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Learning to Become a Leader in Business

Learning to Become a Leader in Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Ryan Hawk
Podcast Transcript

Ryan Hawk headshotToday on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with speaker, author, podcaster, and leadership expert Ryan Hawk.

Hawk’s background is in athletics; he played college football and went on to play arena football professionally before transitioning into the world of sales.

When he reached a crossroads in his career and was considering a return to school to get a second masters, he happened to cross paths with Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban’s business partner.

In speaking with Wagner, Hawk realized he’d rather go straight to the source and learn about success and excellence by speaking directly with those who have done amazing things, and that’s what inspired him to start his own school which has become the Learning Leader Show, his podcast. From there, he’s branched out into writing and keynote speaking and now does this full-time.

He stops by the podcast to talk about his book, Welcome to Management: How to Grow from Top Performer to Excellent Leader. Hawk wants to help people who are going through the transition from great employee to inspiring business leader.

Questions I ask Ryan Hawk:

  • Give us your backstory—how did you get here?
  • Some people believe great leaders are born; do you think that’s true, or can leadership be taught?
  • Have cultural changes caused a fundamental shift in the way we approach leadership?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why being a great manager has nothing to do with being great at your previous role.
  • Why some managers need to un-learn before they can begin to learn.
  • How teaching someone to manage can help you become a better manager yourself.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Ryan Hawk:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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Transcript of Learning to Become a Leader

Transcript of Learning to Become a Leader written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Zephyr CMS. It’s a modern cloud based CMS system that’s licensed only to agencies. You can find them at, more about this later in the show.

John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Ryan Hawk. He is a keynote speaker, author, advisor, and the host of his own podcast, The Learning Leader Show. We’re going to talk about his new book called Welcome to Management: How to Grow From Top Performer to Excellent Leader. So, Ryan, thanks for joining me!

Ryan Hawk: John, it’s great to have you, and I have to say at the top, before we even get into it… I’m not trying to hijack your show, but you gave me one of the most thoughtful gifts ever, a significant sum of money to Donors Choose, and because of you, I got to sit down with my daughters and choose incredible classrooms to donate that money to because of the very thoughtful gift. And all I did to earn that was just simply be a referral source for a speaking gig. And so, I thought you went…

Ryan Hawk: I still remember, it was probably over a year ago now, but above and beyond, gift-giving wise, and certainly created a cool experience for me with my family. So, I’m very appreciative of that, man.

John Jantsch: Well, and I’ll just take the opportunity to let other people know. You made a tremendous referral to me that was very valuable in terms of revenue and connection, and all that kind of good stuff; you had the trust to do that. But also, it took me five minutes of research to realize that that was going to be a gift that touched your heart because of the things that you’re into, and I think, I’m not patting myself on the back, I’m just saying, a lesson for people trying to create better experiences. It’s so easy to find out what people are into today and personalize things, and shame on us if we don’t do that.

Ryan Hawk: It was a fantastic, fantastic gift. Very thoughtful, so I’m very appreciative and have… The cool thing, too, is it has a ripple effect because not only does it impact the people that we donated the money to, but also it gave me the idea to give that gift to others who have similar values, and so more people have received that gift because I didn’t even think of it as an idea until I received it. So, thank you, man.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and I actually like to support that organization, and what I love to do is go find teachers that are requesting specific books that I think are awesome, that maybe…

Ryan Hawk: Oh.

John Jantsch: Like For Whom The Caged Bird Sings or something like that for a classroom, and it kind of lets you support… even though that author’s not alive anymore, it really kind of lets you support the work, as well. I kind of have fun doing that.

Ryan Hawk: I love it, love it.

John Jantsch: All right, we’d better get into this topic here. A lot of times when I have people on my show, it’s like, “Here’s your new book!”, and everybody’s like, that’s the starting point of Ryan Hawk is his new book, right? How did you get here? Give us a little backstory.

Ryan Hawk: How much time do we have, man? No, I think that… My background, John, has been in athletics my whole life. And so, when it comes to leadership, I learned to lead as a quarterback of a football, and the point guard of a basketball team, and I pitched and played shortstop on a baseball team. Was fortunate to earn a scholarship to play in college, I played quarterback in college initially at Miami University; ended up trying extremely hard to be the starting quarterback but getting narrowly beat out… I say narrowly, but it probably wasn’t, beat out by another pretty good quarterback named Ben Roethlisberger, who later went on to, or is still doing it now, Superbowl MVP two-time winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ryan Hawk: And so, I transferred and finished my collegiate playing career at Ohio University, graduated and then played in the arena football league professionally for a few years, before then making my way into the profession of selling, and I worked with a great go called Lexus Nexus with fantastic training, and I learned and grew and was able to then do well enough to get the opportunity to get promoted into a management role, then a director role and then ultimately, I was a vice president of North American sales for that company before I elected to leave. And the reason I left is midway through my career there, I had earned my MBA, I was considering going back to school again because our company gave us tuition reimbursement…

Ryan Hawk: And as I was looking at another graduate degree, I was very fortunate to have a dinner set up with a guy by the name of Todd Wagner. Todd Wagner is Mark Cuban’s business partner, and Todd, I got to dinner a little early and so did Todd, and we sat down one-on-one before anyone else got there, and I was peppering him with all of these questions about building, which is what he built with his business partner, Mark Cuban, until the final moment where he’s sitting across from the leaders at Yahoo!, and this is back when Yahoo! was like Google is now. Sitting across the leaders from Yahoo!, and he says, “Look, you’re going to either buy us or you’re going to have to compete with us. You decide,” and they walked away with 5.7 billion dollars.

Ryan Hawk: And I was just blown away by the intricacies of his story, and deconstruction of success and excellence; I was fascinated by it, and I thought, “I would much rather go directly to the sources of that knowledge, people who live the lives of that, as opposed to going back to school.” And so, I elected to create my own school, and that school now became known as The Learning Leader Show, which is my podcast. And now, five years later, 350 episodes, amazing opportunities come to you when you follow your curiosity and obsessions with great rigor. And I think that’s a big part of my story, that that’s where books come from, and keynote speaking, and I was able to leave corporate America two years ago, more than two years ago now, to do this full-time podcast, speak, consult, write books.

Ryan Hawk: And it’s pretty cool. It’s a pretty cool opportunity that I feel very fortunate to get to live in this manner.

John Jantsch: So, let’s talk specifically about the new book. The title, and even subtitle, suggests that this is for somebody for whom a management role might be new, or that might be an aspiration. Would that be an accurate statement?

Ryan Hawk: It is, John. I’ll tell you the reason I wrote it, and the title actually came… I would imagine it’s probably a mutual friend of ours, I had a number of early readers who were podcast guests of mine, and one of them was Liz Weissman, the author of Rookie Smarts and Multipliers, two incredible books, and she runs a fascinating, really helpful company out west. And Liz… because it was going to be, like, The Learning Leader, or Learn to Lead, or along those lines, and Liz says, “The title of this book is Welcome to Management, and here’s why,” and we walked through it.

Ryan Hawk: And the reason is the focus of the book is the time in my career when I went from individual contributor to manager for the first time. The purpose of the book is to help people who are going through that, or who will be going through that, to make far fewer mistakes than I did. And so, it’s a combination of stories and science from my life as well as the lives of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to interview for my show, and I combined all of that together, and fortunately, when I wrote the proposal, the great people at McGraw-Hill decided they wanted to buy it and publish it. So, that’s where we’re at now.

John Jantsch: So, I’ll stick with, because of your background in sports, I’ll stick with a pretty common sports analogy. The managers of particularly baseball teams are rarely the star center-fielder shortstop. They’re always the catcher.

Ryan Hawk: Right. Or the backup quarterback, yeah.

John Jantsch: Or the backup quarterback, right, yeah. So, is there a message in that?

Ryan Hawk: Well, actually, I would say… and that’s a great point. I would say the great ones seem to have that makeup, John, of the catcher or the backup quarterback, right? Because they had to grind so hard just to survive that they needed to understand the game at a deep level, and because of that, they were able to teach it to other people, whereas the star player, it’s a little bit more, in some cases, natural or intuitive, and they’re not as good at explaining it. I’ve had math teachers like that, that they were gifted and intelligent when it comes to doing the math problem, but they couldn’t explain it very well.

Ryan Hawk: What the issue is in my profession I grew up in and in the profession of selling is, typically when there’s a management opening, the leadership teams look at the top of the sales stack rankings and they say, “Those top three or four people, we’re going to interview them for the job,” and then just hire one of those people. And that’s exactly how I got the job.

Ryan Hawk: And unfortunately, what it takes to be great at a role of leading and serving other people has almost nothing to do of what it takes to be great as an individual contributor in the role. There’s a little bit, but not much. And so, that’s why I wrote about the mistakes and the learnings that I made myself in that role, that I just wasn’t prepared, I didn’t have a clue of what it took to lead a team of people when it came to the business world, and I had a lot to learn.

Ryan Hawk: And so, my hope is that people can read this work that I’ve put a lot of effort into, and not make the same mistakes that I made. They can learn from the mistakes of other people, and I think we call that wisdom. That’s my hope is what happens with this book.

John Jantsch: Well, I think I know how you’re going to answer this, but a lot of people would suggest that leaders are kind of born, that there’s certain makeup, certain mentality, certain level of patience, that not everybody has. But I’m guessing you are going to suggest that, while there may be people that are more suited naturally, anybody can learn this.

Ryan Hawk: What do you think? Not like, what do you think I think? I’m curious, what do you think?

John Jantsch: I think anybody can learn anything they’re willing to learn.

Ryan Hawk: Including leadership?

John Jantsch: Well, I think there are experiences in leadership that probably teach you a lot of things, but I think your own sort of self-evaluation and awareness is what you’ve got to learn first.

Ryan Hawk: Yeah. I think, much like many areas of life, the answer is not black and white. I mean, the world in general, I don’t love the thought of having to pick one or the other in anything. In anything, including politics. I just don’t identify that way.

Ryan Hawk: And I think when it comes to leadership, certainly there are inborn, innate traits you’re born that could help you, but when it comes to, do we all have the capacity or the ability to learn and grow and improve, and lead in our way within our personality? Absolutely!

Ryan Hawk: I’ve been fortunate to speak with people on all ranges of personality traits and assessments that you could go through, on all of them ranging from one end to the other end, and yet, they’ve all had that one thing in common is, they have found a way to sustain excellence. So, yes, I certainly believe it is a learned skill if you desire and if you want to do it.

Ryan Hawk: But, yeah, there may be bits and pieces, when it comes to I think there are some people who have… Like Jocko Willink told me, he’s like, “Well, you didn’t get to choose to have the voice, literally the sound of your voice…” Sometimes in the military, in his case, as a Navy SEAL, that is helpful. That’s not everything; that doesn’t make you a leader. But it is helpful to have a voice like Jocko’s to lead as Navy SEALs.

Ryan Hawk: So, there are little things that certainly can help you, or that make it harder for you, but for the most part, yes, it’s a learned skill.

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John Jantsch: Let’s talk about, a lot of people, especially since you are suggesting Welcome to Management, a lot of people, their only guide has been how they’ve been managed.

Ryan Hawk: Yeah.

John Jantsch: So, do you find that sometimes that there’s sort of a need to un-learn?

Ryan Hawk: Well, when I was a rep and a new manager, I had a great mentor, and he was a senior VP of our group; his name’s Rex Caswell, and Rex said, “I want you to keep a notebook. On the left side, write all the great things that your manager does that helps you, that inspires you, that makes you perform on a high level. And on the other side, write all the bad things. Because someday, you’re going to become a manager, and I want you to not do the bad things, and only do the good things.”

Ryan Hawk: And as you can imagine, I still… growing up in that age, I didn’t have any terrible bosses, but that right side was still far bigger than the left side. And so, I think the problem, even something like an example of how you run a meeting, or how meetings are done, there’s a lot of bad things out there about meetings. You just follow what your manager does, for the most part, because you don’t know any different. You don’t know any better. And that happens in across all aspects of management, and leadership is… especially if you’re like me, you don’t really have any other experiences so you just follow what the person before you did.

Ryan Hawk: And unfortunately, that can be bad. And that is why it’s so impactful and why I chose to focus on this specific area for my first book, is because you have so much… and I mean this in a good way, but you have so much power, and I want people to use that power and influence for good because if you do all of these, if you understand how to do all of this part of the job well, think of the impact you’re going to have on people because the people that report to you, they’re going to follow you. They’re going to act like you act, and so, you are creating more leaders, more managers in the world, as a good one, so let’s use that power and influence for good. And that’s my hope with this.

John Jantsch: Do you think, even over the last few years, cultural changes… companies seem to be not quite as hierarchal, generational changes… Have those things, those dynamics, brought kind of new attention to this type of manager as a top performer, perhaps, or as a leader? And again, I suspect every generation says the same thing. “Oh,” you know, “This next generation coming up has to be managed differently.” Is that just the human condition, or are we living in a time where the change is more dramatic?

Ryan Hawk: I think there is a lot more awareness and knowledge when it comes to this. There’s so much written about all of this, so I do think there is more out there about it. The problem…

Ryan Hawk: So, I did some informal research as I was writing this book, John, and I spoke with… I work with leadership teams in companies of all shapes and sizes, from the Salesforce.coms to small businesses here in Ohio where I live, and all over the world. And the one question I asked anyone who was in a leadership role was, “Tell me exactly and specifically the process of your training when you got your first promotion. What was it? What did you do? Remind me.”

Ryan Hawk: And I was blown away because the overwhelming majority, and these are even some that are at world-class companies that you read about, the overwhelming majority was extremely underwhelming, meaning there may have been a half-day boot camp, or a binder, or like, “Hey, go to this virtual meeting.” And some actually had nothing. So, that tells me…

Ryan Hawk: And some of these were years ago, so I would imagine some of these companies have gotten better, but for the most part, I was amazed at the lack of training and preparation for people as they make what I think is the biggest leap in their career.

John Jantsch: You, and hopefully I’ve set this up enough, I mean, you present a framework for how to do this. Is there a way for you to briefly describe to people what a framework for being an excellent leader looks like?

Ryan Hawk: Well, one of the frameworks I think, when it comes to behaviors on a daily basis, that I illustrate and I think that I’ve built for myself based on learning from so many other incredible leaders on my show, one is just to have a mindset of, “How am I going to behave on a daily basis?”

Ryan Hawk: So, for me, and I call this… what Charlie Munger might say, of how you build your learning machine. It’s really four parts. The four parts every day when it comes to, I think good, good leadership, as far as how you disperse information. So, starting with…

Ryan Hawk: I think we all need to be consumers on a regular basis. You need to create an intake engine of information, of knowledge. So, read books, listen to podcasts, watch TED Talks, have one-on-one conversations with mentors. Do that on a regular basis.

Ryan Hawk: Two, you can’t just be a learner. You also need to be a doer. Experiment. Put some of your learnings into action, actually put them into play, see what happens. Have an experimental mindset. Third, we must take time to step back and reflect on what we’re learning and what we’re experimenting, what we’re doing. Whether it’s, for example, a new way to do a one-on-one with a person, or a new way to run a meeting, right? Let’s take time to reflect and analyze on how we’ve done, why it worked, why it didn’t, and what we’re going to do moving forward.

Ryan Hawk: And then fourth, the best leaders that I’ve found in my life were fantastic teachers, and the reason why teachers I think develop so much knowledge and wisdom is because the process of preparing to teach somebody is the essence of learning. What you’re forced to get… just like you know; you’ve written six books, right? When you’re forced to write it down with the thought of teaching it or sharing it with somebody else, that’s when all of the learning happens. So, I think regularly putting yourself in positions to be a teacher, whether it’s in written form or speaking or both, is really helpful. When you see these incredibly smart professors or keynote speakers who’ve been doing it for a while, they really know their stuff. Why? Because they’ve regularly got clarity of thought.

Ryan Hawk: They’ve regularly sat down to think about, “What do I think? What do I believe? I have to add value to the lives of the people I’m getting ready to teach. I need to know my stuff!” Right? And so, that takes a lot of time and effort to put that together, and I think that four-part process, for me, has been extremely helpful as I’ve implemented it over the years.

John Jantsch: Do you have a personal kind of… whether it’s morning or evening, routine to kind of get your head right, and before you go out there and do whatever it is you’re going to do? Do you have kind of a practice or ritual?

Ryan Hawk: I have to be a morning guy. I know morning routines are spoken about far too much now, but I think for me, that is a big deal because… married, we’re raising five daughters; I need time to myself to prepare for the day, and so that usually happens before everybody wakes up. So, I am a big morning routine guy when it comes to writing, reading, getting my mind going, stretching my body, moving my body. A big morning workout guy. It gets me in the mode to do work, to create the stuff that I create, or to prepare for a podcast or a speech.

Ryan Hawk: So, I do a lot of that hard work early in the morning before my family wakes up, and then to get them off to school, and then it’s time to get to work for that day. So, as trite as it sounds and as overused as this is nowadays, for me, though, that’s a big deal. And so, I have created a ritual around what I do first thing when I wake up, and it’s been very helpful for me in order to get the rest of the day going.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I actually… kind of the same thing. When my kids were small, I started that ritual, and I’ve just never given it up.

Ryan Hawk: Really?

John Jantsch: Now, they’re off grown, and…

Ryan Hawk: What do you do?

John Jantsch: Well, I get up about five o’clock, and meditation’s one of the first things I do, and then I read, and then I journal, and I exercise just about every day.

Ryan Hawk: Wow! Do you use a guided meditation app, or…

John Jantsch: I’ve been a big fan of Deepak Chopra for a long time, and he does have a guided meditation app that has… something new shows up in it every single day.

Ryan Hawk: Wow! Nice! Nice.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And I don’t want to turn this into a commercial for me, but my most current book, recent book, is actually a daily meditation guide, so to speak, almost. But written in the context of entrepreneurs. So, I kind of wrote the book that I wanted to have with me every morning.

Ryan Hawk: Love it! I love it, man. Yeah, that’s good stuff.

John Jantsch: One last question I want to… Culture’s a really hot kind of almost buzzword these days in business. A lot of what you are writing about seems to really be the essence of culture in an organization, isn’t it?

Ryan Hawk: It is. I think there are really two different types of cultures. There are more, but I’ll talk about two of them. And I’ve worked in both. And the saying that I really believe in is that compliance can be commanded, commitment cannot.

Ryan Hawk: And I want to work with leaders, I want to help leaders build committed organizations, committed teams. And so, that takes the leader acting in a manner in which somebody wants to follow, right? We all can picture right now, if you pause for a second and think about that boss or coach or leader that you were so committed to, you loved following that person; he or she was fantastic at helping you see kind of the vision, and helping you add your part in order to achieve whatever that mission or goal is.

Ryan Hawk: And so, for me I think that’s why my book starts with leading yourself, and that’s the first section because you can’t really build a committed organization, a committed culture until you take the time to lead yourself first, and then you can build that and continuously lead it. So, really, it’s packed full of kind of the actions, the thoughts, the behaviors, the commonalities among leaders who have built sustainable, excellent businesses, cultures, teams to say, “Okay, let me learn from them to say, what could I, again, test, implement into my world to see what works best for me.”

Ryan Hawk: That’s the whole purpose of doing it. And then, obviously, it gets tactical as well because there are some tactical aspects of the job that I just wasn’t aware of when I got promoted, that I’m hopeful to help with, too.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and I’m sure you’ve interviewed a lot of folks on your show, and probably a resounding message comes out that it has to be intentional, that you have to practice it, that you have to keep it top-of-mind because it’s really easy to slip into bad habits. And so, good leadership habits are something you practice, aren’t they?

Ryan Hawk: 100%, yeah. I mean, it’s really… We have a phrase, “You’ve never arrived. You’re always becoming.” It’s just an iterative process that is always taking place, and I think the people who really… the comparison game is really just comparing yourself versus your previous self, and that’s hard, but I think a very valuable way to view leadership, to view life in general, is to be in a constant comparison with your previous self to say, “Am I getting better? Am I growing?” And that’s been a big, big mindset shift for me that’s been helpful.

John Jantsch: So, I’m visiting with Ryan Hawk, author of Welcome to Management. Depending upon when you’re listening to this, the book is available January 28th. You want to tell people where they can find out more about you, Ryan, and your work?

Ryan Hawk: Absolutely! If you’re listening on your phone and you don’t want to go to a mobile website, you can text the word “learners”, L-E-A-R-N-E-R-S, “learners” to 44222. So, text “learners” at 44222, or if you want to see just about everything that I do, you can just go to and all of my podcasts, books, everything I do is at

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, Ryan, thanks for stopping by, and hopefully next time I’m in Ohio, we can connect up in real life.

Ryan Hawk: I’d love it, man! Thank you so much, John.