursor to success. Being intelligent is extremely important, but being hungry allows you to acquire the intelligence that someone had been born with.
Mentors are the gateway to experiences. According to Tony, trial and error allows you to take lessons learned from people with years of experience and be sure that you won’t repeat their mistakes. That’s why Tony loves books. Readers can consume 10 years of someone’s life in just a few hours, and prevent the hundreds of mistakes that they may have made otherwise.
Add more value to others. It may seem counterintuitive, but by giving more value to others in multiple forms, you are in turn taking that value and developing economics behind it for scale. If you are delivering $1 million of value, why would someone worry about paying you $200,000 for it?
Challenge makes success worthwhile. When we are building a startup, or trying to chase our dreams, we are continually tossed about and impacted by a multitude of different opportunities and obstacles. The things we work the hardest for are what we value the most. There is no such thing as effortless success.
Differences in relationships are blessings, not curses. When we are with the person we love, we are immediately transformed into a better, more vibrant person. However, certain reactions from our significant other may shock us. Tony describes an instance when he received a $250,000 bonus, and his wife didn’t think anything of it. Being grateful for someone who doesn’t operate in the same way as you is incredibly important for building a successful career.
Intent trumps all. Many times when someone disagrees with us, we feel upset and discouraged. But going back to intent can take an argument and turn it into a blessing. Tony says that you can either be right or in love. You choose which one.