The Four Essential Choices Every Leader Must Face

With Mark Miller EP 100

Every challenge in business stems from something deeper, right? This week, our guest is Mark Miller, a top business leader, bestselling author, and communicator. According to him, most of the challenges we face in our businesses are deeply rooted in the foundations of leadership.  How can we tackle these issues from the top down? By becoming the best leaders we can be. And in this episode, he gives us a solid foundation. As leaders, we constantly have to make big decisions that affect a lot of people’s lives. It’s a lot of pressure. But it’s also an incredible opportunity to work on ourselves. In our interview, Mark discusses how he was able to figure out how to accelerate leadership development in his organization and how that opened doors for his career. Listen in and learn more as Mark shares the four most essential smart leadership choices you can make to foster a healthy work environment. You don’t want to miss this valuable and action-packed episode.


Mark Miller, thank you so much for joining me on the show.

It’s great to be with you.

I so much loved when one of my content team members brought me your name and told me that we are going to be having this interview. My readers know that if you ask anybody what Meny Hoffman eats for breakfast, lunch, dinner and some snacks, it’s all about leadership and anything he can learn on that topic because you got to grow.

Dave Ramsey has a quote that says, “An organization will never outgrow its leader.” The stronger you are as the leader, the stronger your team members are, and the stronger your organization is. I’m so happy that you were able to join us. I want to start with a little bit of background. I do this for our readers so they get a little bit of feeling about the guests that we have. Share with us a little bit of your backstory as far as how you got and when you got introduced to the concept of leadership in general.

I started leading many years ago and stumbled and bumbled my way along. I always felt like I could be more effective and add more value but I didn’t know how. I became a student of leadership effectiveness and learned from some outstanding leaders. Some I knew personally, some I learned through their writings, and others I sought out as mentors.

My journey continued to progress until I was asked to try and figure out how to accelerate leadership development in our organization. I put together a team of smart people. I said, “Guess what we get to do?” We had great leadership in our organization prior to that time, but the process was much more akin to immersion and osmosis. We had not been thoughtful, strategic, and particularly disciplined. The issue we faced was that process that worked quite well when we were small was not keeping pace with the business. Leaders became the lid of the organization.

I don’t know about your audience, but in my experience, when an organization has a problem to solve or an opportunity to seize, their first instinct is to put a leader on it. That’s where we found ourselves, but when we looked at our leadership bench, it was not very strong. We found ourselves saying things like, “I think this person can lead in a few years. I hope this person can become a leader,” but we needed more leaders at the moment.

What we did in the short-term is what a lot of people do, you give more to your existing leaders, which works at the moment in the short run. That’s a recipe for disaster as you burn out those existing leaders and fail to build for the future. Fast forward, we started trying to figure out what we needed to do to accelerate leadership development. I have now been working on that question for many years as the priority in my day job. I have other responsibilities, but that has become pretty all-consuming.

[bctt tweet=”Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.” username=””]

Leader Vs Manager Mentality
With your vast experience on this topic, you saw a paradigm shift where we went from regional manager to leadership and leaders, and the title has changed. With the titles changed, hopefully, the culture of those organizations changed. How would you define the real mindset change from the word manager to leader?

That can be a pretty deep hole. My best language to succinctly describe the difference between management and leadership, let me say first that you’ve got to have both to be successful. What you don’t need are managers masquerading as leaders because managers are fundamentally about control, and leaders are fundamentally about creation. It’s specifically creating the future and not controlling the present. You need to control the present, but it’s hard to create the future if that’s your mindset, which is why you need that partnership between the manager and the leader.

In that creation process, the successful leader’s primary methodology is to empower, equip and release others. They’re not trying to control. They’re trying to release the potential of others. That’s the shift we have talked about, encouraging our leaders and bringing managers into the mix. If that’s your bias, you need to be aware of that bias because you can’t create the future in a manager mentality.

This is the first time that I’ve heard somebody describing it this way. I have been on the notion that it’s either/or. It’s either managing or leadership. It’s the first time I hear the balance between both. For the readers out there, sometimes, we hold onto one versus the other. We always become the 80/20 like, “How do we keep balance? How do we have a work-life balance? How do we keep a balance between manager and leader?” What are some practical pointers in the operational day of a leader to say, “When do I use the management part of me, and when do I use my leadership?”

There’s an insight in your question, and I want to call it out for your readers. I know very few pure managers and pure leaders. Most of us as human beings are a blend if we occupy one of these roles. We have tendencies, propensities, and biases. You have to understand that our primary role as a leader is to create strategic and positive change to move people into the future. Most managers are not thinking about change. They are thinking about keeping the system in control and the outputs predictable.

The leaders are trying to say, “That’s good for today, but are we even producing the right things? We may need to produce something different. We might need to be in some other business or have another product or service.” It’s when some of these big CEOs go into these old established organizations and say, “We’re not going to be product-based like IBM. We’re going to be service-based.” A manager is not thinking of that. A manager is trying to figure out how to more efficiently and cost-effectively create the product, and you need that.

The tension that you accurately pointed out, every leader faces every day. Even if you got a modicum of management in you or on the flip side, if you got a modicum of leadership in you, it’s a heads up heads down tension, and it’s ever-present. That’s where our judgment, intuition and instincts as a leader have to come into play. You asked specifically about what you could do. It starts with understanding that the core role and responsibility of the leader is to create the future. When you’re working solely on the present and spending all your time head down, you need a level of awareness that, “I’m not doing my job.” It’s never your job to do your team’s job.

In my experience, your team will delegate stuff up all the time. One of those skills that leaders need to develop is the ability to deflect and keep the work where it belongs. You want to serve, encourage, equip and empower people, but you don’t want to do their work. It starts with awareness. In some of our research, one of the disciplines that we have found in the best leaders, which facilitates what you’re asking, is they build margin into their calendars. A lot of people reading this are going to think, “That is absurd.” They’re thinking, “I’m already working 100 hours a week. This crazy man is telling me I need margin.”

LTB 100 | Smart Leadership Choices
Smart Leadership: Four Simple Choices to Scale Your Impact
Here’s what we know from leaders throughout history. This is a practice that goes back a couple of thousand years. The best leaders build time in their calendar to reflect, assess, think, create and plan. It’s hard to do your job if you don’t have time to reflect, assess, think, create and plan. We find this practice throughout history.

Great leaders had done it, even Howard Gardner out of Harvard when he did some breakthrough work on the book, Leading Minds. He studied great historical figures and discovered this in all of their lives. Most of the leaders I know are pretty good at honoring their calendars. I don’t know why but it’s in us. If it’s on our calendar, we feel like we have to do it, even if it’s something we should not do. That’s another point. If you will schedule some time for margin, it will help you pull your head up.

You mentioned doing our people’s job. I always say, “Let’s look at the flip side.” The flip side is as a leader, you’ve got to do something. If you don’t do it, nobody else will. If you don’t do that for the company, nobody else is waking up in the morning and saying, “Where will we be five years from now with this product or service?” If you don’t have that as your key responsibility, who else does?

I love margin. I have been trying to discipline myself for years to build it into my life. It’s our time machine. We can look back, look at the present, and be transported into the future if we make time. Nobody else is doing that.

Let’s talk about learning leadership. There are Fortune 500 companies that hire great leaders in different positions, but the rest of us are learning on the job. We’re running these small companies and starting our own business. We never thought we were going to be leaders. All of a sudden, we hired the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 10th employees, and we got to be leaders. What are the stepping stones for small business owners to start running that way?

You gave the answer in your introduction that you have committed to lifelong learning, and the best leaders have made that commitment. This sounds cliché but it’s true. It always begins with a choice, whether learning is part of your natural temperament and disposition or not. I’ll share my story. You and your readers might be familiar with StrengthsFinders out of the Gallup Organization. Everybody loves StrengthsFinders because it tells you what you’re good at. I understand all that. I know Marcus Buckingham. He’s a friend of mine, so all is good there.

I was talking to some leaders about growing and learning. Somebody said, “This is probably easy for you.” I said, “Why would you say that?” They said, “I bet you you’re a learner because the learner is one of those strengths that you can ascertain through the assessment.” I said, “Learning is not in my top 5 or top 10. I’m not sure it’s in my top 25.” They said, “You act like a learner.” I said, “Thank you.”

I made a choice many years ago when my supervisor said, “Here’s the deal. Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.” I went, “Is that how the world works?” He said, “If you want more influence, impact, opportunity and income, it hinges on your ability to grow.” I made a decision. I would rather listen to the radio in the car, but I listened to podcasts and books. I had that early voice in my life that said, “This is how the world works.” For those leaders that are going, “How do I do this?” You’ve got to make a decision and make that decision based on the fact that it’s going to have future returns. It’s going to pay big dividends down the road.

You found that the solution for most issues in the workplace lies within the foundation of leadership. Tell us more about that.

Problems don’t solve themselves. It’s very rare that a problem will spontaneously resolve itself. It’s when a man or a woman says, “I have an idea. I have a plan.” They say, “What if? What about? Let’s pursue this. Let’s try that.” Leaders are the indispensable lever to change the world. It’s not going to change until leaders step up. Somebody said, “What about employee engagement?” I said, “Employee engagement is a perfect example. It’s not about the employees. It’s about the leaders and the workplace that they have created.” They said, “I’ve got a great place to work.” I said, “Why are you allowing disengaged people to stay on your payroll? That’s your fault too.” I can’t think of any problems that the answer doesn’t contain leadership.

I’ll share a vulnerable moment of myself. I remember years ago, I went to the first leadership three-day training. In the end, they went around the room and asked for a-ha moments. When it came to me, I said the following words, “I came in thinking that my team is at fault, and I’m leaving knowing that I’m all at fault.” The person said, “Don’t be so harsh on yourself.” I said, “If I have the tools to give to those people so they should be able to do a phenomenal job, then it’s the leader’s fault. If they’re not capable, they shouldn’t be part of the organization.” It’s the leader’s fault.

[bctt tweet=”Ultimately, the impact of a leader is determined by his or her choices. ” username=””]

It’s the choice of a leader what type of organization they want to run and what type of engagement and culture they want to have for their team. I made a commitment at that level that culture will be very important to us, and therefore that will be the driving force. I always say that a happy team makes a happy client, and a happy client makes a happy bank. It goes that way. Those are the choices that leaders make in their company, and that affects every touchpoint.

That’s sobering and liberating. I’m glad to know that I have an influence on those things. I’m not going to play the victim or blame somebody else. If there’s an issue, I need to try and resolve it and exert influence. I understand completely what you’re describing.

Let’s talk a little bit of a different angle to it. We see companies come and go every day. We see companies thriving and becoming empires, where other similar products are starting with the same excitement and all of a sudden, they’re going under. A lot of it is in the leadership based on your experience and what you have seen throughout the marketplace. What would you say is the most important quality a leader has to have that will make or break their company long-term?

Smart Leadership
That’s a pretty good segue into smart leadership. Several years ago, we began to see an increasing number of leaders who are struggling. This was pre-pandemic, and we were trying to get to the bottom of it. It doesn’t appear to be bound by industry, region, seniority, role or title. We saw a lot of leaders struggling.

Some of these men and women I knew personally were leaders, and they were struggling. We began to try and sort through this several years ago. What we believe to be true is the impact of a leader is determined by his or her choices. That’s the answer to your question. It’s not even your character or skills because character and skills for a leader are table stakes.

If you don’t have character and skills, you can’t play the game. It would be a pitcher that can’t throw a ball. He’s not a pitcher at that point. Assuming you’re a pitcher, what differentiates the Cy Young Award winners from everybody else? What could we learn from the best leaders that might be transferable to everyone else? Our conclusion after a lot of time, energy and effort is it does boil down to four choices. I would love to tell you about that.

Before we get to the four choices, I’m letting it sink in a little bit because this is a very important point. Our readers should do this as well. You could continue to enhance skills, learn, and hire for them as well. You could bring in other people, but who you bring in and what type of choices you’re making could sometimes be the deathbed of your next product or company. Let’s go there.

I’m going to give you one quick word of context and preamble. Going back to all those leaders struggling, we initially thought the problem was busyness, complexity, distractions, and all those types of things. We even labeled it as quicksand. We said, “The quicksand is the problem.” We don’t have time to go into it here, but we all know quicksand. The data behind it is staggering. Senior leaders are spending over 70% of their time in meetings every week. Some people would say, “That’s quicksand.” Most folks were opening their phone 150 times and swiping over 2,600 times a day pre-COVID.

LTB 100 | Smart Leadership Choices
Smart Leadership Choices: The stronger you are as a leader, the stronger your team members are, and ultimately the stronger your organization is.

Pre-COVID, folks were getting almost 100 text messages a day and were distracted every three minutes in the workplace. You think that you can learn to cope with that but you can’t. Psychologists tell us that it takes twenty minutes for your brain to refocus. The consequence is you’re never focused throughout your day because of all the distractions. It goes on and on. As we started talking about that quicksand, they were like, “Is this the problem?” We even had leaders say, “I’m in quicksand but that doesn’t describe my quicksand.”

We started saying, “What other kinds of quicksand are there?” There’s the quicksand of success, complacency, fear, fatigue, or aimlessness. We ended up saying, “Maybe this whole toxic mess is anything that keeps you from accomplishing your goals.” Maybe that’s the problem. We put it all in one big bucket. Most of us have been in it, but what do you do when you get in it? There are only three options. You can swim in it, which a lot of leaders do. There are lots of problems. It’s not sustainable, it’s exhausting, and you’re never going to reach your full potential.

Another option is to sink, quit or give up. When you do, you die. If you don’t physically die, your hopes, dreams and aspirations are extinguished. There are leaders out there like that. I know some of them, and I hate that for them. They just said it’s too hard. The third option is you escape. We said, “Let’s find the leaders who have escaped this mess and study them.” From that group, we said, “They make four choices that the rest of us can make. That’s how they get out and stay out.”

Confront Reality
Let me hit these for you because I want to give you some very practical and tactical things you can do in each arena, and you stop me at any point. The first smart choice is to confront reality. I have met so many leaders that don’t want to confront reality. When you confront reality, you’re grounded in truth and you lead from a position of strength. You imagine how hard it is to lead if you’re unable or unwilling to confront reality. That’s the first choice and the first among equals. These are not necessarily intended to be sequential but if you can’t do that, you’re going to have a hard time getting out of the quicksand.

This is such an important point because we have this issue and we tend to brush over it. We think it’s going to go away. It’s like parking tickets. Just because you’re not looking at the windshield doesn’t mean the parking ticket is going away. It’s there and you accumulate interest on that parking ticket. When you confront it, at least you’re there to take care of that issue. That’s a very important one. You mentioned it’s not in order but it starts with you, for sure.

Let me give you a couple of tactics. First, it always and should start with yourself. What is true about your leadership, health, finances and relationships? It’s best to start with you. Don’t start with somebody else. After you have confronted reality about yourself, you can confront reality about your team, organization, strategies, products and industry. Start with yourself. There’s one more tactic. To do this well often requires fresh eyes. Sometimes, we can’t even see the truth. Even if we say we’re willing, we can’t even see it.

[bctt tweet=”When you confront reality, you’re grounded in truth and you lead from a position of strength.” username=””]

I encourage people to find a coach, mentor or peer group. I’m in a group and I have been meeting with nine other guys for many years. We meet twice a month talking about leadership. We share our annual development plans and give us feedback while we’re developing them. We hold each other accountable. There are lots of ways to confront reality. You can do assessments, 360s, and all this stuff. Whatever you need to do to get fresh eyes is my number one advice for somebody once they make a choice. You got to make a choice first, but then you got to make good on your choice.

Grow Capacity
The second smart choice is to grow capacity. That sounds crazy to a lot of people going, “That’s my problem. That’s why I’m in the quicksand.” There are lots of ways to grow capacity. Some of your readers will know Peter Drucker. He said many years ago that he had never met a knowledge worker, which is me and you, who could not cut 25% off their calendar, and nobody would know or care. That’s still true. We need to clean up our calendars and build some margin. That’s a way to grow capacity. We need to pay attention to our own energy.

Do your readers have a personal energy management plan? They got plans for everything else. They got strategic, acquisition, merger, succession, and financial plans. Do they have a plan for their own energy management? Nobody is excited about what you put in one of those plans because it’s about sleep, diet, exercise, relationships and recreation but it’s so essential. I know leaders who know how to lead but don’t have the energy to lead. The reason they’re still in the quicksand is they don’t have the energy to extricate themselves.

They’re just grinding it because they don’t have another choice.

The more they grind, the more it grinds them down and diminishes their impact. At the end of the day, all of this is about growing your impact. That’s what you’re trying to do.

I posted about this on LinkedIn that if you look at your feeds on social media, everybody is focused on the business goals for 2022. I’m not seeing anybody speaking about personal goals, which could be not only money. It could be finance, health, family, spiritual or all of the above. You are going to be a better person and your business will do better if you are taken care of. Everybody is focused on the business goals, and it matches up with what you said. If you want to grow your capacity, you got to be a stronger person.

Fuel Curiosity
That’s the second smart choice. The third smart choice is to fuel curiosity. It’s how we maintain relevance and vitality. I have often thought and even been asked from time to time, “Is there a leadership fountain of youth?” It’s curiosity. The leaders that continue to add value in their life are the leaders who are still curious.

LTB 100 | Smart Leadership Choices
Smart Leadership Choices: What you don’t need are managers masquerading as leaders, because managers are fundamentally about controlling the present and leaders are fundamentally about creating the future.

One tactic I would share with your readers is this idea of “Ask, don’t tell,” whenever possible. The best leaders ask the best questions. As I look back over my leadership journey, it’s crystal clear to me that the more questions I ask, the better I lead. It makes me and the other person smarter. It opens new possibilities and accelerates learning. You could make a long list. I believe that leaders undervalue this idea of questions.

Where do you see this happening? Is it meetings with their teams or even on their own when they’re thinking about bigger picture stuff? Is it with clients? Where would you see this practical?

If you’re with clients, your team, or yourself when you’re thinking about the future, you need to be asking more questions. Your readers will know the name Jim Collins. He has spoken for our organization on a couple of different occasions. I’ve gotten to spend some one-on-one time with Jim. He’s an amazing guy. He was at our annual event a few years back and challenged our audience. He said, “I want you to double your question-to-statement ratio.”

He said, “No matter how many questions you’re asking in a day, I want you to double it.” While we were processing that, he said, “I then want you to double it again.” We’re all sitting there going, “It’s crazy.” It’s true in all walks of life. As a parent, I should have asked more questions. My kids are grown now, but I should have asked more questions because I want them to learn to think. I don’t want to think for them. That’s what we’re doing so many times when we don’t ask an employee. We’re thinking for them and robbing them of an opportunity. I would say across the board that every day, I try to ask more questions, and it’s increasing my impact.

I’ll add a point on that. Sometimes you run an organization and hire this employee. This employee constantly asks questions, and the leader usually gets annoyed. I always say, “It might be the best hire you’ve ever had in your organization.” If you get annoyed by the questions, chances are because there’s something there, and they’re taking you somewhere you don’t want to go.

I even chatted back to the whole concept of fresh eyes. I tell new employees, “You have an opportunity here in your first year to add disproportionate value because you’re going to bring fresh eyes. I want you to ask more questions than you’ve ever asked before because you’re seeing things that we can no longer see.” In the book Smart Leadership, there are 597 questions in the book. That seemed like the right way to help people get the content, particularly since I’m saying that’s a good way to help people learn and grow. These are 597 questions that you get to answer for yourself.

Create Change
The fourth smart choice is to create change today to ensure a better tomorrow. Leaders are the ones that create change. We’re the architects of the future, but we have to be willing to change things. Progress is always preceded by change, and leaders know that. Sometimes we want to forget it. It’s a little of that manager mentality seeping up as change is hard, messy, personal and exhausting, but that’s our job. As far as something practical, I got two thoughts for leaders. One is you need to be sure you know what you want to change to. This is not change for change’s sake. This is about strategic, intentional and positive changes in your life, leadership, organization and industry.

[bctt tweet=”Fueling your curiosity is how you maintain relevance and vitality.” username=””]

You need to have a pretty good idea of what you want to change to. I’ve talked to leaders that would say, “I don’t know.” I said, “Go back to this idea of growing your capacity. When you get some of that margin time, that’s the thing you need to be thinking about. It’s what you need to become and aspire towards in the future.”

The second bit of advice is leaders don’t need any new tools. We have more tools than we know what to do with, but you need to dust some of them all. Tools like vision, accountability, measurement and recognition are things that will help you create change, but they’re not going to do the work for you. Things like planning. I’m finding an increasing trend of leaders that feel like planning is beneath them. You’re about to marshal all these people to bill something. Don’t you want to be sure that you got a good set of blueprints that you co-create with them?

I see far too many leaders that are not spending enough time thinking and planning for the future. My encouragement to the leaders is to dust off the tools you already have. If you need to brush up on some of them or get some help, you can turn to mentors, friends, peers, coaches, or Google. If you need to know how to facilitate a meeting, you can google that if you have to.

This is brilliant, and it’s the first time I have listened to someone who shares this in this order. It’s brilliant for leaders. I encourage our readers to take action on what we read, specifically on the last one when you speak about change. We live in a world that every leader has the shiny object syndrome, where I heard this leader doing that or moving towards agility, technology and everything else.

What is the fine balance for a leader to know, “I have something going for us, and we need to zoom in and focus,” versus change? Like you said before, it’s not a change just because of the nature of change. It’s for a direction where I want to go. That’s the first part of the question. The other part of the question is how much is the leader doing on their own versus bringing in their team on those different things you mentioned as far as those different areas that we covered?

Vision, Clarity, And Communication
Let’s start with that second question because the answer is going to be unsatisfying. It depends. What’s the magnitude? What are the consequences? What are the stakes? What is the timeline? Many of the more strategic, bold and aggressive moves emerge from the heart of the leader. That’s the way it works because the leader is the one investing the time and energy to see the unseen. They’re trying to see over the horizon. Other people are not seeing that. It’s the leader that says, “We need to work on XYZ,” and other people are going, “Have you lost your mind?” He’s like, “We’ll find out in a decade but that’s where we’re going.”

LTB 100 | Smart Leadership Choices
Smart Leadership Choices: The methodology of successful leaders is not to control, but to empower, equip, and release the potential of others.

What I often find is the leader certainly has to rally everyone to that new vision. Many times, I see the leader taking the lead on that. The involvement varies at different stages on the journey based on the magnitude of the situation. To your other question, there is some discipline that leaders have to muster. That’s where it’s good to have fresh eyes and trusted voices that can tell you, “This is too much too fast. The organization can’t process this.”

I don’t know how to tell your readers to find the balance other than to say, if you change too often without letting the work mature or come to fruition, I’m fearful that over time, you’ll lose the confidence of your people. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years. People want certainty but they will settle for clarity. If you can’t give them clarity, you don’t have much to give them. They start wondering, “Why are we following her? Why are we following him? They don’t seem to know where we’re going.”

If you think about it at its most simple and elemental nature, the leader says, “Here’s where we are going.” If you’re constantly changing that, it’s like, “I might want to follow somebody else.” I would encourage people to be very careful that the big changes are as strategic and well-articulated as possible. If the world changes, the leader has to be willing to say, “The world has changed and we’re changing.” If you’ve got that tendency to change and change, you could jeopardize your leadership.

This is a very important point because clarity is important. Not casting the clarity through your team is even worse. Sometimes, you see moves in a company and the people say, “What’s going on over here?” You have great clarity but you didn’t cast it to the team. I would add to what you said about change. A leader has to ask them, “Why change? What’s the reasoning why we’re going there?” If you could answer that sufficiently, you got to go there because that reason is enough of a reason you should focus there.

You’ve got to communicate it over and over again. I read a study that John Kotter did a few years back. It’s not current but it’s still thought-provoking. He’s a former Harvard professor who wrote the book, Leading Change and other things. Based on his study, most change efforts fail at an organizational level. He discovered or estimated that they’re under-communicating by a factor of ten. Even if the leader stands up and says, “We’re going X, Y, Z, and here’s why,” you’ve got to say it 10,000 more times. You can’t say it once and expect people to get it. I agree with you completely. A lot of communication helps make the journey more palatable.

[bctt tweet=”Progress is always preceded by change. You need to create change today, to ensure a better tomorrow. ” username=””]

We live in a world now where the buzzword out there is the world of resignations. We see employees flocking all over to either freelance or move from one company to the other. What would you say is something that leaders could do better in the economy to retain great talent and employees?

It goes back to some of the work I’m doing now with the team on culture. Culture can mitigate some of that. I don’t know that it could eliminate it. If you’ve got a high-performance culture, it’s a place people want to contribute and add value in part because they are valued there. Leaders need to give more time and attention to culture. We did a global study with almost 5,000 participants in 10 countries, 72% of senior leaders are saying that culture is the most important thing they can do, and only 1/3 of them work on culture. When you ask them why they don’t, they say that they’re too busy.

What I wanted to say to all these global leaders is you need to read Smart Leadership, but that would not be appropriate. Leaders animate culture. Leaders have got to engage, some for the first time, and others have to re-engage. Leaders tend to believe, “I’ve got a good culture. I’m going to check. I can move on.” The best culture is they’re living, breathing, dynamic and ever-changing. Leaders have got to be willing to adapt. If they don’t, their culture will become stagnant and people will want to get out of there.

I was once at a CEO round table and we spoke about culture. One of the CEOs said, “We have a great culture. We do allow for our culture.” I said, “Do you want to be at a vulnerable moment? Open up and show me your calendar. How much time do you focus on culture-building?” Nothing is there. There are all kinds of meetings but nothing that enhances the culture, which is initiatives and one-on-one time with people. It has to be backed up by action. A leader has to say, “We have a great culture.” If you’re not nurturing it, it’s not going to happen on its own. Even if it was there at one point, you’ve got to constantly nurture it to grow it.

Around the world, there’s about a 30-point spread between how good the leaders think their culture is and the frontline associates. It’s great to be king. It’s good for senior leaders around the world. They got to get in touch with the people on the front lines if they’re going to build the culture that will help them retain people.

We spoke about your new book, Smart Leadership: Four Simple Choices To Scale Your Impact. Tell us more about how people could find out more about the book and if they want to follow some of your content that you have out there.

Go to Not only can you learn about the book, you can pre-order if you choose. There are a couple of free assessments. I mentioned in there the whole idea of evaluating yourself and your team. There’s a team assessment in there. In the chapter, we talked about seeing the unseen. There are some questions in there to help you formulate your purpose and vision. Those are some free downloads that are on that website as well. My site is

LTB 100 | Smart Leadership Choices
Smart Leadership Choices: A leader is one who invests his time and energy to see the unseen, and the leader certainly has to rally everyone towards that new vision.

Let’s close with the four Rapid-fire questions. Are you ready?


Number one. A book that changed your life?

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker.

Number two, a piece of advice you got that you never forget?

Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.

Number three, anything you wish you could go back and do differently?

There have been some hard leadership lessons that I learned later in my life that I wish I could go back and apologize for. I have apologized to some of my early teams. I wish I had led better early in my career. Now, I have horror stories to tell people about doing it for me so it’s good.

Number four, final question, what is still on your bucket list to achieve?

I would like to serve 100 million leaders before I die. I’ve got a few more to go.

Let’s schedule it right away when you’re back on the show when we reach that milestone. Being on this show, it’s going to reach a bunch of other additional leaders that will gobble up your content because this was amazing. Mark Miller, thank you so much for joining us. I know your time is valuable. That is why in the name of our readers, we’ll forever be grateful for sharing some of your time with us.

Thank you very much.

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Mark Miller

Mark Miller is a business leader, best-selling author, and communicator. Mark started his career at Chick-fil-A working as an hourly team member in 1977. In 1978, he joined the corporate staff working in the warehouse and mailroom. Since that time, he has provided leadership for corporate communications, field operations, quality and customer satisfaction, training and development, leadership development, and more. During his tenure with Chick-fil-A, the company has grown from seventy-five restaurants to over 2,700 locations with annual sales exceeding $17 billion. He began writing almost twenty years ago when he teamed up with Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager, to write The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. With over one million books in print, in more than twenty-five languages, Mark’s global impact continues to grow.

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