Terry Montesi sits down with friend Rand Stagen, CEO of Stagen Leadership Academy, to discuss the pillars of successful leadership in today’s polarized world. The conversation centers around the power of awareness in leadership and how strategically thinking about the future can create a better workplace; a concept Stagen Academy has termed “The Long Game”.
Plus, Rand shares his insights on conscious capitalism and stepping up to higher ground in all aspects of life.
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Terry Montesi: Welcome to Leaning In, a Commercial Real Estate podcast hosted by Trademark Property Company. Join me, Terry Montesi, CEO and founder of Trademark and other trademark leaders, as we talk to industry experts about the future of retail, multi-family, and mixed-use real estate. Thanks for checking us out. And now it’s time to Lean In.
Today, I am thrilled to be joined by my friend Rand Stagen, CEO of the Dallas-based Stagen Leadership Academy. On today’s podcast, Rand and I will talk about leadership in the 21st century and how playing the long game of leadership can create a better workplace.
We’ll also dig into a unique leadership tenet around the power and importance of awareness and how now more than ever, the world needs a different mindset to deal with our polarization.
So Rand, thanks so much for being here today. I’d like to start by asking you to tell our audience a little about your background, the founding of your business, and how you got into the business of leadership transformation.
Rand Stagen: All right. Well, Terry, once again, thanks for the opportunity to be here on the other side. I’ve listened to many of the episodes, and it’s great to be here in Fort Worth at the Trademark World Headquarters. As we explore, wherever our conversation’s going to take us today. So, to set a little context, I would say I identify first and foremost as an entrepreneur and a capitalist.
I started businesses when I was in high school when I was in college at Southern Methodist University, where I started a publishing company, an underground newspaper for fraternities and sororities. When I graduated from SMU, I started a newspaper in Dallas, Fort Worth, called The Met. And that was back in the nineties. So, I spent partly in college and partly out of college. Ten years in my twenties publishing newspapers and magazines. And a small publishing company of about 50 employees. While I was running the media company, I was fortunate enough to have found an executive coach who helped me, as a leader, become more effective and manage the challenges of leading a team, helping me to build the company’s culture around values and purpose. So I was a recipient of the power of having outside support. When I sold the media company with my partners in 1999, I had the opportunity to make a pivot. And I decided to follow my passion for helping my employees, especially my sales team, whom I was training and leading daily. I said I want to get on here on the other side, going to the other side for our theme today and getting on the other side of the table. Starting the business that I have today, Stagen Leadership Academy, which we founded in 1999. We’ve been at it for almost 25 years.
Terry Montesi: Great! And folks may or may not know we have been a client since we met in early 2006. And when I met you, you told me I typically don’t work with real estate companies. And I was a little taken aback and didn’t understand that. So why don’t you explain to the audience why you said that? Why you decided to work with Trademark, and what you’ve learned about us and real estate companies since then?
Rand Stagen: Well, first of all, you’re aging us by telling the audience that we met back in 2006. I remember the city club presentation. I was the keynote speaker at the Young Presidents organization. You were in the audience, and you came up to me afterward. And you said, I loved the speech, I loved the topic of leadership and culture, and I’d like to talk to you about the possibility of working with me and Trademark Property Group.
And I remember saying, what industry are you in? And you said real estate. And I said, our experience is that we typically don’t work with real estate organizations. And you were like; we’re not a typical real estate company. And I have come to appreciate that response over the years.
To give context to the audience, it wasn’t that it was real estate in particular. What we have found for decades is that industries that tend to be more transactional, such as real estate, financial services, kind of energy, oil, and gas. Where there’s a transactional element to the ethos of the industry, we tend to not be interesting to those leaders.
So it’s just like we’re not picking what each other is putting down. And so when we do work within these more transactional spaces, we love the opportunity if there’s a fit. What we find is that we’re working with the outliers. We’re working with businesses within those industries. We have a handful of clients in the energy sector and a handful of clients in the financial service sector. And working with you in real estate and a handful of others across the country. We call them Stagen clients, or Stagen member companies, who tend to be innovators, disruptors, and in many cases, incredibly respected in those spaces.
I hope those that are listening today, as you’re thinking about, I’m in the real estate industry. Why is Terry interviewing a leadership content expert? And we’ll hopefully keep people’s attention today.
Terry Montesi: Yeah, thanks. That’s interesting and fun for me. So there’s an adage ran that leaders are born, not made. But you’ve built your business around making leaders. Are they both born and made and how do your programs build better leaders?
Rand Stagen: Yeah, and I think it’s an age-old question. I would come back to you and say, are athletes born or made?
And I think the answer is yes. That’s a perfect answer. And so I think, having the opportunity to watch, I’ve got two daughters, and you’ve got your children that have been growing up. I’ve met all of them.
The idea of watching, especially in junior high and high school. Just watching that certain athletes just have the gift. They have the coordination, they have the instinct. And in many cases, they don’t develop it, and they don’t move on to college or beyond college even though they may have the gift.
And then, others show by time. They’re in high school, they may not have those same gifts. But they have the perseverance, they have the grit, they have the determination, and they have enough of a threshold competency in their sport to be able to not just excel but, in many cases, go on to college for sure.
And in some cases, we have a client at Stagen who was, by his admission, not a gifted athlete but, in high school, worked harder than anyone. Got an opportunity to go to college to play college football. Worked harder than anybody. Went on to work to go into the NFL, and he would say he didn’t have the talent, but he was willing to do the work. Now it’s interesting that when people say, well, our leaders are born or made.
Yes, Right. So yeah, we’ve had the opportunity to work with several thousand leaders each year now. Both directly in our program, in our facility in Dallas, but also through our cascading programs with our clients and our member companies all around the United States and Canada.
And so we have a lot of data. And what I can tell you is when we have the opportunity to work with a gifted quote unquote gifted leader, we’re working to help that leader go to his or her next level. Yeah. When we’re working with a leader that doesn’t have the natural emotional intelligence or doesn’t have the natural.
Capacities that they need for a broader range of motion in their own, you know, being a corporate athlete, we help them get better. So, I mean, our, our goal is to, and our principles are, we’re going to be able to help everyone get better from where they are. But everyone’s starting at a different beginning.
Terry Montesi: So, Nature and nurture apply to leadership as well.
Rand Stagen: Indeed.
Terry Montesi: So part of your company’s philosophy is awareness, choice, and responsibility as key tenants. Why are these so important for leadership?
Rand Stagen: Yeah. We would say that our macro observation of leadership effectiveness. I’ll answer it broadly, and then I’ll come back to the specific question.
We meet a lot of CEOs, and I meet a lot of CEOs and a lot of senior leaders from small companies, from mid-size companies. And now, at this stage of my life, from public companies just through mutual friends and through my network. And the main request from leaders is to me personally. Rand, I hear great things about your company.
We’ve got mutual friends or your company’s reputation. I’d like to bring you in to work with our organization. And when I dig a little deeper, they’re typically not asking to have work done with them. They would like to hire us and outsource the development of their organization to stage and to come in and fix my people.
And so what we’ve come to appreciate is that successful leaders don’t have to be CEOs. You’ve got many people who are successful in their stations and whatever industry they’re in. Success often happens when you’re delegating and outsourcing. That’s a good thing. We’re going to delegate and outsource as much as I can so I can get more leverage, and I can have teams beneath me.
Unfortunately, what happens is people start to believe, well, I can outsource and delegate even my development. And that’s not the case. You’ve heard me say you’re not going to get any stronger watching me do push-ups, right? So people are, unfortunately, like, well, I don’t have to do my work.
And so the reason back to your question on the main philosophy of our leadership academy is based on three themes. Theme number one awareness. A leader who is aware can see more. Has a broader vantage point. Awareness is the centerpiece of everything we do in all of our programs, our undergraduate programs, and our graduate programs.
With awareness, there is more choice. So this is the move. If I am aware, I can see at a certain level. I could see two choices. But if I have a broader awareness, if I can get higher up on the mountain and I can see more, I may have 4, 5, or 6 choices. So with awareness comes more choice. And with awareness and choice, you’re going to have greater optionality.
And through time, you’re going to see greater success. But the last piece, leaders who are aware and leaders who have these additional choices, what comes with that is a responsibility, a noble obligation that I am afforded this capacity to see things that I hadn’t been able to see in the past or that others can’t see.
And there’s a great, some would say, a burden that comes with that. That is very central to our work with leaders, especially leaders that carry the responsibility of teams and the responsibility of shareholders, and other stakeholders. And so there’s a heavyweight with that.
Terry Montesi: I remember Rand when I went to the first academy. When people say, so tell me about that. What’d you do? What do they talk about? People say that simply. And the big takeaway I had was around awareness. And, you’re awake, you come into a room, and when people are there, what did it feel like when you left?
What weight did you create? And the game filming. So I’ve to think in real-time, if somebody had a camera on me, what are they seeing? What does that look like? Am I sitting up straight? Am I fidgeting my thumbs or whatever? So, that has always struck me, and it always kind of comes to the top of my mind. So it wasn’t lost on me.
Rand Stagen: Yeah. The power of waking up, the power of starting to recognize that when we walk into a room. And this is not just by the way, for leaders. This is for anyone listening with awareness. There’s a choice for anyone. And with awareness and choice, there’s a responsibility that comes with that.
The recognition that when we walk into a room, we are leaking. Energetically. We’re always leaking. The question is, what are we leaking, Right? Are we leaking the good stuff or the bad stuff? And there’s an old saying that I’m sure many of the listeners have heard. People won’t remember the words that we say, but they will remember how they felt in our process. Right?
And so it’s like, oh, wow. I remember meeting him or her years ago at a networking event. Did we experience that they were present with us? Did we experience that there was a spirit of generosity of kindness, or was it transactional or dismissive?
Terry Montesi: Or did they let everybody else in the room talk, or did they just listen to themself talk?
Did they make the folks that report to their shrink, or did they elevate them in the room by how they showed up? How much they talked? The Volume they talk to adds all that.
Rand Stagen: That’s right. And you could sort of simply put that under emotional intelligence, Right? That there are multiple domains of intelligence.
And 30 or 40 years ago within real estate. I grew up in a real estate family, my grandfather, my father, and my uncle. I got my real estate license when I was a sophomore at SMU. This was the industry I was moving into. So I have a direct sort of connection to the space on both the development side and the brokerage side.
And back then, 30, 40 years ago, you could be narrow and be whip-smart and work hard, but not have this awareness around our wake awareness, around our emotional intelligence. And today, times are changing and with it, we need to be more versatile as professionals in a way that, was it expected or was it required? And it’s almost now becoming 20 years ago. People are like, oh Rand, you know, a bunch of that warm and fuzzy tree-hugging stuff that you do with your clients like Terry.
I remember people used to make fun of me and you working together because they’re like, oh yeah, he’s that soft guy. And I’m like, have you seen his returns? Have you seen the impact of trademark projects? And so, in many ways, people used to make fun. It’s not fun of you, but the fun of the caricature of you.
And knowing you now in your industry for the last 7, 8, or 9 years, I hear the opposite behind your back about how much people appreciate and admire what trademarks are doing to set themselves apart from the crowd. But you were doing this 20 years ago, 25 years ago.
Terry Montesi: Yeah. And so, before I even understood that I was doing it.
Well, on that same topic, you know, I remember how shocked I was because of leadership before I read Good to Great. You know, I think almost everybody thought of leaders as charismatic knowers.
And you read Jim Collins, you know, I think the best business book of all time, but certainly one of the greats. And you get to the virtue that separates level five leaders from the pack. And it’s not charisma, it’s not smarts, it may be emotional intelligence, but it’s not raw intellectual power. It’s humility.
You know, and humility is in good part. Awareness of how you make people feel and dialing yourself in, and building others up. So that was a sort of the pivotal change in mindset for me. And I’ve seen you all put it to work over the years very well.
Rand Stagen: Yeah. Now I want to just pause there on the humility topic. Because Jim Collins did popularize this level five leadership, and he talks about this paradoxical combination of personal will drive ambition with humility. And so this attribute of humility, when combined with a highly driven leader, is what makes up that sort of black box.
And so the confusing part that most leaders that we talk to have about humility are they think that they have to play small. Like, oh, to be humble, I have to shrink. And the reality is this is a unique definition that we use with our leaders. Humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking more to love other. And so the move here for anyone listening is we can play big in our life, and we should swing for the fence. And we can subordinate ourselves to other people.
So I think, you know, I met Stephen Covey, another great author from that era of Jim Collins. I was going to see him. He was speaking at an arena in Dallas the night before I got invited to a group of a couple of hundred people before he was going to be in front of 20,000. A friend of mine pushed me into him at the event. He turned around and shook my hand, and he said, who are you? And what are you doing here? And why’d you come to this event? With total curiosity, with total presence. Now, that was decades ago, and I remember how I felt in Stephen Covey’s presence.
It was about a minute-and-a-half conversation where all he did was ask me questions. And what is so authentic about that is that Stephen Covey was treating me from a servant leader standpoint as if I was on a pedestal. That’s how I felt. And I believe like a Truett Cathy from Chick-fil-A. I believe that this was real for both of those leaders.
And yet both of those leaders built monster brands and companies. The Covey Leadership Centre in Franklin Covey, and ultimately Chick-fil-A. And they didn’t have to give up their agency, their energy, their vision, their ambition to put others even above them. And so that’s the move. It’s intellectual, we can talk about it, but that is a lifetime of work to figure out how to implement that.
Terry Montesi: Well, I have a quick story on that. I’ve met a bunch of politicians over the years, and I’ll never forget the way John McCain made me feel. I have a couple of contrasts. So John McCain was running for president, came to Fort Worth, a small group, only probably 50 people, and I met him. It was on the curb as we were leaving.
I didn’t get to meet him in the room, but he was waiting for his car, and I introduced myself, and he looked at me and looked deep into my eyes, like you’ve heard Bill Clinton has done with people and just said, thank you so much for coming out. I know you got other things to do. Tell me about it. And then, and he car, he, he, it wasn’t a put-on.
That was just who he was. That was a servant leader. And he was quite the servant. So he was in Vietnam. And then I met people. I don’t mind mentioning Met Romney. Who, you know, you think about a great family man, who served his country and politics and his state.
But when I met him, I was a speck. He was this the big guy, and I was a speck, and it’s just such a difference and very likely in wiring and then emotional intelligence, you know, Romney is no question super intellectual. Brilliant. But he may not have the emotional intelligence that John McCain, who probably wasn’t as brilliant.
Right. But if I had to pick one to hang out with or to lead the country, I’d know which one I’d pick.
Rand Stagen: Yeah. And this is you know, Gandhi, I’m listening to you and thinking of a Gandhi quote, which I’ve spent years trying to implement in my own life. And he said something to the effect, If you don’t see God in the face of the next person, you see. look no further, right?
If you don’t see God in the face of the next person, you see, look no further. Right? The homeless person, the presidential candidate, the customer, the daughter, the son, the mom, like, it’s right there. And when our ego comes in and says, oh, this person’s more important than that person.
And then it’s a slippery slope.
Terry Montesi: Well, this is fun. I’m enjoying our conversation. So here’s a quote from author and artist Walter Russell that I’ve seen you reference over the years. “The world needs demonstration more than it needs instruction.” Why and how should leaders apply this advice in their daily lives with their teams and co-workers? What does that look like?
Rand Stagen: Yeah. And that quote in, so many ways, just captures the essence of our work. With the state and leadership academy and our work in the world, which is so often, people talk about changing the world, but they don’t want to change themselves.
And it’s this externalizing that we talked about at the beginning of this conversation and project. And so what Walter Russell, you know, summarizes is so beautiful is the world needs people demonstrating, walking the talk. The world needs leaders who are willing to go first. Leaders who are willing to say, I’m not going to ask anyone to do anything that I’m not already doing or willing to do side by side with you.
And the level of integrity and congruence, and attractiveness to people who pursue a life of demonstration. I’m not saying that we’re always hitting the mark. Okay. But it’s the pursuit of I’m living my life to let my life. Okay, this is another. I’m quoting Gandhi a second time. I would not normally do that.
Gandhi said, my life is my message. That’s a pretty good one, right? We’re both sitting here a little in silence, like, yeah, my life is my message, not the speeches I give, right? That is my life. And that goes back to what you said earlier about the wake, like what’s the wake like a boat?
What’s the wake that’s behind us? What are we leaking out behind us? What are people saying behind our backs? Right. That they maybe aren’t saying directly to our faces. And are we able to create the kind of relationships in our inner circle where we become truth-tellers to each other?
Which you and I have done mutually. Right? To each other, and that’s, I think, the power of the relationship part of leadership.
Terry Montesi: Thanks. So you often talk about good leaders needing to play the long game. And today, we live in a world of instant gratification, which makes that challenging. What does that mean to you, the long game, and how’s it reflected in your leadership practices?
Rand Stagen: Well, big question. Probably the single most important topic that I find myself in my role as the CEO of my business, wrestling with, if not daily, every week.
Which is how can we, as business leaders play both the short game and the practical game? You got to make payroll. You’ve got to close a business deal. You got to get a contract signed. I mean, there are important pragmatic dimensions of the short game. And so, for me, the short game is this quarter, this year.
The next two or three years, I think, in terms of, like, that’s short-term thinking. And then when we start to think about the long game, for me, that’s decade thinking. And we have a term that you’re familiar with that we coined, called a decade and a short termer thinks in quarters and years and a decade or thinks in decades or lifetimes.
And I met a leader 16, 17 years ago, right around the same time you and I met. And I remember asking him when you think about the future of his business, it was a second-generation family business. He said, how far out can you see? You don’t have to give me the details, but how far out is your range of vision?
And he paused, and he knew my reputation around the long game. And he said, well, I have a clear vision of what I’d like us to be able to do in the next 25 years. After that, it starts to get a little fuzzy, and he was not joking. And he looked at me, and he says that, is that a long enough vision for you and me to talk about working together?
And I said. I smiled, and I had a meeting with a female leader who was taking over another family business. And she’s in her fifties. And I said to her, it’s a big business. And I said to her, when you think about the future of your business, you know, how many years out do you think?
And she didn’t have to pause long. And she goes, well, 75 years is the current planning that we’re doing for our business. And I said, well, how’d you come up with 75 years? And she said, well because my generation has kids that are adults and we’re just now experiencing that our kids are having their kids, we think about the future of our business in three generations.
And so we’re using 75 years for our current planning. And so I’m afforded this incredible opportunity to be around people. Regularly who has the luxury of being able to play that kind of long game? Now, let’s take for anyone listening, saying, Hey! I’m not part of a family business.
I’m working in a private equity-owned business or a public company where the structures are not in place. That doesn’t stop us as individuals from playing our own long game, which gets back to the noble obligation. Are we here as business leaders to simply extract? To be clear for everybody, I am a card-carrying free market capitalist in my bones.
Okay. And I am a proponent of all that comes with that in the hundreds of years of our experimentation here in this great country. And at the same time, our system has become co-opted by pathological short-termism. And that short-termism undermines this is the conundrum, the short-termism that extracts in the short term undermines the value creation opportunity in the long term.
And so, if you and I were to say to anyone listening, what’s the best way to invest in stocks? We would say, well, if you’re 25 years old and listening right now, you should probably just buy a good index fund and keep buying and keep buying and keep buying. And in 25 years, look up, and you’re going to have the benefit of compounding return. Playing the long game in business is no different from playing the long game in investing. The returns have the opportunity to compound, but you’ve got to stay in it.
Relationship, Okay? Compounds. Because trust can compound over time. The actual profits can compound if you reinvest back. And so we take a very strong stand. The way I know this is going to be a little bit for some people, confusing. The way to maximize profits for a business is to focus on more than maximizing profits.
And you remember when we first met the Whole Foods leaders together? And I’ve had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with John Mackey from the Conscious Capitalism community, and many of the leaders at Whole Foods, and that’s the philosophy that they’ve had over the last 40-plus years.
The way to maximize profit and quote value is to focus on more than just profit. What do you focus on? You focus on your employees. You focus on your culture. You focus on your key strategic relationships with business partners. You focus on key relationships with vendors and by focusing on more than just profits.
And here’s where my private equity friends don’t follow me by focusing on more than just profits. You make more profits, but you have to have imitations.
Terry Montesi: And there are firms of endearment. There are good and great for conscious businesses.
Rand Stagen: That’s right. That’s right. Raj, who’s another friend from the conscious capitalism community.
Terry Montesi: Well, speaking on that, you mentioned you’re a capitalist. You just used the word stakeholders, so that teed me up for my next question. So you are involved in a movement and organization called Conscious Capitalism, and so am I. I met it through you, but that was about 13 or 14 years ago. It wasn’t 17 years ago.
Tell our audience about conscious capitalism. How Howard weaves the stakeholder model in? And then you can lead into what you refer to as higher ground because, to me, they’re all very related.
Rand Stagen: Yeah. And I’m going to answer this question in a way that’s going to maybe even have you a little uncomfortable.
Terry Montesi: Go for it. If you’re not a little uncomfortable every day, you’re not alive.
Rand Stagen: That’s right. So, let’s do the basics before I bring in the provocative part of the answer. So the conscious capitalism movement is a global movement driven by a non-profit that’s based here in Texas.
That was for all, intensive purposes, catalyzed from, I’m going to say, John Mackey. You mentioned Raj Sisodia, the Author Firms of Endearment. And John and Raj co-authored the Harvard Business Press called Conscious Capitalism. Kipp Tindell, whom John went to college with at the University of Texas. They lived together. Kip stayed in school. John withdrew from school and started the precursor of a better way and ultimately, whole Foods. So basically, Kip and John lost touch and reconnected back in around the mid-2000s, let’s call it 2006, 2007 and started to recognize why is it, that business has such a bad brand in the marketplace when business is creating so much goodness with economic development and job creation and opportunities for people to grow? There are so many dimensions of capitalism that we should be celebrating for its contributions to the world, not just the United States. And let’s be ‘and’ here, not ‘either’ ‘or’. There are externalities, and there are shadows. Wherever there’s light, all the goodness, there are shadows, and there’s some darkness.
And there are things about capitalism that are problematic that we all need to be vigilant in trying to minimize. And so we have capitalism. And then we have non-profit organizations that are more mission-driven, that are trying to make the world a better place. And so what conscious capitalism decided to do is how do we take the best of the for-profit model and the best of the non-profit model?
And instead of having to have listeners right now saying, oh, I’m going to be in a business where I can extract as much as I can over my lifetime, and then if I’m fortunate enough and if I’m inclined enough to move from success to significance, then I can have significance philanthropically later in life. That’s a compartmentalized strategy.
It’s inefficient. It creates tremendous friction. Also, like I have to live two lives, my life at work and then my life outside of work. And what the Conscious Capitalism Organization and Movement stands for is, how we integrate the best of for-profit and profit. The best of, I’ll use some clichés here, mission and margin. How do we bring this together? Purpose and profit. How do we bring those together? And what that creates is a much more efficient way for allocating capital to solve societal community or even global problems. So we are all about making money and creating shared benefits for all the stakeholders, and stakeholders all have a stake in the success of a business.
We’ve already talked about them. Employees are stakeholders. Customers are stakeholders and shareholders. The planet is a stakeholder. Now to the provocative part.
We believe, in conscious capitalism, we have four pillars.
Pillar one, the purpose that a company is a conscious business is purpose-driven.
Pillar two is that a conscious capitalist business operates off of the stakeholder management philosophy, the philosophy of stakeholder management. I’ll come back to that.
Number three is conscious leadership and our fourth pillar is conscious culture. Now let’s return to stakeholder management.
The mindset is the orientation of leaders who see the benefit of a win-win-win for all the stakeholders. That coming inside out from the leader, or leaders is very different than what has now become popularized in America and in Europe, which is called stakeholder capitalism. I want to make a clear distinction.
I’m going to speak for me, Rand Stagen. I’m not going to speak for conscious capitalism. Conscious capitalism and stakeholder capitalism are not synonymous at all. They are not the same. Stakeholder capitalism, which is up to some very good work that’s happening in that world, unfortunately, in my impression of it and my direct experience of it, is very aligned with the ESG movement, very aligned with forcing.
Certain behaviors in companies where become about governance, and it becomes about compliance and it becomes about penalties as opposed, that’s an outside-in approach to creating change. Conscious capitalism is an inside-out. We’re saying a leader shouldn’t have to be forced to treat his or her stakeholders well.
The leader should be coming from an orientation that’s a better business model business anyway. And so I just don’t want anyone to confuse when they hear, oh, stakeholder Capitalism and conscious capitalism are the same. They’re not the same. We’re fellow travelers with those that are in the stakeholder capitalism community, but what they’re doing and what they stand for are very different.
And I’m not suggesting that it’s bad or good, or we’re better and they’re worse. It’s different. It’s just different. And so there’s the power of the inside out is what we’re ultimately pursuing. And we’re not about compliance. We’re about freedom, and we’re about choice. And, in many ways, I believe that conscious capitalism is an expression, kind of like almost a modern expression of some of the founding principles of America.
But how do we make it a more, how do we make it a more contemporary application?
Terry Montesi: Yeah. That, see to me, knowing what I know about conscious capitalism, It’s a little bit of head and heart. And stakeholder capitalism, the heart’s not necessarily there. It’s more legalistic. And it’s about other conscious capitalism about other centrism.
You know, it’s not just about your investors. It’s about everybody. Thinking about the commitment to your employees as a stakeholder is very different from the old shareholder model.
Rand Stagen: That’s right.
Terry Montesi: Very well said. So what about what does higher ground mean to you when you refer to that?
Rand Stagen: The higher ground would be a model that we’ve developed at the Stagen Leadership Academy.
That is our current, what we unveiled it in 2021 in response to what happened with George Floyd and what happened with Covid. There was just so much pain and so much suffering and so much confusion in the marketplace that our leaders started coming to us and saying, we need a new map to try to make sense of the territory.
Because people have been, and they’re continuing to be, very confused about what’s happening. And one of the areas of confusion is polarization. Not just polarization but hyperpolarization. This idea that we’ve got to pick an account and you’re either on side one, which is all for what’s great about America or you’re on the other side, which is we need to fix everything that’s wrong with America.
And the reality is that puts us in a ‘pick the side that you think is right’. But the reality is that neither of those sides is right. Each of those sides has a partial truth. It’s both, and they both have merit. And so, how do we create? Now if you think about moving from, instead of trying to find the solution to this conflict with only common ground, like let’s mediate, let’s negotiate, let’s meet in the middle.
Common ground is important, and we do need to find, especially in our shared humanity, we need to find common ground with those whom we disagree with. But what we believe at Stagen is that there is something beyond common ground that we are being called to step up to, which we refer to as higher ground.
And the higher ground is a synthesizing move of how we bring the best out of both of those accounts. To a place that the world has never actually needed us to be. So, when people say, give me examples, the reality is that we’re creating the examples, not Stagen, but we in the marketplace are creating the examples right now. Because this is emerging because of the turmoil, and I kind of like to think about this as tectonic plates. I’m going to oversimplify the conservatives to the left and the right, and those tectonic plates are banging into each other, and that banging is creating the necessary force. For there to ultimately be an elevated structure, a mountain coming into that in from that.
So it’s like, how do we get to higher ground? How do we move to a more elevated place as a country and as a world? Unfortunately, we need the heat and the energy of this conflict. So then everyone has a role that they’re playing. It brings process and brings attention to it.
Terry Montesi: It brings attention. And doesn’t solve it. But I’ll tell you, the first time I heard you speak of that. I was heartened and good on you, as Ossie says, for taking that on because I find myself sometimes meeting with politicians or folks that are talking about politics. And I’m a little bit of an outlier because I don’t agree with either party all the way.
And I think, as you say, there are touchy issues. Both sides have great points. But they never get anything done because they’re all about their way is Right. And I hope you make a difference in a big way, continuing to espouse that.
Rand Stagen: Well, I’ll end this piece.
This is a big topic that you just pointed to, on the conflict. The difficulty people have in wanting in so many ways for just the anxiety and the pain to go away. I just want it to go away. That’s the easy button. The easy button is I’m going to make the pain go away, and my confusion goes away because I’m going to pick one of the tribes, and I’m going to jump into the conservative camp or the more progressive camp.
And I’m going to get caught in an echo chamber, where I’m going to listen to media that are going to remember. There’s a light in a shadow like we talked about and everything. So there’s a light in the conservative camp and a shadow. There’s a light in the progressive camp and a shadow. And what we’re seeing is the traditional, more conservative camp is pointing out the shadows in the progressive camp and suggesting that the only thing the progressive camp has to offer is its shadow and vice versa.
But we are way more than that. And I’ll say with a smile on my face and not. There’s this huge diversity and inclusion movement, which is a progressive movement, and there’s a lot of important positives, a lot of light in that movement.
But when I say to my friends that are diversity and inclusion experts, there are about 70 million people that voted for Trump. Okay? Like, where’s their seat at the table? In this conversation around diversity and inclusion, the answer I often get is they don’t get a seat at the table.
And I say to them, but you’re the group that’s standing for inclusion. You’re not including people who are not coming from a progressive lens. And the answer is, well, yeah. The inclusion is conditional. We include everyone under the condition that you have a progressive worldview.
And I think that I smile and not because these are very well-intentioned people who are excluding the very people that need to be at the table, because we’re not going to grow through this unless we lean in like a scrum and rugby. We got to be leaning in together, and that’s what we’re attempting to do with our leaders.
Terry Montesi: Yeah. To me, I see it as a struggle for control without a really sincere desire for progress. Like I don’t want progress if I don’t have control. And until people give that up, we are going to stay stuck in this polarization. Well, thanks. That’s a really fun conversation for me.
What does the future of leadership look like, Rand? Well, the younger generations entering the workforce require us to rethink how we lead, or will a lot of the pillars of good leadership remain universal and everlasting?
Rand Stagen: Well, I think as you were asking about our leaders born or made, the question here is, do things change, or do they stay the same?
And I think the answer’s going to be yes. The answer you gave. Yes. There will be both.
Terry Montesi: And I credit you for both, and thinking is sort of a higher ground move from an intellectual standpoint. And I credit my hanging out with you and your leadership team for that. But I’m with you.
So help our audience learn what authors and thought leaders are inspiring you right now. And what voices do you think need to be heard? This year and next year, for those looking to grow and refine their leadership skills. And if you have a few books to recommend. Rock on.
Rand Stagen: Yeah, and in many ways, some of my answers are going to not be what are the books that I’m recommending, that are fresh, hot off the presses, but rather what are some of the timeless truths, that have the power to be returned to again and again and again.
You mentioned Jim Collins. I think my top books would not just be ‘Good to Great’, but ‘Built to Last’. I think many of the principles in that book, which are decades old, are incredibly timely today. The kind of return, especially with millennials and the Zs, wanting a return to meaning and purpose in their work.
And I can’t think of a classic book than Built to Last, where Collins introduces the idea of a core ideology and this idea of what we stand for, and he defines core ideology as this combination of our values and our purpose and our vision, and we call that our stand. But that would be, for me, just an absolute classic.
Regardless, I am reading a book right now, and I’m reading it for my third time by Steve McIntosh, and it’s called ‘Developmental Politics’. And it’s a relatively easy read.
Steve is a philosopher in Colorado. He runs a think tank. That I, in full disclosure, joined the board of this think tank about a year ago, and it’s called the Institute for Cultural Evolution. And Steve’s written extensively on leadership, philosophy, integral theory, on spirituality. And his book on how America can grow into a better version of itself is this book ‘Developmental Politics’. And it’s relatively and probably the most important book that I’m reading right now to make sense of the conflict that we’ve talked about.
So for readers looking for something, you can get it on Amazon, looking for something that’s accessible that they’re not going to hear anyone else recommend. It’s a relatively obscure book. I’ve recommended it to several leaders in the last year, and they’ve come back with just appreciation and gratitude for the insights that they’re getting from this book.
It’s not your typical pop book. It requires some real thinking and a real commitment to making sense of things. And I’ll quote a computer statement here of a former bestselling author himself of ‘In Search of Excellence’, and Tom Peter said, if you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.
And you and I like to laugh about that quote. For anyone out there who’s confused about what’s going on in the world right now, congratulations! Because you’re paying attention.
And if you’d like to be a little less confused, pick up Steve McIntosh’s book ‘Developmental Politics’. Trust me. It’s a winner right now.
Terry Montesi: Well, that reminds me of something that I say a lot and that I waited till I was about 50 to learn. But humans slash our life is complicated. Some circumstances that we think are simple and easy and black and white, they’re not. There are so many grey areas.
We have to consider so many things in people’s backgrounds that they bring to the room. And if we don’t look at them and know that there’s a very complicated story behind everybody, We’re just missing it.
Rand Stagen: Yeah, and I want to just add in, not only is there a complicated story, that we’re all fighting a great battle in our lives, whatever that is. And it could be with our family. It could be with health, it could be with our business, or internal struggles. And this goes back to what we talked about earlier, about how we feel in the presence of people that hold us up when they see others bigger than they are.
And that’s empathy and compassion. And so often people are like, oh, once again Terry and Rand is talking about a bunch of soft stuff and is like really look around and see the business effectiveness of leaders who are bringing more ahead and hearts.
That would be like saying to a quarterback, you can run the ball, or you can throw the ball, but no, you can just run the ball. Just use half of what’s available to you to say to a leader. Just use your head and not your heart. It’s ridiculous. And so let’s bring more versatility and more range so that we can win.
This isn’t about soft and hugging trees. This is about performance and winning.
Terry Montesi: Well, it’s about the research on what people want. Right? They want to be cared about. Which is empathy and compassion. People want to be cared about. And your people, want to have friends at work. They want leadership to care about them.
And that’s something that we focus on here and so many things we talk about. One guiding principle or another, but a lot of them boil down the caring. Do you care about stakeholders? Do you care about your people? Do you care about doing a good job?
Do you care about honoring your creator, et cetera? So before we end today, If you had to boil outstanding leadership down to a couple of foundational tenants, what would they be?
Rand Stagen: Well, big question. If I was allowed to emphasize. Three big principles, like, the big three for leadership effectiveness. Right.
In my experience, I would say number one, is awareness. Number two, awareness, and number three, awareness.
Terry Montesi: Got it. So I got the message.
Rand Stagen: Yeah. And look, we say it all the time. With awareness, there’s a choice. Without awareness, only habit. And so when people find themselves in their habituation where they’re almost in a groundhog day with their wives, husbands, and kids, they’re just running these tapes. The same tapes over and over and over again.
With awareness is choice. Without awareness is only habit. And the question is, who’s writing the story of our life?
If we’re all the main characters of the story of our life, who’s writing our story? Are we writing it as the authors ourselves from a place of awareness and choice? Or is our story written for us by our habits, our reactivity, and the assumptions that were embedded in us when we were young, growing up with our families, and growing up as young professionals?
Are we still running those old tapes, or are we creating a brand new story? And that gets back to agency and outcomes.
Terry Montesi: That’s great.
Rand, before we end today, is there anything on your mind that we haven’t covered that you’d like to share about leadership or your organization that you’d like our listeners to know? Or do you have anything to ask me?
Rand Stagen: Yeah, so I’d love to turn the tables back on you and say, when you think about, where you have developed an awareness that wasn’t available to you, let’s say, a decade ago. What’s an area of your life?
It doesn’t mean that you’ve perfected it. Just means that it’s available to you now. What’s an area of your life that you’re able to pay attention to and you’re able to relate with because you have the awareness that you didn’t have a decade ago?
Terry Montesi: Yeah, that’s easy for me to answer, and I have not perfected it, by the way. It’s When I show up in a meeting with my people, when I show up in a room of people I’m just meeting for the first time at a cocktail party or wherever it might be. Just the fact that I’m paying attention to how I’m going to show up if I’m reading people better.
Some people need a sort of higher energy and can enjoy higher energy. Some people you need to dial back, or they feel like you’re sort of pushing at them. And it’s really that it’s about awareness, and it’s about knowing the impact that we can have on people. And that is a very other’s centric caring sort of kind move.
Knowing that I particularly like Station, you’re the head guy at Stagen. I’m the head guy at Trademark. Just my Station, with my people internally, can be intimidating.
You know, that guy can control in some ways my future or how much money I’m making. And just knowing that how you treat people can feel like you wagged that Station at them or you try to dismiss it. And I try to dismiss it and sort of just get around that, and connect with them at a human level.
But I think that’s been a big struggle/emphasis for me. And I thank you for that.
Rand Stagen: Well, and I thank you for modeling as we close the power and the strength of vulnerability in the right context. Right? That this, so often leaders, old school leaders, say vulnerability is something you would never.
Terry Montesi: It’s a weakness. But no, it’s not.
Rand Stagen: And it can be a weakness. This is why awareness is a choice. You have the awareness to say, in this particular context, should I use vulnerability or not? Or to your cocktail party. I now have awareness. Should, at this moment, I advocate and be charismatic? If I have that capability. Or in this particular moment, should I inquire and ask the question? And draw something out of them.
So it’s not like what comes on with the awareness is the choice to bring what’s most appropriate. Vulnerability or talking or listening or strength in a way that is armored up because it’s all. It’s like, where’s the tennis ball? Right? You want to have it beforehand or the backend situationally based on what the situation requires.
And it’s not having this over-reliance on one dimension of leadership. And so this is. Thank you for modeling as we close here. Vulnerability as a strength. And thank you for staying on the journey of your development all these almost decades together with me.
Terry Montesi: Yes. Thanks, my friend. Appreciate it.
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