Martin Moore Transcript

Martin Moore is the author of the upcoming book, No Bullsh!t Leadership, and the host of the podcast with the same name which has been downloaded more than 1.4 million times and has listeners in over 70 countries. He is also the former CEO of CS Energy and he currently runs Your CEO Mentor with his daughter, Emma.

Martin wrote his book because there are so many books out on the market that teach desirable attributes that leaders should have, but he didn’t find anything out there that shows leaders how to actually implement these ideas. He wanted to create a practical guide that would help leaders figure out how to be more transparent, how to be expert communicators, how to deal with conflict, etc…

As Martin has witnessed personally there are a lot of leaders out there who attend training programs and they come back motivated and inspired by all of the things they have learned, but when they get back to work nothing has actually changed. So they think they are doing better because of the new knowledge they have, but actually they don’t know how to carry it out so it doesn’t help anyone. 

Business acumen vs leadership skills

One thing Martin discusses in his book is the difference between business acumen and leadership skills. A lot of leaders aren’t good in both of these areas, they are good at one or the other. Business acumen is about knowing what to do in the context of business–so this includes understanding strategy, being a good negotiator, knowing about finance, economics, marketing, operations, etc…

A lot of times people who have business acumen get promoted to leadership roles, and they are very smart people, but they don’t have the leadership skills needed to be effective. People who only have business acumen can be absolutely terrible leaders. 

Leadership skills include being able to deal with conflict, being able to motivate and inspire people, being an excellent communicator, being able to clearly share the vision of the company, etc…

Ideally people in leadership roles have both business acumen and leadership skills, however if forced to choose between the two Martin says it’s better to have the leadership skills and surround yourself with people who have the business acumen then it would be for a leader to have business acumen alone. 

Martin says, “A leader’s job is to actually lift the people, to understand them, to get the most out of them, to achieve the results they have to achieve for the organization. And for me, the number one mandate for a leader is to deliver value, period. That’s it. Now, before your listeners rail against the fact that I am a heartless capitalist bastard, value comes in many different forms, right? Value can come as much from providing a safer environment for our people, as it can from generating financial value. Someone who’s running a surgical practice value might come from better postoperative outcomes for patients. So value comes in many different forms. It’s just a matter of understanding what form that is for you.”

Now more than ever we need to take a step back to define what it means to be a leader and what great leadership looks like. But this isn’t easy to do. In fact, man business leaders struggle with this. You cannot become and build what you don’t define. In the PDF you will get a framework you can follow and also see how some of the world’s top CEOs define leadership. Click here to get the PDF.

The leadership problem

When it comes to promoting people, the transition between individual contributor and being a leader is something we are not paying enough attention to, Martin says. Just because someone is great in a certain role does not mean they will automatically be a great leader. We need more training and mentoring for people going into their first leadership role. 

And because a lot of people in leadership positions today have not had the proper training, a lot of times the people just now moving into these roles don’t have any real role models to look up to. 

“You look up the line, and you look sideways, and you can’t see too many people where you go, Oh, I get it, I see what leadership is, I want to be more like that person. And so you develop all the bad habits right at the start, that you shouldn’t. And of course, every time you get promoted above that, it becomes more difficult. Just the simple fact that you have to let go of the details more and more and more, the higher up you go in an organization. Many people never master that. That’s why the workloads are 100-120 hours a week.”

So why do we still have a leadership problem when there are so many books, podcasts, courses, etc…on the topic of great leadership? Martin says a lot of it comes down to the fact that a lot of people don’t want to put in the work of leadership. A lot of the things that you need to be a great leader go against the grain and against the programming that’s in our DNA. 

For example, a lot of people have a hard time stepping into conflict situations and finding a solution. Most of us tend to avoid conflict if we can. But as a leader you are going to have to deal with conflict, it’s a huge part of the role. So you have to learn to keep practicing that skill until it becomes more comfortable. 

“It’s a lot easier to develop bad habits than it is to develop good habits. And leadership, to a large extent, is about pushing yourself to do the things that help you to develop those good habits.”

The seven principles needed to be an exceptional leader

In his book, Martin lays out the seven principles that all leaders need to focus on to improve and be an exceptional leader. They are:

  • Deliver value–You have to understand what value means to you and to your organization. Once you’ve done that you have to stop everything else. You should be picking out the top 2-4 things that drive value for your organization and absolutely nail those things. It’s all about real focus and simplicity. 
  • Handle conflict–Conflict is a part of almost everything you do as a leader, so you have to get comfortable with it. You have to be able to stay rational and composed when you are in a conflict situation. And it’s always about respect before popularity. If you’re trying to be popular, it’s not going to end well because there will always be people who don’t like you. 
  • Build resilience–Being able to function as a strong leader under severe circumstances is critical. How do you handle pressure? You have to be able to function calmly, rationally when in a crisis. You can’t blame other people and you can’t avoid the problems. 
  • Work at level–This is a common problem throughout organizations. You are paid to do a certain job and that is what you have to focus on. Don’t do other people’s work for them. If someone isn’t doing their job as the leader you can’t just jump in and do it for them. First of all it’s robbing that person of the opportunity to improve, but you are also wasting time that you should be spending on your own work. That’s why a lot of leaders end up working 80+ hour weeks. It’s because they are working on the wrong things. 
  • Master ambiguity–As a CEO pretty much everything you deal with is in shades of gray, it’s not black and white. But you have to be able to translate from extreme uncertainty at the top to extreme clarity at the bottom. Your people have to understand what is required of them, how they add value to the business, how they fit into the mission of the company, etc…
  • Make great decisions–A great decision will be timely, you can’t act slowly. A decision that is 80% right today is infinitely better than a decision that is 90% right next month. Most of the time we hesitate on decisions because we are afraid to get it wrong. You have to know who to consult,how long to consult, you need a strong line of accountability to make sure all available inputs are there, etc..
  • Drive accountability–Having someone who is singularly accountable for delivering something is critical. Single point accountability has a completely different energy to it then when things are shifting around multiple people and teams. But to really have accountability you have to empower people correctly. Accountability without empowerment is just cruel.

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Now more than ever we need to take a step back to define what it means to be a leader and what great leadership looks like. But this isn’t easy to do. In fact, man business leaders struggle with this. You cannot become and build what you don’t define. In the PDF you will get a framework you can follow and also see how some of the world’s top CEOs define leadership. Click here to get the PDF.