David Elikwu speaks with Bob Gower, an author, speaker, and consultant, who cares deeply about creating organizations that are a net positive for the world.
Bob Gower assists leaders in aligning their teams on all levels in order to achieve optimal performance.
He is the author of two books, Agile Business: A Leader's Guide to Harnessing Complexity and Radical Alignment: How to Have Game-Changing Conversations to Transform Your Business and Life, as well as a former contributor to the Huffington Post and Inc.
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📄 Show notes:
Let's dig into the background as a whole [2:31]
The Hypocrisy of Prosperity gospel [5:03]
Daniel Kahneman writer of Thinking Fast and Slow [13:16]
The quality of the question rather than the quality of the answer [21:57]
Emotional Agility by Susan David [26:00]
How do groups of people come together to do things [28:13]
On our own as individual humans, we're actually so useless [31:09]
The social conquest of earth by EO Wilson [34:59]
Great leaders, charismatic but do seem to be jerks [40:01]
What made Job’s a great leader [41:29]
The cults of Silicon Valley [48:55]
When people use the meaning and significance [49:39]
Most valuable piece a leader to have [54:25]
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👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people learn more and live better.
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Bob Gower: [00:00:00] I've always had this sort of restlessness inside of me to find the path, the tradition, the person, the community, the perspective that was somehow going to fix me, I almost had this sense like if I wasn't careful, I was going to somehow do life wrong. And so I was always looking for the right way to do life. I was looking for the map or the thing that was going to tell me what was right.
David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu, and this is The Knowledge. A podcast for anyone looking to think deeper and work smarter. In every episode, I speak with makers, thinkers, and innovators to help you get more out of life.
This week, I'm speaking with Bob Gower. He's an author, speaker and consultant, and we had a really interesting conversation about group dynamics.
I mean, We started off talking about cults and the way that we form our identities, both as individuals and [00:01:00] as groups. And then we were talking about cults of leadership within startups. So we touched on Theranos and Uber and WeWork.
And then we talked about what it takes to bring great teams together and help teams to collaborate. And Bob shared some thoughts from his book, radical alignment on how we can lead more effectively. So I really loved this conversation. I know you will also. You can get the show notes transcript and read my newsletter at theknowledge.io
And you can find Bob online on LinkedIn at Bob Gower and on Twitter @Gower_Bob.
If you love this episode, please do share it with friends and strangers. And don't forget to leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts, because it helps us tremendously to reach other people. Just like you.
Okay, let me set the stage. We had a conversation the other day, I don't remember exactly all the questions I was asking you. We both run courses. And we were talking about the synergy in terms of, my course is on helping people to take their careers to the next level, but largely from mid level [00:02:00] to getting towards senior level and your course is for senior leaders.
So it's kind of like, I am teaching the people that will end up being in your course. And you were telling me about some of your background, which is what I want to get into today. And you were sprinkling in all kinds of like random things. At one point you worked with newspapers and then at one point you joined a cult.
That part hasn't left my mind since since the conversation that we had. So I hope you don't mind me asking you to dig into your background as a whole and yeah, where would you say things began for you?
Bob Gower: Yeah. So, you know, I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. They're upper middle middle-class suburbs. The community I was raised in actually has how to put it. There's, it's a very class conscious community. And we were not of the upper class in that community. So we were middle-class, upper middle-class.
But it's a community that has at least at that time, it still did the sort of the debutante ball thing where women would be, you know, they would come out, they would be presented to society at like 15 or 16. There was a social register. So, you know, [00:03:00] who was who? And in my neighborhood where I grew up, there were, you know, people who had run, who were running large corporations.
There was even a purported mafia boss who lived in my neighborhood, you know, this was Philadelphia in the seventies. So the mob was still, was still a big thing. And actually the government there was in the, in Philly was very much still controlled by the mob. And, and certain industries were at that time too.
So it was a very sort of colorful area and an old Italian neighborhood. But my family, my mom was from West Virginia which is an impoverished area. She was wealthy in West Virginia. She came from a family of basically hillbillies, right? So her family had been coal miners and all of this and her father had managed to kind of get out of that by becoming a dentist in, during the first world war.
And then my father was raised without a father in coastal, North Carolina. And so he was also raised in poverty and, and, and his generation was the first to go to college. So it was very much my parents had me late in life. So even though I'm a gen [00:04:00] X-er, they were more world war II, sort of what they might call the, either the greatest generation or the silent generation.
So it's sort of an odd world to be born into, I suppose. Right. There's a lot of social upheaval. I was born in 65, a lot of social upheaval in the seventies. And then my parents were both conservative, but also encouraging of me to be myself. You know, my dad had been in the military and he definitely didn't want me to go into the military.
And he definitely wanted me to kind of like be myself. So I grew up as this, as this sort of like liberal hippie in the midst of, you know, like conservative, you know, like I worked at a recycling center. I wanted to do good. I wanted to make the world a better place. I was interested in Eastern religions.
I took Tai Chi classes in high school. Right. So I was just kind of like odd. I felt sort of like an odd misfit in that area. And like many people I think I just couldn't wait to leave. And I'm still surprised when I know some of my best friends from high school stayed and I'm like, how did you stay? Of course, they're retiring now really wealthy, and I'm still, still doing my thing, but, [00:05:00] but yeah, but it was a, it's sort of an interesting, a very interesting world, I think, to grow up in and a very, and one where I learned to spot hypocrisy at a very young age, because I would see people who I thought were doing really bad things for their work come to church each day and then sort of like pray.
And, and you familiar with the prosperity gospel basically that says, If you do good, you will be rich. And which then gets inverted, whereas if you are rich, you have therefore done good. You are therefore a good person. And I grew up around a lot of that and it just sort of, and I think like that's what Trump grew up in actually, frankly.
And I, and I say, I saw that hypocrisy and it just annoyed me to no end. And I think, and frankly, it still does, like, I still kind of really deeply dislike the social system of where I grew up. Yeah. So that's where it started.
David Elikwu: Yeah. That's a great introduction. No, the prosperity gospel part. I empathize with that a lot. So I'm originally Nigerian and I came to the UK from Nigeria, but we have a huge culture of kind of Pentecostal Christianity and well, not the whole of [00:06:00] Nigeria, but you know, within the, the Christian part, there is a lot of prosperity preaching and it's so interesting how I don't want to use the word like insidious, but I think it is very interesting that, like you say, it's almost the reverse it's you see far less examples of the people that do the say, the things that they say you need to do in order to get the wealth and more people that already have the wealth telling you that, oh, this is what you need to do.
And part of what you need to do is handing over your wealth to them in the promise that at some point later down the line, some of it will come back to you.
Bob Gower: yeah, yeah. You know, it's funny, I see this a lot. This is something I've become very aware of myself, even in myself and in my own attitudes, as I've gotten older, because I think prosperity gospel gets then converted into the are you familiar with like the secret and this idea of manifestation and abundance and all of that, that comes out of sort of the personal development world, which I was also embedded in for a long time in the bay [00:07:00] area.
And, you know, I also studied Zen Buddhism for a long time. Like I was very much embedded in these like sort of like, how do we make ourselves better people world, but then that gets infected by the prosperity gospel idea as well that, you know, like that, and then being good, gets very much conflated with having a lot of money or, you know, like doing well.
Right. So, and, I think that happens in all sorts of places, like also like thin people, you know, and fit people are seen as somehow morally better than people who are, who struggle with their, weight or their you know, or who consider themselves fat and who society has, you know. And the same is true of
I think racial distinctions and gender distinctions and all of these different things, but to my mind, most of that comes down to luck. Right. And so, like, I feel like I had the good luck to be born into a wealthy family that valued education. And that messed me up. It did mess me up so much, right. Like I did get so messed up that I ended up you know, like I had my share of childhood trauma and I have a, certainly a strained relationship with my family, but it's, but I, but I also managed to, it was, it was something that [00:08:00] didn't take me down.
I've seen people's family systems really, really kind of like hurt them over the course of their lives and, and, and set up patterns that were unhelpful. But again, I count this as all, a lot of luck on my part. It's not that I haven't worked hard and it's not that I don't continue to work hard, but from the place from which I work is a place from which I can have an impact.
Right. It's much easier, I'm a tall white male, who's able-bodied, I'm cis-gendered I, you know, I grew up, you know, like, I, I can easily sound like I belong in most sort of executive boardrooms and other places I understand the language I look like I belong, I look like, you know, and I don't ever have to like, worry about that thing. I still had to show up and work once I get there, but I, I honestly feel like I don't have to work quite as hard sometimes to be as successful. And sometimes that is even worked against me, right. It's made me not try so hard in some things as well.
David Elikwu: What do you think it was that made you able to pull away from the potential trappings of your background?
Bob Gower: I almost don't even feel like I had a [00:09:00] choice. And maybe at some degree of luck. I do feel like I've always been kind of a sensitive person. Right? Like, so when I would see, you know, an animal hurt or when I would see, I felt it very deeply and I'm aware that maybe that's almost like a neurological disposition, right.
That I just sort of happened to like. Empathy is a thing that sort of is more available to me. And I also had a very strong sense of fairness, I think, from a young age. And I, and it really, really upset me that, you know, people in other parts of the world or even other parts of my town didn't have the same opportunities or the same access to resources that I did.
And, sort of, I always had this like sort of deep sense of, of injustice, right? That the world is this an unequal, unjust place. And it shouldn't be, and I don't, you know, like, and I don't have like a theory of justice. I went off into college and I studied, I studied Rawls. I studied, you know, like I studied Philosophy and, and sort of like looking at different theories of justice.
And I, so I have these now I have a little more language to put around it, but I honestly think when you, like, I've always cared about making the world a more [00:10:00] equitable and more sustainable place. Right. Because I grew up thinking about actually at a young age, this is a sort of formative memory of mine, If you have you ever heard of the three mile island nuclear accident?
It was three mile island. Yeah. I think it may even still be active as nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which is far from where I grew up. But that weekend I was supposed to be with the boy Scouts, hiking near nearby. And so we actually had to cancel our trip because there was this potential nuclear accident.
There was a sudden release of radiation there and that was it like just the right age where I was like, well, wait, what is nuclear energy and why is this dangerous? And then I became sort of anti like, this was the, the eighties or late seventies, early eighties. So I became very interested in like sort of the environmental impact of things and the social impacts of things. I sort of tried to understand capitalism and like, why, why do some people have more? And some people have less, all of these questions have always been sort of central questions for me.
They've always been things that have kind of bugged me. And I think I've always been looking for answers to and I don't know exactly why, [00:11:00] because it's not necessarily from a position of like, it's not like I was, I came from wealth and power. I came from a certain amount of wealth, but I know some people that grew up, you know, like there's you know, the people that grew up extremely wealthy who then dedicate themselves to sort of social justice on the other side of that, and they have resources to throw behind it.
I never had that. I always felt at both limited by the financial system that I grew up in and a critic of it. Right.
David Elikwu: Yeah. The church thing you mentioned was interesting, it made me think of just yesterday. I was listening to a story a, well, not a story in the literal sense. It was a historical event, I think it was quite a number of years ago, probably I think sometime in the eighties, but there was a church in the US I can't remember exactly where, but it blew up essentially.
And the time at which it blew up was at 19:05 and the choir practice was meant to start at seven exactly. So that the church was meant to be filled with about like 30 plus people. And every single one of them was late by some stroke of [00:12:00] luck, just a complete miracle. Every single person was late and they all had their own individual reason for being late.
Some people maybe they were, they were reading some people lost track of time, but it was just incredibly interesting that coincidence and I, what I find interesting tying that back to your story is also that I think it's interesting how some events can happen in our lives and people can take. Almost a striking point in very different So there are some people that can see that happen and say, wow, this was the hand of God. Everything we were doing must be right. We must go even further in this direction, but for you in your circumstance, it's also a point where you say, okay, hold on. Why did this happen? What were the causes? What might we want to look closer at and deeper at?
And what maybe should we change to avoid ending up in that kind of situation? Because I think the reason why this church blew up in this scenario was I think something to do with carbon monoxide.
They were just releasing some gas inside the church. And I don't think it actually led to any kind of change.
I didn't see anything about like [00:13:00] policy change or anyone investigating the cause in, in serious concern, it was more about this miracle and this fantastic thing that happened, which is why we should continue exactly the way that we were doing things.
Bob Gower: I was just thinking I was listening to something yesterday about I think it was Daniel, Daniel Kahneman you know, who wrote thinking fast and slow when he won the Nobel prize for something a few years ago. Anyway, he talks about like the uses of intuition and that if we use intuition to make decisions like our feelings, we will almost always lead ourselves astray because we're going to mistake correlation for causation.
And I think that's sort of an example of that, right. That kind of, you know, and I don't want to diminish anybody else's faith at all. I'm not here to do that, but I will say for myself that I spend a lot of time in these let's call it alternative and wellness spaces and yoga spaces and meditation spaces.
And there's a lot of sort of magical thinking that in that, in that, in that invades those spaces. Right. And so we end up thinking. Well, I have this intuition about this thing. Therefore, that thing is right. I can't tell you how many people [00:14:00] have told me about myself. Right. And I think it's pure projection most of the time, and I've done it to other people as well.
I was like, I'm sensing this from you and therefore this is happening, but I think what I've grain gained real appreciation for the older I've gotten is like, just kind of like how little I know about myself, how little I know about the world, how little I know about like, what will actually have the impact that I wanted to have if I'm working with an organization, sometimes just the smallest thing that has the biggest impact and I eat for good or for bad.
And I don't like, I can't even Intuit that, or I can't see that ahead of time. And it's really created this kind of humility in me. I hope anyway, he says, I'm so humble. I'm like the most humble person now ever. But like I do, but I do have this sort of sense of like, I don't really know what's going on most of the time, like I try to like approach the world. And I find that if I approach problems from that space, I just tend to do much better.
David Elikwu: Sure. Yeah. I completely agree. And I know you mentioned before about you getting into this wellness space and all of the positive affirmations, a lot of that kind of thing. And then also you going to Japan, I think, and looking [00:15:00] into Buddhism and a lot of other things.
And the question that I'm interested in is, what was this a case of where you running to freedom or away from freedom and to paraphrase where I'm getting that from? So Eric Fromm is a psychologist and he has a great book called escape from freedom. And what he talks about is that there's two types of freedom.
And sometimes we're looking for freedom from, so freedom from the things that we feel are imposed on us. And sometimes we're looking for freedom to, in terms of freedom to do other things and to explore a lot further beyond our current constraints. So what do you think that was.
Bob Gower: Yeah. Yeah. I, you know, it's interesting. I think sometimes you think it's one and it turns out to be the other. And I'm trying to remember, like, I was actually phrasing this to myself the other day. I don't think it wasn't quite in like Fromm's framework. It was more like thinking about you remember with Ernest Becker and the denial of death it's this wonderful book of philosophy where he basically says basically everything humans ever create is because we're afraid of dying and we're trying to create something that that's going to last be honest.
So any book I [00:16:00] write or any, money I amass or, or anything I do. And I feel like I've spent a lot of my life, I'm going to answer it in my own way and maybe it'll fit with the Fromm framework and maybe it will, but like, I feel like there's been a lot of times in my life when I've been trying to let's say, oh, actually it's funny.
I'm gonna use a very, very solid example. I was just talking to my wife about this this morning. So. You know, like any family, especially those in New York city you know, like we think about money a lot, right. We think about like, like, can we buy a house now? Can we do the, you know, can we afford this vacation?
Can we not afford this vacation? And we've, you know, we do pretty well financially, but we're far from, from financially independent and, you know, far far from our own interpretation of, incredibly secure, right. There's always this sort of sense of insecurity around, around finances. And one of the things I've noticed is though that we are much better now than I was say, 10 years ago, with my finances.
Like, I know what I can afford. I know what I can't afford. I know how much money is coming in, how much is going out. I've got really good systems in place and. I also noticed that I tend to buy [00:17:00] things less, right. Like I tend to do less impulse buying because I think in the past, what I've done is I will go out and buy a new pair of sneakers because I want it because it's going to make me feel better.
And I'll kind of ignore the financial implications of that. I'll kind of, you know, like, because I'm like, cause I really want the sneakers cause I really want to feel better. But what's interesting is, is, is that the more sort of like in control and systematized, I feel about my money and the more modest I've become, the more like, I don't need to like flash money to make myself feel better.
I don't even need to like demonstrate that to the world that I'm wealthy. Right? Like there are times when I have to like dress up and go to a fancy restaurant in order to make myself like, feel like I'm a part of the, you know, like, look how fan, you know, new Yorkers, right. We're always status. So status conscious.
And I'm like, look at me, I'm at the Plaza hotel having a, you know, having a martini and because I'm because I'm fancy. But inside, I don't feel like quite like I am. And I think kind of like, this is sort of maybe it's freedom from and freedom to, but like, I think much of my life, there are times when I have, I felt like I've been [00:18:00] seeking a new experience.
I've gone out for a new experience or a new skill set or a new yeah, just a new experience. Like I've gone out to kind of like, and I'm very much experienced, focused. Like I enjoy collecting people. I enjoy collecting experiences, trying new things. I enjoy these things a lot, but there have been times when it's been a running away from something inside of myself.
It's been times when it's like, I'm doing this to distract myself from this very uncomfortable thing I'm feeling and. What I find now is that I'm much, the pandemic has helped honestly, I developed a kind of stillness because I'm at home so much, and I have a very strong, like journaling practice where I reflect every day on my life.
And what I notice is that sometimes it's that those sort of quiet practices given me a much more real freedom, just like the money, like the mundane money practices. Give me a much more real freedom in life, rather than this illusion of freedom that comes from, you know, going on a fancy experience or having some big distraction come my way. Yeah.
I don't know if that resonates well, I don't have that fits in the front brain work at
David Elikwu: No, No, it
Bob Gower: Yeah, yeah,
David Elikwu: No, [00:19:00] it does. So one, one thing that I'm interested to know is I'm not sure what the exact timeline is between some of these more exploratory phases of your life and whatever the traditional route might look like in terms of the time at which you were expected to go to college or the time at which you're expected to start working, how do you find that delineation?
And I guess as a consequence of that, was there something that you learned from that period of exploration that maybe changed your trajectory in someways.
Bob Gower: Yeah, a hundred percent, you know, so I've had anything, but I think a traditional trajectory, I certainly did go to college at the right time, the right time. Right. But I also went to three different colleges and had like four different majors and took five years to get out, which was uncommon in, I think it's more common today than it wasn't in the eighties when I was going to college.
You know, so I, and I also studied things kind of pointedly that had no value, you know, like, or no, no material value. So my, I had my degree was in essentially philosophy at its core. And then I [00:20:00] also, I went to a school where you could kind of like write your own degree. It was a sort of this very experimental college is where I graduated from in Arizona.
And so I also did a lot of traditional, I'd call it a traditional craft, which sounds very, very hippy now, but I was doing furniture making and doing pottery, like traditional pottery on the wheel and then making traditional furniture. And then I was also writing papers on aesthetic, on different aesthetic traditions, around a special, I was especially interested in the shakers, which were you know, sort of an 18th century religious movement here in the U.S that created a whole style of furniture, which you still see all over the place in the U.S shaker tables and shaker chairs are, are still very, very common.
And I was very interested in sort of the aesthetic traditions and how the philosophical and religious foundations of those communities informed the aesthetic traditions that actually led me into wanting to go to Japan and study Buddhism for a variety of reasons. But I felt like I saw the same thing in Japan that there was this, this religious tradition and this cultural tradition of around Buddhism that really informed an aesthetic [00:21:00] tradition around sort of furniture and, and architecture, which are the two main things I was interested in Japan.
So but I think your question was more about like these areas of exploration and like what they led to otherwise, am I like, so I had this sort of intellectual study. I made college work for me. This was the eighties I was you know, like if you were interested in money, you were studying finance real estate law.
Very, very traditional, very buttoned up. And I wasn't interested in that at all. So I was like just even pre Kurt Cobain. Like we were grungy, we wanted to like work in coffee shops, have bands, argue about philosophy in our spare time and not have any material possessions. Like that was the, that was more of the ambition of the communities that I was sort of part of and then and so then I went to Japan and sat Zen studied martial arts, also, you know, got into trouble with you know, chasing women and drinking a lot as a, you know, as a youngster and kind of doing those things as well. And what I found is I think that I've always had this sort of restlessness inside of [00:22:00] me to find the path, the tradition, the person, the community, the perspective that was somehow going to fix me, because I think I had.
This is going to get a little, maybe a little more personal, but like, I think I've always had this sense. I don't know if you're your listeners or if you will resonate with this, but I almost had this sense that like, I was going to do it wrong. Like if I wasn't careful, I was going to somehow do life wrong.
And so I was always looking for the, the, the right way to do life. I was looking for the map or the thing that was going to tell me what was right. And what's interesting about that is I think the more I studied things like moral philosophy, especially recently, I've kind of returned to my study of philosophy and looking specifically at moral philosophy.
I'm like, it's really more the quality of question that matters than the quality of answer that matters. And I think that's something that's taken me a long time. And I think a lot of the turmoil that I've experienced in life has been like finding the answer, committing to the answer, realizing it wasn't the answer.
And then moving on to the next thing. Right. And doing that again and again, and now I've just realized. like [00:23:00] And now here I am in my mid fifties. And I'm like, I think I'm just much more comfortable with 'life doesn't always have to make sense'. And there's always going to be some, some questions. And you're always trying to just kind of do the best you can given where you are.
And in many ways, like that's the human condition, that's life, everything else is just sort of like a trapping on top of that. We just got very philosophical I think.
David Elikwu: No, I love it. Honestly. I think so much of what you just said was perfect because it lines up with so much of what I think, personally. Even some of what I talk about on all my course and in my newsletter is this idea of maps. And it's so interesting. Cause I think it intertwines with quite a few things, but one is that there's this perception that of time that we're kind of born.
And it's almost as though we are on a conveyor belt that is speeding us slowly or quickly towards death. However you feel about the speed at which you're moving, but we are so concerned with making the right choice and making it at the right time. It's [00:24:00] like, oh, I'm at this point in the conveyor belt. If I don't make a decision, if I don't take this turn on the highway, I'm going to miss it.
I'm going to miss whatever the destination is. And you don't know what the destination is because you haven't gone there. But we feel as though if we don't make the right decisions and we don't make them at the right times, then it's almost like we'll never be able to find it again. And we become very obsessed with this idea of maps.
I think we look around us and we build the maps of the world based on what we see of other people. And I talk about this idea of everyone around us being like data points that help us figure out our place in the world and understand what the world, what our conceptualization of the world is. And I think the mistake is relying on maps instead of trying to find a compass and trying to find a means of navigating that helps you directionally, but is not concerned with telling you exactly where to go. Cause I think the issue with trying to find exactly where to go is that typically you're following the paths of other people giving you their advice from their own position. And there are [00:25:00] so many other nuances, so many other variables that may have impacted their trajectory that won't apply to you.
And so yours might still be and human life, as you know is so impossibly complex, that it's really hard to unravel all of the different variables that play a part in setting you on a particular course, like even if. For example, when I think about the question of all, if you could go back, would you do everything again?
In some ways? Absolutely yes. In some ways probably no, because I could not guarantee with any element of certainty that if I did every single decision that I've ever made, I would have the same outcome I probably wouldn't because so much still changes. And also there's so much that is outside of your control at particular points.
And I think all you can do is just, one is maybe gather as many data points as possible and try and understand where you are in the world. And then just have a strong sense of direction that propels you in some direction with a certainty of who you are and how you want to act in that [00:26:00] environment.
Bob Gower: Yeah. There's a writer and researcher named Susan David who wrote a book called Emotional agility. I don't know if you're familiar with it. I think she's got a new book coming out right now, too. But one of the things she talks about is like you use your values as your direction point.
And you know, like you, you lean into discomfort in a complexity and you also use your emotions as data points as well. Like sort of like what angers me, what excites me, what upsets me. But she always points out that like, emotions are data, but they're not directions. Like you can't, you know, like, just because something pisses you off doesn't mean that it is something that you should be pissed off at. And it doesn't, you know, like that could be as much about you as it is about the thing. And so, but yet ignoring your emotions and saying emotions don't matter and trying to be a purely rational human is really, is also gonna lead us in the wrong direction.
I'm really fond of the work of Antonio Demasio who wrote a book called Descartes' Error. He's a neuroscientist, and he does a lot of stuff around emotion and the way emotion sort of constrains. Like he has this idea and actually comes from it actually corresponds to some cult research. Well, actually, I'll start with a cold stuff. So like when [00:27:00] you look at cult members, what's often very interesting is like, let's say let's take a cult-like the Rajneesh or Osho cult, which was kind of the wild, wild country they made a movie about, or a series about it and a Netflix, there was a cult that I had interactions with long long time ago. Though I never, I was never really part of it. I never went to their events, but I knew many people who are part of it. What you saw there was you saw people who were very wealthy, very accomplished, and very intelligent, all become a part of this, this kind of crazy cult and what Demasio would point out.
And what cult researchers point out is what happens is our emotions, can kind of constrain our intellect to only operate within a certain area. So you can still be a great lawyer, but it's constrained within this idea that my leader is an enlightened being who is going to save the world. And so like that becomes the container within which my intellect operates.
And I think we all do that to greater and lesser degrees depending upon the groups we're part of. And so I love you, like the way you're describing your orientation towards the group is not, is [00:28:00] that like they're data points that I'm using to find, to do my own wayfinding and to navigate my own way through.
And I think the, sort of the danger of organizations, and this is like why, where my work comes from frankly, is I'm very interested in how do groups of people come together to do things because it's such an important part of human life, right? Like every single thing that I've ever done that has been meaningful and satisfying and exciting with my life every single thing, I've done with other people, right.
It's raising a family, it's creating an creating an artifact, you know, doing some art, doing doing a work project that I'm proud of creating a home that I'm proud of. Right. I, my wife, you know, like we're, she's curating an event tonight that we're setting up for artists here in New York city.
And like all of these things happen with other people and yet, so often other people are also, you know, the source of so much strife in our lives. And also so much of the source of social dysfunction. When you like not to get all, what is it? Rule 34. What about Hitler? About it? But yeah. Like Hitler by himself.
Like he would have been just this crazy [00:29:00] dude. Right? Like, but when he got this group of people around him to do stuff together, that's where the problem really develops. And so not only is it looking, not only our thing, our maps, the problems, but gurus are also become the problem. Right? Like, like thinking that somebody else has the right and it's so tempting having fallen into it myself, it is so tempting when you are feeling vulnerable, when you are feeling insecure, when you're going through a diff you know, like I joined a cult when I was going through a divorce and had lost a job all at the same time.
Right. So I was kind of like insecure in a couple of different. And in steps, this group saying, Hey, we've got the answer, we see your idealism, we're going to harness that. And we're going to help you save the world and give your life meaning. Plus we think you're amazing. They do this thing, this love bombing thing.
When you first come in and then all of a sudden, you kind of find yourself, your whole life is sort of wrapped up in this path that doesn't really at the end of the day, serve you because the charisma, because the story, because the narrative, because the surety has all kind of pulled you in. And I think that's sort of like the work that I'm trying to do is trying to understand how do we [00:30:00] create people coming together to do things in ways that are healthy for all of the people within that system that really feel, and that also are healthy for society as a whole, that create a more equitable society that create a more just society and create a more sustainable human presence on the planet.
And I think these questions as you use the word complexity, these are very, very complex questions, right? Like, cause I've seen really great teams do really horrible things, right. And at the same time I've seen. Really how to put it, like really dedicated people, people who are like at their core, trying to say, trying to do something really good in the world.
And then they create a nonprofit, which is this very, very toxic workplace and has all sorts of like crazy stuff going. And I, so I see this all the time. And so like, what I'm trying to understand is like, how do we come together? How do we actually leave the world a little bit better than we found it? And how do we do that together without stepping on each other, without hurting each other in some way.
David Elikwu: Yeah. You touched on something which I find really interesting, which is essentially the power of [00:31:00] groups. And it made me think about Tim Urban, who you've probably come across. Who's a writer on the internet and I was listening to something well, something he said inspired me to write something else, which is essentially just about the fact that on our own as individual humans, we're actually so useless, particularly now I'm thinking even back to what you were talking about before, about, you know, this idea of working with your hands and building things and all the impact that that has and how much of that we've lost.
And so Tim I've been had this example that he used, which was essentially that if you know, some kind of witch or an alien decided to magic away everything that we've built, everything that humans are built and we were just here wherever we currently are on the earth with just our, you know, just completely naked with no clothes, nothing, no machinery, nothing.
Could we build a pencil? And the answer is that we probably couldn't because it's so interesting when you think of, of the, I guess it's the, like, where does the human exist? Does the human exist as the individual person or as almost like the ant colony where the ant colony is really the [00:32:00] mind and the ant colony is...
It's only together and as a group that we can often create and have a much larger impact on the world. That's not to say that individuals can't. Even still like the, the way that the work of individuals passes through to the wider collective is through others. Right? It's disseminated through others. You know, even Einstein was not handing out pamphlets to every single person in order to disseminate his ideas.
They were able to spread through the collective of scientists, right. And through this broader organization and through this broader idea that there's a community of people that are dedicated to this thing and they are committed to furthering certain ideas.
And So I guess, Yeah. it's, there's so much wrapped up in this idea of as individuals, we try and find our identity and often we try and find our identity in groups and we try and find our place in the world and try and find our orientation as we've discussed. And it's interesting how through the power of groups, it can be for positive and for negative. And I think I'm really glad that you highlighted that, cause I've probably spent less time thinking of the [00:33:00] negative side, but I definitely think, you know, there's the positive side where through the power of groups, we have this power to create and we have this power to do all kinds of things like going back to the example of the pencil.
What stands out so much about that is that it seems ludicrously simple. Like the pencil was one of the first things you see drawn in children's books, but when you think about everything that goes into cutting trees and you're sanding it down and you're filing one of these things you're getting lead from the earth.
Or I don't think they use lead. Graphite from the earth, like even every single step, everything that it takes to do all of that, you have to get rubber, I'm not sure where they get the rubber from. Is it rubber plants or is it some kind of something that we make chemically now to approximate rubber? So there's so many things that we can, no one person could do, but as a group we can, but then on the flip side, you do have this perhaps destructive power where in trying to find yourself in the group, you can lose yourself to the group and you can become assimilated into this mass that takes you anywhere and you lose maybe some sense of agency and a sense of [00:34:00] being able to maintain who you are and your values, like you talked about before, about how important values are.
So I'm interested to know just from what you were saying now cause you also highlighted the importance of the leader of the group as well. And how much of an impact the leader of a group can have on swaying its direction and, and swaying its impact. And I'm interested to know your thoughts on where well, whether or not you think at all, there is a leaning of power between the impact of the leader of the group and the impact of the community within the group itself.
Bob Gower: Yeah, there's so much in this conversation. And I think the, I mean kind of going back to sort of some foundations in first principles, like the place that I start from is look, the humans as primates. We have some, we're a very kind of unique primate in a lot of ways, but we're, we're unique, not necessarily in terms of brain size, but what we're unique in is in terms of social behavior.
So there's a biologist by the name of EO Wilson, who he was an ant biologist, actually, that was his main focus. But he wrote a book called the Social [00:35:00] conquest of earth, where he looked at humans, like in groups, we are super powerful to the, to Tim Urban's point, right. That in groups were, were super powerful, but as individuals that we, we tend not to be and you know, he points out that all other species that have the level of sociality that we do tend to be hive insects, or, you know, like, or siblings like. The idea that if we're walking down the street and we see a baby carriage rolling into traffic, that we would jump out to save that baby.
Even if we'd had no idea whose baby it was or whatever, right. We, if we saw another human, especially an innocent, especially a young innocent in distress that we would risk our own lives in order to save that. And we would be counted as heroes. If we did, can you imagine, like you walk down the street, you see this baby carry you jump out into the street, you push it out of the way you get killed.
Like there's going to be news stories about you and there's going to be, you know, like GoFundMe campaigns for your family. There's going to be like, like, we are going to hold you up as a hero because you sacrifice yourself for a member of the collective. [00:36:00] That is very unusual. As a matter of fact, no other primate would do that.
Every other primate would like, eat the baby or ignore the baby. You know, like chimpanzees are, notoriously sort of violent in this way and it's kind of gross. So I kind of start there, and so you're what you're setting up I think one of the core moral dilemmas or the core ethical dilemmas that we have as humans, which is the me versus us.
Right. So it's sort of like, and I think we can, we contain both, right? Like this idea and I'm an American. So I come from a highly individualistic rather than a collectivist society where libertarianism and this idea that it's all about my freedom from constraint is what, how freedom is defined actually, you know, in the, in the U.S rather than sort of a freedom to do things.
So we do not necessarily, We're not committed to providing a basic level of resources to all our entire population. What we are committed to apparently is providing maximum freedom from government intervention, government constraint, into every member of society, which is often a freedom to starve and a freedom to fail and a freedom to, you know, [00:37:00] sort of to create a very, you know, sort of stratified class level society, which is obviously that's not where I would take things, right.
I would actually say, how do we provide freedom you know, kind of a, kind of a base level of base level of freedom, but I think it all goes back to how we behave in groups. What's interesting to me about all of this is that I think it comes down to when we say groups, I'm not saying like society, I'm not saying the corporation that I work for.
I'm not saying the government, I'm thinking like my neighbors, you know, like the people that I interact with. My workmates, my friends, my neighbors, the people that I, the shop owners that I interact with on a regular basis. It's the people that I have direct one-on-one interaction with that I think are the most impactful.
And Nicholas Christakis has done really interesting work at the Yale human nature lab, where he'll map that if your friend gets divorced, your likelihood of getting divorced goes up dramatically, right? Just statistically dramatically. If your friend's friend gets divorced, your likelihood of getting [00:38:00] were still goes up.
You don't even have to know who that friend is, even know that they got divorced, but yet, statistically speaking, you were likely. So these, these sort of like these things travel through social networks. And so what I become very interested in is this sort of, there's a systems theory idea that, if you're going to create a large system that works, you have to evolve it from a small system that works.
You can't build it from scratch. I cannot build a government from scratch. I cannot build an economy from scratch. I have to start off with a small system that works. And so to my mind, that becomes the team. So I've focused my work mostly on developing either better team leaders or better teams, because I work with leadership teams, I work with teams sometimes to help them be then better or helping those leadership teams develop the sort of like structures and systems that support better teamwork within their organization.
Right? So rather than treating people as isolated individuals within the organization, I want to treat them as members of a social unit that is there to deliver value in some way. So that's really, and I think to me, that's the mindset shift that I'm trying to [00:39:00] kind of take in my work, which is a way from creating organizations as collections of individuals, isolated individuals, to creating organizations as collections of small teams that are able to kind of work together, I suppose social units and units of sort of production and value or value production. And I think that to me is that's how we begin to account for the complexity of modern life is by sort of focusing on the networks that we are a part of. And we can do that as individuals, but I think we can also do that as organizations.
So that's, yeah, that's kind of where my, where I take it that work.
David Elikwu: Sure. So to bring this out, out of the abstract, how does that look? Day-to-day so I know we're very much getting into the territory of your book, is radical alignment and a lot of the work that you do now. So Yeah, let's get into that.
Bob Gower: Yeah. So, you know, like I look at this as almost mundane, so I've learned maybe this is my own prejudice, right? Cause I was in a cult and I followed a charismatic leader, but I've also seen the dangers of charismatic leadership and I see that leadership, we [00:40:00] often see. We often use people like Steve jobs or Elon Musk, or, you know, Larry Ellison you know, like it's all tech people now, right?
Those are the, those are the great leaders of our era. Right. And then there may be some like, sort of like more moral or philosophical leaders too, but like the people and we, we tend to hold them up and frankly, they tend to be jerks. You know, they tend to kind of like, they tend to be charismatic and they tend to be jerks.
Right. Like, which is, which is weird that, that those two things go together. I love Job's, I love using him as an example because I do think Jobs actually was a really good leader and I've known people that worked for him. I actually know his, his former chief of staff fairly well, and he was difficult. He was a difficult human to work with and he did some things morally speaking that I find repugnant, like denying that he was, that he was the father of his daughter and having to be forced by the courts in order to like pay child support, like as one of the wealthiest men in the world, like I find that morally repugnant.
But I think what happens is, is that in the, in the consciousness that we begin to think of [00:41:00] leaders as, as jerks, as decisive, visionary jerks, right? Like that's almost like the, the, the model we have, they see things that other people don't see. They can tell stories in a way that other people can't tell them, and they don't care about anything but being successful they're single-minded and focused.
And that's frankly, I think how we end up with I'm watching the Theranos TV show now. And I also read the book, like that's how we ended up with Elizabeth Holmes, right? Who idolized Steve Jobs, but she idolized the wrong parts of Jobs. What made Jobs actually a great leader was that when he came back to apple what is it? 20, 25 years ago now. Right. He came back after having been kicked out. He said, look, we're only going to build four things. We're going to build a portable and a desktop machine. One for the, you know, each for professional and for You know, he could just create it a four by four. This is what we're going to create. We're going to focus.
To my mind. That's what a leader does. A leader says, this is what we're doing. We're focusing on these things. And he had the great vision to know what to focus on as well. But a leader doesn't have to even have that. They just have to have the ability to kind of constrain the [00:42:00] attention of that, of that group into something that's valuable.
And then frankly, a lot of the rest of it is getting out of the way. A lot of the rest of it's bringing the right people in letting them develop the sort of the social environment that works. And so when I think of teams, when I think of organizations, I think we have two things going on and these are big things that we, you can subdivide in a lot of ways.
But one thing was, we have operational stuff going on. We have to have a vision, a mission, a metrics, we have to have some processes, we have to have some tools, we have to have some information, we have to have time, we have to know we're part of the team, we have to meet regularly. These are all very sort of block and tackle operational pieces.
And then underneath that is the kind of cultural or emotional pieces, right. Where it's sort of like we also need to trust each other. We need to respect each other. We need to have a degree of psychological safety so that I can bring out crazy ideas. And you're not going to kick me out of the group or fire me because I had a crazy idea or make me feel bad about myself. You're just going to say Bob, you know, like, oh, Hey, I'll take that. And I'll, you know, and I'll do something with it, right? This idea of like, we, we can have some friction with each other, but it's [00:43:00] productive friction because we're sort of arguing and excited about the best way to do things. And I think Jobs actually did that very, very well.
When you look at sort of the culture that, that, that apple has, it gets a little culty at times, but it's not, not, not horribly. So, but you have people that are focused on real problems focused on really interesting design criteria. And he hired and brought together like this very unique group of people that was able to like iterate towards frankly, some very, very, some magical stuff.
I mean, I love, I love my apple products obviously. And I think to my mind and that to me, like that's what my work is about. So my book is about sort of a framework that I created that helps with the emotional piece. It helps people understand each other and begin to build the foundations of trust and psychological safety, which are so essential, they take a long time to build often and they can be destroyed almost instantaneously.
Right. You know, like if I, if you betray somebody's trust, that person will not trust you for a very long time, if ever again. And so what I, the framework that I created, essentially, it takes us, it helps begin to take us through [00:44:00] Tuckman's sort of developmental model, right? So forming, storming, norming, performing, right.
We get the group together. Then we have to like rub up against each other and figure out, you know, like where there's friction, where there's not friction. Then we need to develop some norms that help us work together. And only then can we start performing. And so my, a lot of my work is around that initial stage of a team development where it's like, okay, we're coming together to do some.
How do we develop those norms that are both that are constructive relatively quickly. And that also going back to the me versus us piece, right? Like they don't step on me too much. They actually bring out the best in me. They allow me to actually be me, but they also allow me to be part of the group. And I think it's that.
And you know, it's sort of, it's sort of that conversation. And then a lot of the other work I do is around the operational pieces or the structural pieces instead of organizations that kind of help support these things. But I think we have to, we have to have both, we can't do one or the other.
It's not about, it's not all like trust falls and hugs. It can be that, or it can be what those things are designed to serve, but it also has to be like, well, we have to meet regularly. We have to have good [00:45:00] plans. We have to have good tracking tools. We have to, you know, have, have the right skills on the team and all sorts of other stuff as well.
David Elikwu: So the next question that I want to ask is what is it that you think that we most frequently get wrong about leadership? And the reason I ask is that when I think of some of the people you just mentioned and this idea of charismatic leadership, and even the idea of cults that we've discussed as well, what I find fascinating is that on some level we deeply crave cults.
Like we really want leadership. We love this idea of someone that will come along with clarity and that will build trust, and that will almost lead us to the promised land, and that will galvanize the troops, and there are so many scenarios where that is exactly what is needed, and that is exactly what people want.
And so I think what you find in many of those scenarios is those types of people are incredibly rare. Like most people, when you, when, if you were to go out and do a poll and ask people, how's your boss, most people's bosses are not galvanizing them to jump out of bed at 2:00 AM in the [00:46:00] morning and, and crack on and work all hours because they love what they're doing. And they believe in the vision. They're doing it out of a sense of compulsion, they doing it because they're usually miserable. They're usually trying to get some money, trying to do things for themselves. So it's almost, I am here to serve myself I'm not here to serve the cause. And not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's typically the idea.
And so what I find fascinating is that typically, we're constantly straining against this dynamic where it's only once someone comes in that fits this model of almost something that we want and we look for it. And there are, there are elements of something that we're looking for, at least not that they are the perfect encapsulation of that, but there are elements of something that we look for that we see and people gravitate And you see, even with the Elizabeth Holmes scenario, there are people leaving their jobs, discarding members of their family to graduate gravitate towards this light, to walk towards whatever it is that they see in this person. And also the second part is that, [00:47:00] the love for the person or whatever is drawing you towards the person seems to surpass the love of thing, because all of these venture capitalists and people that are investing in Theranos for example, are obviously in it to make money.
They're not in it to make friends. I mean, some people want to have friends, but ultimately you are investing and throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into this company because you want a return and you're not seeing the return. You're not seeing the return. You're not seeing the machine that is supposed to be doing the work. You're not seeing any of the tangible stuff that you're, that you've told yourself that you're here looking for. But because of this person, you are here and you're staying and no matter what happens, the stories that come out, that the, the rumors and everything that's happening, you stay there. So I really want to understand, okay.
One, what is it that makes that happen and Two, what is it that we're getting wrong about leadership, where you have such binary outcomes, where you have the one in a million where there's someone that promises to take you to the moon and it all ends up being a farce, but then on the other [00:48:00] side, there is the mundane swamp of most people's jobs where no one is motivated to do much of anything, unless it's putting food in their families. mouths.
Bob Gower: There's so much in there. I think the, you know, we have some core psychological needs as humans, right? Like I think we all need to feel a sense of security, which is often represented by money, right. In our, like, we need to feel like, Hey, I'm going to be fed. I'm going to be closed.
Like if I don't have a sense of security, I feel very unstable. Kind of going through Maslow in some way might mean a mess as hierarchy. We got to have those base needs taken care of. We also need to have a sense of, of significance, right? That we are important to a group of people that we are valued by other people.
This is really, this is very core. This would correspond to kind of the middle, you know, sort of the social needs part of of Maslow's hierarchy. And then we also want to have a, have a sense of meaning of our lives. Right? We want to have some kind of like self-actualization or that, that our life has a purpose that our life has a meaning.
Like these are also things that, that people really care about. And I think what happens in a cultic dynamic and I think the two biggest examples I can think of [00:49:00] where it is so clear in the last few, the last decade would be WeWork and Theranos right. Both had inspiring charismatic leaders, people who, told stories very well.
I think in the case of Elizabeth Holmes, it was a fraudulent story. It was a fiction. I think in the case of Adam Neumann at WeWork, it was not fraudulent so much as exaggerated. You know, he was building a business that actually did have some financial, you know, the did have a product, the product wasn't nearly as valuable as he said it was right as the story that he spun.
But, you know, office space is valuable. It's not going to change the world. It's not going to solve the world's social problems, which is what he was spinning. So what happens is, is when people use the meaning and the significance, they kind of start at the top. I feel like that's what happens in a cultic storytelling is we start at the top.
We say, we're going to give you a sense of meaning. We're going to give you a sense of social significance and stories. One way to know that your, or at least you should have some red flags. If someone is telling you how amazing you are within a few [00:50:00] minutes of meeting you, they're probably trying to manipulate you in some way, like, be really careful around that person.
This is something called love bombing. It's something that narcissists do. It's something that, Machiavellianists and even psychopaths will do occasionally in order to manipulate people and kind of like bring them into there into your, into their orbit. And what's interesting about these people is they tend to bring in people who are manipulative tend to surround themselves with people who are not, they tend to surround themselves with people who are trusting that then creates this other layer that, you know, like it sort of masks their sort of like, kind of cultic dynamic.
But what we see in cults often is that people are, they, I believe this anyway. All right. This is what I've seen is that your needs for security, you're more sort of fundamental needs begin to be sacrificed in service of these more social or these more meaning based needs. And in some cases that's not necessarily a bad thing, right?
Like if I'm part of a community and, you know, like, I think about my family sometimes, like if there was a way for me to sacrifice my life, so my wife and my child could get live on. I would [00:51:00] probably make that choice. I don't say that altruistically. I think that's something that feels right to me. That feels, that feels good to me. And I, and it does feel human to me. It does feel real. It does. But for me to sacrifice all of my time and energy and to work at below market rates which is what happened at, WeWork a lot, right? Like people have sacrificed almost their entire lives to work at below market rates, to rent offices, to other people.
Right. Like, and they did it because they believed they were changing the world. And you hear Newman use this language again. And again, we are the only people who can make the world a better place. We are the only people, you know, like you are the most amazing people. So he's love bombing and doing the purpose thing all at the same time.
Meanwhile, everybody's working way too long, getting sick. And as soon as they're no longer useful to the, to the organization, the organization's like, get the hell out of here. Right? Like the organization doesn't have that commitment to you that they're ask, they're not even, not even a fraction of it to you that they're asking for from you.
So I think about this in terms of what I think of as toxic charisma, right? Like, so the charisma [00:52:00] can be great, but it also can be toxic and toxicity is often defined by its impact. So whether or not you're in a toxic environment, which maybe your listeners might be asking themselves, like, am I working for a sociopath or am I not?
I think you ask yourself, like, is the, is it clear the transaction that's going on here? And do I feel like I'm getting a fair share of that? Or am I always sacrificing something for this other story? And do I feel a sense, a similar sense of commitment from the company to me that they are asking for from me.
And I would say in most in capitalist society, this is almost always out of balance. It's almost always at the collective as represented by the company is asking more from the individual than it's offering to the individual. Yeah. So look at that, look at the results and also maybe ask your friends if it makes sense to you, because often we get wrapped up and.
Hey, this person sounds great to me, you know, I did this when I met my wife as well, because I had a history of selecting bad relationships. I went around to my friends who I liked, and I was like, what do you think of her? And they were like, oh, she's great. And I was like, good. All right. You [00:53:00] know, so.
David Elikwu: The one question that I do want to ask is maybe from the other side of the table. So I think we've largely been talking from the perspective of the individual or the person within the group, but from the leader's perspective, what do you think is the highest value thing that you can do or implement or be?
And the one caveat I'll add to this is that I think sometimes we talk about all the soft skills and we say, oh, a leader has to be just nice and, and do these nice things. But if a leader comes in and all they do is be nice,
sometimes they are also the people that get run over and they are ineffective and the business doesn't go anywhere because they can't strategise effectively. They can't move things forward. And so I think there is also a balance inherent there, where there are super important soft skills that you need to have to be able to lead great teams and to be able to galvanize people and get people to do things. But I think on the other side, there is also the tangible impact piece. And I think you've slightly touched on that before in terms of the other mechanisms that you need to be able to bring. But I think there's a balance there where you also get a lot of people that just default [00:54:00] to KPIs and they default to, okay, here's the metric.
Here's that, here's what you need to do this month. You have to make these, this number of sales. We have to push out this number of features. Okay. Done. That's it. And that, and that's where you get cultures that are people just, you know, coming in and, and pushing the clock and just coming in, serving their hours, serving their time and going home.
So I guess the question is maybe it's either, you know, how do you find that balance or what is it that you think is the most valuable piece that a leader needs to have?
Bob Gower: Yeah. So I apologize. I'm gonna answer with three with three things rather than one thing, because I do, I think there's a, I think there's a few. So the first, the first is really is the straightforward operational stuff. Right. And that's you know, whether you're using KPIs, okay, ours, whatever, you know, like here's what we're doing, making sure people have the resources, the time, the tools, the information they need in order to do a good job, the skills they need to do a good job, get some retraining if the, in there, if needed.
And then also making sure that they're sort of, you know, that you're planning it or early and you're doing, you know, like, so people have a sense of, they have a sense of direction and they have [00:55:00] the time and we're, and all the things they need in order to do a good job. So that's like sort of the operational piece and that's often quite mundane.
But it also sometimes takes some time to figure out exactly what those things are. The other thing is, I think, as a leader, you want to make sure that you actually care about the people that work for you as humans and I mean that beyond their utility to you and to your mission, not that you can't care about that as first and foremost, it's a transactional relationship.
People are doing work in exchange for their labor, right? Like, yeah. Like care about the mission, but you also have to, I think you know, my, the, one of my favorite CEOs I've ever worked for the first thing he said to me is even in the hiring conversation, he's like, look, we don't expect you to be here forever.
As a matter of fact, we expect you to be here maybe at least two years, maybe a little bit longer if we were, if we were lucky, where do you see yourself going after this? Like where does this fit in the trajectory of your life and your career? And I almost burst into tears. I think when he asked me that question, because I was like, oh my God, I feel so like seen and cared for, because I don't have to participate in this, in this myth that the business is going to become my [00:56:00] whole life.
Right. That his business is going to become my whole life. And I felt so respected and I still like, just deeply, deeply respect him. So, and that was all like that's sowed the seeds for us to have a really good interpersonal relationship, it was still a boss subordinate relationship and it was never a friend relationship, but it was always a relationship characterised by trust and mutual respect.
It made me very loyal to him in a certain way. And then the third piece is that's the relationship between leader and individual. The other thing I think leaders need to watch out for which can be much harder is they need to watch out for the relationships in, within the team and within the organization.
And what I mean by this is Kim Scott and her latest book. Just really her latest book is called Just work. And I think she really nailed it when she said there are kind of three kinds of dysfunction or three sources of dysfunction inside of teams. One is bias where all of our brains are biased. All of our brains, see the world based on our own perspective, based on our own life experiences, based on our own cognitive limitations, we all have biases.
It's up to the leader and it's up [00:57:00] to all individuals to make sure that bias isn't running the show. So sometimes so like if I'm a white male leader, I want to make sure that I have some, some black females or some people who don't look like me. You don't come from the background of me who are, who I trust to call me out when I'm being biased, when I'm, you know, like and who I even specifically seek.
And maybe even in some cases pay to specifically bust my bias. Like when my wife and I wrote the book. We hired a transgendered person of color to read the book and make sure that our language was as inclusive as it possibly could be. That our bias wasn't running the show. We have to bust our own biases, but the other things come into get much more problematic.
Right? So bias is not meaning it. I messed up, I excluded somebody said something stupid. Didn't mean it. Sometimes bias can metastasize into prejudice, which is where I'm suddenly now saying, this is my real opinion of, of somebody who has a different identity. Right? Like I, I believe my own bias.
I bought my own BS essentially. And then the third is bullying, which is being mean about it. So not meaning it, meaning it and being mean [00:58:00] about it. Bias prejudice and bullying. What she points out is that bias. Sometimes you just need to point it out to. And that's very helpful. And so everybody's biased.
And so we need to create an, a group environment where we can all talk about our biases and I can talk about your biases and you can talk about my biases. And we just kind of like, we can be open and honest and real with each other. And sometimes it creates some friction, but it never blows us apart. And it always leads to a better situation.
But if somebody is expressing prejudice or bullying within the organization, those people need to go or they need to face consequences immediately for what they're doing. Those kinds of behaviors are just not acceptable, especially bullying. Prejudice, you know, like if you can keep it out of the workplace, maybe, right.
But we need, but, but we need to create consequences. And often we need to get rid of those people. What's challenging for leaders is that bullies will often, if you are higher in the social hierarchy than they are, the bully will be very nice to you. You will not see the bullying behavior. So you have to do skip level interviews.
You have to ask other people how they feel about each other. You have to like you, you have to do there's a [00:59:00] whole lot of other stuff you have to do. Bullies and, people bullies, especially like, are very, very good at hiding themselves. And so you have to be really, really I don't know, rigorous in your listening techniques in order to make sure that these people, you get these people out of your organization as quickly as you can.
And as soon as you detect them, get them out, right? Like do not like try to like nurture them along. I'm sorry. You know, like the cost of keeping that person around the cost of having no matter how brilliant they are and no matter how well connected they are, no matter whether they're the nephew of your boss, whatever the cost of having that person on your team is, is frankly, most often fatal to the team's productivity functionality and that social environment. You're trying to create.
Hope. That was helpful.
David Elikwu: That was super helpful. And I'm sure that is going to be tremendously helpful to all the people that are going to listen to this. Yeah. Just thank you. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
Bob Gower: Thank you, man. It was so helpful. This was fun.
David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps [01:00:00] the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.