We’re all in! with Major General Robert Mixon

Major General Robert Mixon retired from the army after over three decades of extraordinary leadership success. He’s the founder of Level Five Associates, the co-author of Cows in The Living Room and author of the Amazon bestseller, “We’re All In”. So many hacks in this show it’s hard to highlight them, here’s a few:

  • The Big 6 Leadership Principles to building culture
  • How as leaders we can be “All in”
  • Learn about the leadership azimuth and how we work it
  • How to drive successful strategies and sustain them

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: In the news today, we explore how many of our leadership characteristics and behaviors have changed since the global pandemic. And it turns out that empathy is the go-to leadership skill of the moment. Yes, it can be learned even if we didn’t think that was the case. As a brand new fortune 500 CEO, Kirsten Peck of Zoetis, didn’t have all the answers as to how a fast growing pet health company was going to survive the pandemic. She’d only ascended to the corner office in January of 2020. So when COVID 19 hit and revved up in the March of 2020, she was feeling quite nervous and anxious and frankly, little overstretched as to whether nearly 12,000 workers, I would imagine. So in one of her COVID era blogs on the company’s intranet, Kristin Peck talked not about typical subjects you’d expect new CEOs to be talking around like earnings or sales projections, but something else entirely.

The importance of listening. The first step begins with slowing down and spending a lot of time, listening to the challenges people are facing personally and professionally she wrote. Later in a LinkedIn post, she shared her own personal story of raising a child with special medical needs to show it was okay for employees to talk about the reality of what life can be like outside of a tinted glass work window and ask for help if they needed it. She goes on to say what the pandemic did was make everybody realize that we were all the same and we were all in the same storm, but our boats were quite different. We had to become very clear about the importance of listening to people and understanding their needs and being flexible, practically that meant shifting her entire workforce to a different way of working. Largely working from a home model about 70% of Zoetis global workforce actually started working from home and it meant providing beefed up benefits like health care concierge services for caregivers, a student loan repayment program and improved mental health support food services, like an employee assistance program, and Peck efforts seem to have hit the mark. The company employee engagement metrics are higher than they’ve ever been. Now at 88% and eclipsing the pre-pandemic levels.

And who says being empathic is a soft measure? The hard numbers look like the stock price has done very well indeed; from the pandemic to November 8th, Zoetis stock price grew by 38% and it’s currently bumping around at all-time highs. She’s been recently quoted the saying, if anyone pretended they had all the answers, no one had believed it any way. Despite the crisis and the upheaval, Zoetis is an example of empathy being a core strong foundation and a real metric. And the leadership hack here is dead simple; it starts with just listening. Listen, to understand, not to que your next question. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News, if you’d like to hear any interesting stories, we’ve got some things to share, as you’ve always done, please keep in touch with us.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Major General Robert Mixon is our guest on today’s show. After being retired from the army, he achieved over three decades of extraordinary leadership success. Not only including the U.S. Army, where he commanded the seventh infantry division and Fort Carson Colorado, and then subsequently he served in an executive leadership position in a number of non-for-profits and for-profit organizations before starting his own organization, Level Five Associates. He’s the co-author of Cows in The Living Room: Developing an Effective Strategic Plan and Sustaining it and also of the Amazon bestseller. We’re All In: The Journey to World-Class Culture. Rob, welcome to the show.

Major General Robert Mixon: Thanks, Steve. It’s wonderful to be here with you and your listeners today.

Steve Rush: I’m incredibly excited to delve into your very diverse and extensive leadership career. And I thought it would be useful really just to start off where it all began for you?

Major General Robert Mixon: Well, it began for me, as growing up the oldest of six children in Georgia and North Carolina, and dreaming about being able to go to college. And as a result of a mediocre level of athletic ability, I was actually recruited to a couple of schools and one of those schools was the army football program at West Point. And I didn’t know much about West Point and certainly didn’t have any big dreams of being in the army, but I did have dreams of being a college football player. So I know football has different connotations in different audiences here, but I’m talking about the American tackle football.

Steve Rush: Sure.

Major General Robert Mixon: And I had good enough grades and things worked out where I got a chance to go to West Point and play football for a little while, until I got hurt to the level I couldn’t play anymore, but I would entered a world that I’d never dreamed I would enter when I stood out there in the parade field at West Point in the summer of 1970 with about 1400 other young men. And, you know, in about 24 hours, we learned that our lives are going change. If we stayed with this adventure, it would change forever. And so from that experience, four year journey, about 40% of the group, didn’t make it through. The 800 plus of us who did graduate in June of 1974, came into a military that was very conflicted. At the end of the Vietnam War, many Americans felt like, you know, the military was to blame for some of the policy decisions that had cause the Vietnam War to end badly. And as a result of the resources behind the military, the draft system went away and we went to a volunteer force, but we were under-resourced. And we struggle for a number of years until we came out of it in the mid-1980s and became truly a world-class military in every respect again, and because we had been before.

Steve Rush: Right.

Major General Robert Mixon: But I stayed with that journey because I met some men and women who really changed my life because of the leadership role models they represent it, despite the hardships. In fact, I think the hardships bring out the strongest leaders, you know, when things are tough.

Steve Rush: Yeah, develops that level of resilience as well, doesn’t it?

Major General Robert Mixon: Yeah, you know, people who could learn from mistakes, who could underwrite others, who could develop trust and bring it to life. And so I found myself, you know, as a career officer, even though I’d never planned to be, and I was privileged to spend 33 years in uniform and command soldiers, you know, up to a division installation level, which was a wonderful privilege. And then as I realized, you know, it was time for me to open the next chapter. I went into the corporate career in the middle of the depression of 2008/2009, which was another tough learning experience. But again, you know, I was able to learn from others and grow and come out of that and then realized my dream, which was to have my own company, Level Five Associates and help other companies and organizations and leaders. Perhaps not make the same mistakes that I had made. And so that’s been my calling now for the last seven years.

Steve Rush: Awesome. During your time in the military, you mentioned that there was this time where from the seventies to the mid-eighties, then there was a real shift. What role did the incumbent leadership, if you like in the military play in making that shift happen or was that more of a bottom up change?

Major General Robert Mixon: I think it was a two-edged sword Steve, and I say that because there were senior leaders who had to underwrite some of the fundamental changes in our culture. And I think basically in the military, you know, we had a very deeply entrenched culture of compliance, you know, in that mid-seventies timeframe, you know, do what you’re told. We’re not going to talk about why, you know, we want you to comply. Then with the senior leadership, and I think the junior leadership sort of coming together in a common view of what we should be, we began to develop a culture of commitment where people did what was right, because they wanted to do what was right. And they believed in the leaders that they were with and who they were working for. And that takes years to do, this is not something that happens in a month or, you know, six months, it takes years to do it. But with the senior support and the junior commitment, a level of energy, we were able to move our culture from compliance to commitment. And that was a very significant change in our army.

Steve Rush: And how would that manifest itself in today’s military? Having evolved from compliance to commitment?

Major General Robert Mixon: I think in today’s military, as a father of two, in fact, three soldiers. Now one who’s on the career path, I have seen that the military culture of commitment is very strong and it’s in fact more dependent now on the junior leader level of commitment because the senior leaders now were the ones who were in the transformative junior ranks in the eighties and nineties. And now they’re the senior leader. So it’s an even stronger movement, I think now towards the importance of why, the importance of commitment, you know, the importance of being an all-in, shameless book promotion.

Steve Rush: Yeah, we’re going to get into that in the moment actually, because I love the whole philosophy of we’re all in, but there is definitely something there isn’t there about, if you fundamentally want to shift a culture, you do have to throw your entire self into this, don’t you?

Major General Robert Mixon: We do, and it has to be from the top down, I think, and the bottom up, it’s got to be a two way street where we are all in, because we believe in who we are and what we represent. And we’re going to walk the talk and if we’re willing to do that, then you can have a level five culture as I call it, where people believe in who we are and what we represent and they bring it every day. They’re going to give all they can give to the mission to each other. And there’s an element of selflessness here that I think in the military, I learned early on. The mission first, but I think in other organizations, it’s not so evident unless the leadership really embodies it and nurtures it among the other leaders in the organization so that it has an enduring quality, you know, culture is never static. It either gets better, it gets worse. And so the culture of commitment is one where you live it every day and then tomorrow we’re going to live it again and we’re going to keep living it because we know what right looks like. And it’s going to be our legacy that we grow leaders who are better leaders than we were at their stage of life. And I think that’s a real a real opportunity for us as leaders to do that.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s also a gift, isn’t it?

Major General Robert Mixon: It’s a gift.

Steve Rush: In so much as that when you’re sharing and partying, encouraging other leaders to be greater leaders, then you’re not only sharing your experiences, but you’re also guarding their future.

Major General Robert Mixon: Yeah, I think so. It’s really what I’ve seen in the companies I’ve been able to work with in my level five part of the journey now is that many companies and organizations don’t have the persistence at the senior leadership to sustain a world-class culture. And it’s important that we reinforce each other because this is hard work. Its adult work, one of my leaders used to say. The concept of creating an ecosystem where people want to belong too, takes a lot of effort. And there are sometimes, you know, you get tired. You say, well, shoot, this is too hard. Let me default back to being directive and we’ll be compliant. And we’ll just, you know, to quote the sort of famous guy, Larry, the cable guy, you know, we’ll just get her done, right? And that defaulting back to the directive leadership framework, it causes the culture to erode and the culture can erode very quickly when that happens.

Steve Rush: Definitely, so. Now from your corporate career, having left the military and had some senior leadership roles, what was the pivotal moment for you when you thought, right? This is more about me coaching, sharing, and teaching others to come on this journey. What was the moment that made you look to grow your own organization?

Major General Robert Mixon: I know it’s been so many years of my life working for someone that I had a lot of opportunity to learn from many wonderful people, you know, including General Colin Powell, who’s one of the finest leaders I’ve ever known. And, we all, I think, are deeply saddened by his loss here recently.

Steve Rush: That’s right, yeah.

Major General Robert Mixon: But, you know, I had had the privilege of working with extraordinary men and women who helped shape me as a person and a leader. And I wanted to give back, you know, as I look towards the next chapter in my life, I said, well, where could I make a difference? Where can I give back? And I think the defining moment for me was, you know, once you’ve had privilege of leading executive level, a number of different organizations, you can take one to two routes in my thinking here. One is, you can sort of, you know, quietly fade away and, you know, turn the mantle over to others and wish them well. And I know a lot of people who do that, and it’s a very graceful transition to do that, but I’m wrapped too tightly. And as a result, I couldn’t do that easily. I wanted to still be engaged and involved in growing people in organizations. And that’s why I went to the level five route, and why I come to work every day looking forward to the opportunity to help other senior leaders grow leaders.

Steve Rush: Excellent, I love it. And the fact that you’re still doing that today, and this is part of that education and evolution, isn’t it? Being on the show, I guess.

Major General Robert Mixon: Yeah, that’s great. Thanks Steve.

Steve Rush: And one of the things that I love about your work is that your writing is really quite innovative. And I love the first book that you co-authored, Cows in The Living Room, and I’m quite a visual. So I have this picture of this huge cow sat in my living room right now. And this is about developing effective strategic plans and sustaining them, tell us a little bit about the concept of where’s the Cow in The Living Room Come from?

Major General Robert Mixon: Well, you know Steve, we had it, when we wrote the book, we were going to title it, developing effective strategies, sustaining them. And then we shared that idea with our families, you know, spouses, and we got some immediate feedback and the feedback wasn’t very good. The feedback was, you got to be kidding me. You know, who’s going to read that book, even mom’s not going to read that book. And I said, okay, well, what else could we do? And as a result, they gave us great insight about a story about cows in living room. And essentially the story is that there was once a young farmer who wanted to find a wife. So he went to a nearby village and successfully courted a woman, married her and brought her to living home on the farm. As they began their new life together, raising dairy cows and winter began. One day, the wife came in and found that all the cows were the living room.

Astonished, she asked why? Her husband replied, well its winter and the barn has no heat. Since we depend on these cows for our living, they need to be inside. Slowly, very slowly, she became more and more accustomed to having the cows indoors. Then after a few months, a neighbor from her village came over to see how she was doing. When she came in the living room, she was shocked to find the dairy cows there calming standing around. What are you doing with council living room she blurted out? To which the wife replied, which cows? And the story here is that most of us have cows in our living room as leaders of organizations, companies, and organizations of all types. And we become used to the cows and we don’t see them anymore. So if you don’t effectively address your strategic planning process, then basically you’re just tolerating the cow’s living room. You’re not doing anything to heat the bar. And that’s really where we got the idea for the title. It wasn’t an original thought. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had original thought, but in any case, you know, it was catchy and a lot of people have asked about it, and hopefully they liked the book too.

Steve Rush: It’s a great metaphor, isn’t it? Because particularly whether you’re visual or auditory, actually in telling the story, it gets people to recognize that we’re all creatures of habit actually, and it’s dead easy to get used to our environment. And that’s when we get comfortable. And when we get too much in control, that’s probably when we don’t focus on what we need to focus on.

Major General Robert Mixon: Well, you know, Steve, 50%, I think of the fortune 500 companies of 30 or 40 years ago no longer exist. And that’s because many of them were absorbed in other companies, but also they became complacent and their business model faded and their competition, you know, ate them for breakfast, if you will, because they were more innovative and more driven not to allow their cows in the living room to stay there.

Steve Rush: And then your second book, which is not a shameless plug in any way, it’s a real, it’s an honor to plug it in your behalf.

Major General Robert Mixon: Thank you.

Steve Rush: We’re All In is very much around that connect cultural habits and sustaining in the future. And I just wondered from your perspective, have you ever been party to, or observed an organization successfully lead a culture where they’re not all in?

Major General Robert Mixon: I have not. I say that because I don’t think organizations are truly successful unless they have a world-class culture. They can be successful in a temporal way. They can make a profit for a period of time by just directing the activities or micromanaging the processes, but there’s a tipping point. The most successful companies don’t allow that directive culture to dominate their way of life. They insist on engaging in involving all the members of the team in the future of the organization. And so I don’t know if I addressed the question directly, Steve, but I do believe it takes both heart and mind to create a world-class company, a world-class organization.

Steve Rush: Totally buy it.

Major General Robert Mixon: And those that I have seen and been part of have had both. Now there are ebbs and flows, but I think that the development of your ecosystem, your culture to a level of where people feel as though they’re engaged and they’re part of it, they belong. That’s where a greatness, the opportunity for greatness resides.

Steve Rush: Absolutely, and as part of that developing culture, you pull together what you call your big six leadership principles to develop that culture. And I just thought it’d be great for our listeners to maybe spin through them with you.

Major General Robert Mixon: Oh, great. Yeah the six principles again, I learned from basically screwed them up, you know, I have scar tissue from not following these principles. So, now I really believe that we can do better, you know, if we’re willing to pay attention and commit to the journey and follow the principles. The first one is set the esbit. A lot of people don’t know what an azimuth is. I took it from my military career, but basically the azimuth is the Cardinal direction of your organization. What’s your mission? You know, who are we? What do we do? Why do we do it? What’s our intent? And then I like intent more than vision because I think vision’s kind of fuzzy. Intent is, based on that mission. What’s our end state in three to five years? What does success look like?

 Then what are the key tasks we have to perform to reach that end state? And then what’s our purpose? What’s the why? And why are we doing all this? So you have mission and the intent, then you have your values. What do we believe in? And I think you have to define those values as a team because everybody doesn’t understand what they are. And then fourth, what is our culture? What are the behaviors that we are going to demonstrate and expect from all of us to bring these values to life? So, setting the esbit is the first of the big six. The second one is listen. And as my mom said, God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Major General Robert Mixon: But I rarely followed that teaching from my mother. My mom’s awesome, but I wasn’t a good listener and we don’t teach leaders to listen very well, you know, Stephen Covey talks about, are you listening with the intent to understand? Or are you listening with the intent to reply? I would say 90% of the leaders that I’ve met are in the latter category. We don’t really listen with the intent to understand because we don’t know how, and as a result we don’t demonstrate to others the kind of behavior that really represents listing leadership. And so in the workshops that I do, we we’ve focus a lot on practical tools for your toolbox to bring these principles to life. The third is trusted in power, you know, empowerment is the manifestation of trust, but trust I think is one of the critical factors in creating this culture where we’re all in and you’ve got to commit to it, and you’ve got to be willing to do things like underwrites of mistakes or empower others.

When the tendency, the powerful tendency is to go do it yourself. That’s a learned skill, and I think the best leaders are those who can trust and empower very effectively. The fourth principle is do the right thing when no one’s looking. And as we said, depending on this brief swell, but it is not easy. It’s not simple and it’s not easy. It takes a real commitment on the part of the leadership top to bottom that we’re going to do the right thing. And whether someone’s looking or not. Unfortunately, there are a lot of circumstances in instances over the past several decades, people, and most recent times when leaders in companies have not done the right thing and there’ve been disastrous results. The fifth principle is when in charge take charge. And that doesn’t mean you have to be loud, profane, abusive. That’s not what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about here is when you’re in charge of being the calm in the chaos of having the tactical patients to understand that the first report is usually wrong. To develop others as part of that, being in charge, have that presence. And then the six principles balance the personal and professional, which is not about time. Most people think that balance is about time, a time at work, time home, not really, that’s not the case. And I think balance is a battery of energy. Balancing the four battery levels we have all of inside us. The physical, the mental, the spiritual, the emotional, and there are tools. There are ways you can do that in yourself and in others to create that sense of balance, which it’s a way of being healthy in a framework here, healthy personally and professionally, and really creates the opportunity for people to, as we used to say in the army, be all, they can be.

Steve Rush: I love the six principles. They naturally feed each other as well. But the final one ironically feeds through them all and is always consistent, is that balance because without it, you end up either being overworked or stressed or not having the right levels of energy to perform sustainably for the future. And that for me is the one that kind of has the big core all the way through them. So I love the princess.

Major General Robert Mixon: Well, thanks Steve. They all are interconnected. In fact when I conduct presentations workshops, I use a gears as the six principles that they’re all interconnected, you know, and the whole mechanism of the culture turns as those gears work together with the centerpiece having the right values

Steve Rush: And what you’ve described for most people listening to this would perhaps make loads of sense and be quite academically sensible, but it takes work, doesn’t it? It takes real practice and lots of habit forming to make sure that this is part of everybody’s routine. How might I start that journey?

Major General Robert Mixon: Usually I will go in with the senior leadership and we’ll talk about you know, whether they have specific goals in line for a certain, you know, a certain element of the team or whether they want to take the whole organization and move the needle. And most of them want to do the senior leaders upfront, then cascade the big six throughout the organization, as the mechanism to grow their culture to that level five, and I’ll be upfront here. I think it takes a couple of years to do this. You know, you can’t have it in 30 days. Most of us want everything in 30 days, but you can’t have it. You’re going to have to develop your culture in a deliberate way. And I use a series of workshops, a small group interaction, and one-on-one executive coaching with senior executives and high potential leaders to help get all these gears in place and move them forward. And specifically we use a strategic planning process to set that three to five-year goal that we want to move the organization toward. So there’s an interrelated set of tools that we bring to a team or organization to help them succeed in this journey.

Steve Rush: And I suspect the reason it takes some time is that of all of those six cogs moving at different times, we’ve all probably got some of them moving at different speeds and cadences than the others, right?

Major General Robert Mixon: Yes, we do.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Major General Robert Mixon: And typically, Steve, but saying yes upfront on, some people will push back a little bit say, well, I don’t have time to the esbit. Well, I don’t think you have time not to set the azimuth. So we’ve got to get through that part and, you know, establish our mission and values culture. Then I think the next hard part of the process here is developing listening leaders who really do listen to the intent to understand.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Major General Robert Mixon: And we bring some practical tools for them to help do this. One of my favorites that I’ll share with you, Steve is the back brief.

Steve Rush: Tell us how that works? Yeah.

Major General Robert Mixon: There’s and old saying about, I don’t know what I told you, until you tell me what you heard. Quite oftentimes, I have made this mistake. I get a group of soldiers together, or team members in my corporate life together and say, all right, here’s what we’ve got to get done. But you know, everybody should know what you have to do to make that happen. All right, everybody got it? And they all say, oh yeah, we got it. And they head out and do something completely different. Well, usually you find out that they did something completely different because they didn’t hear what you thought you said. And the back brief is a way where they back brief you on what they think they heard before you go out and try and accomplish great things. I think that’s a way of confirming that what was said was heard and that’s where communication lives, sharing information, email, texts, that’s not communication, that’s just sharing information. You don’t get confirmation what they read was what they thought you wrote. Same with what you said and heard. So I really liked the back brief or confirmation brief as a tool for your toolbox that gives people more clarity across the team as to what are we doing and why are we doing it.

Steve Rush: And saves huge amounts of time, retrospectively having to undo stuff that people have set off in the wrong trajectory.

Major General Robert Mixon: Yeah. You know, manufacturing companies, I hear that saying over and over, we didn’t have time to do it right the first time, but we always have time to go back and do it again.

Steve Rush: That’s true, very true indeed, yeah. So, given your experience of diverse leadership and teams, what can we really learn from the last couple of years, having gone through quite a lot of crisis, and that would be varied for different people in different organizations that will really help us be more all in.

Major General Robert Mixon: I think what the change in our world over the last couple of years has taught us is that we need to have strong fundamentals in order to endure and succeed in crisis. You know, many leaders that I’ve worked with have come back to me and said, Robert, we went back to the big six when things really got off the rails. We said, okay, wait a minute, let’s have a tactical balls here. Let’s go back to the big six and let’s check our esbit as our esbit intact. Do we have people in the right seat, in the right bus, as Jim Collins said, good, good to great, you know, let’s revert back to those big six principles and reaffirm them across our team and organization. And those that did said they were absolutely game-changing and enabling them to keep their team intact, to work through the anxieties and the stress to build bore inclusivity in their teams, despite the fact that they were in many cases in a hybrid world that was all virtual than it went to somewhat virtual.

And now, some people are back to being in person, but I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way it was in terms of the overall environment. We’re going to have to lead through change. We cannot prevent the changes from occurring. You know, our world has changed and it is what it is. It’s up to us to effectively adapt to it. And I wrote an eBook here about a year or so ago called Who Saw This Coming? Now, What Do We Do? And you can get it on, on my website, but there I talked about what the crisis was doing to us and how the big six could be our bedrock, our touchstone to get us through it and grow and learn beyond it.

Steve Rush: And I guess the esbit for every organization will be different now than it was two years ago, because lots of things that are impacting on all of that purpose behaviors, culture, values.

Major General Robert Mixon: You have to check you’re esbit on a regular basis and you have to be willing to adapt it. You know, it’s I was guilty as a young officer. You know, if I wrote a plan, then we were going to execute the plan. And if the truth changed, so, you know, I’m still not changing the plan. That kind of stubbornness was not healthy. My organizations did perform well when I stuck to the plan and I didn’t adapt the plan to the reality that the enemy was out there and had a vote and the environment was changing and had a vote. And the characteristics of my team were changing and had a vote. And I had to be able to adapt to that framework. I was kind of stubborn, I was good at that.

Steve Rush: Great lessons. So I get the honor now to hack into your leadership mind, having had all of these leadership experiences and many, many different environments that you’ve gathered insights and experience from, I’m going to try and get you to get them down to your top three. So what would be your top three leadership hacks? Robert.

Major General Robert Mixon: I would say the first would be willing to listen to the ideas of others, try and dispense with your preconceived notions and do a lot more listening than talking. That would be my first one. And it’s very difficult to do when you grow up in a world where the leader is expected to be transmitting all the time and not receiving. And I think the opposite is actually true. My second one is develop a perspective where you can have others take more ownership of the decision making. The idea here, trust and. I really had to learn to delegate, but I saw a huge return on investment when I delegated to others. One of the tools I use is called a decision tree. I write out the decisions that I must make in my position, and I tell my leadership team, then you’ve got the rest of them.

So don’t come in here and ask me to make decisions that are yours to make. I may challenge you on some of the decisions you make, but you made them. And my job is to help educate you and support you so that you have the tools at your toolbox to make good decisions. So delegation would be my second hack and the first two I’ve talked about were not easy for me. So I’m not saying this is something you get, you know, in a week or two. I’ve learned over my journey about them. And the third one I’d say is that, you know, caring leadership has huge second and third order effects in our organization. There’s an old saying about, I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care and that, you know, empathetic leadership is not necessarily sympathetic. There’s a big difference between empathy and sympathy.

Steve Rush: Huge, yeah.

Major General Robert Mixon: And I talk about that in the work I do with teams on emotional intelligence, it really was important for me to develop an appreciation for the value of caring leadership. So those would be my top three leadership hacks Steve.

Steve Rush: Great lessons. Thank you for sharing them. Next part of the show we call Hack to Attack. So this is where something in your life or work hasn’t worked out as you’d planned, but as a result of the experience, you’ve now learned from it, and it’s now force of good for you. So what would be your Hack to Attack?

Major General Robert Mixon: I would say that my Hack to Attack is that I really was not a patient leader for many parts of my life. And I made a lot of mistakes because I acted too much on impulse and instinct, and I didn’t do enough of making an assessment of what decision would be the best for the organization at this point in time. Or in my lack of patience I think I sometimes failed to be as vulnerable as I should have been. You know, people need to know when you make a mistake and you need to step up and say that, admit it. It’s not weakness. You know, vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is being authentic. And that’s what’s the essence of Level Five Leadership is. It’s being authentic.

Steve Rush: Very powerful stuff. So the last thing we do today is give you a chance to do some time travel. So you get to go and bump into Robert at 21 and you get to toe to toe, give him some advice. What do you reckon it might be?

Major General Robert Mixon: Ooh, oh boy. Talk about a challenge Steve. This is really awesome here. Robert at 21 was a very driven young man. I don’t know where necessarily I got it from, but you know, I was wrapped pretty tightly and I think what advice I would give myself at age 21 is think before you act. Use that, you know, two second pause or ten second pause to say, hey, before I jump off of my tank and go running off into the woods here. Do I really need to get off the tank right now? Or do we all need to, you know, as everybody needs to just be moving, is all forward movement progress, no it’s not. All forward moves is not progress. And I’d say, Robert, you got to, you know, mentally slow down sometimes and take a step back and say, okay, what are we doing? What’s our esbit here? You know, what’s our mission, what’s our intent? Don’t just, you know, everything has to be in motion all the time, and it’s hard. It’d be hard for Robert at 21 to take that because he was a guy in motion and he felt like leadership was, you know, motion, direction, guidance. You know, I was in that seventies culture of being directive. And I thought that’s what right looked like because that’s what many of my leaders demonstrate it.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Major General Robert Mixon: So that’s the advice I would give me, hopefully I would listen.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s a really interesting one, isn’t it? Because time and culture play out so differently based on historic events and you look at how the military has evolved. It has probably been the biggest evolution in the last 25 years that the military have ever had up until that point. It was pretty much kind of command and control, wasn’t it?

Major General Robert Mixon: Well, yeah, the command and control discussion is interesting. Steve, because control is the allocation of resources and time and space. And many of us believe that that’s what leadership is. It’s really not. That’s sort of bandaging in my view. Command is presence. It’s establishing an environment where people can be effective because they trust you and they believe in each other. Sometimes you have to have some control. I’m not downplaying that, but you’ve got to figure out where the balance is to go back to the big six of command and control. And I would say the more command and less control the better, but sometimes you’ve got to work very hard to get to that level of commanding and control.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I have this mantra, which is, only control, only the things that you can control and everybody else has got their own.

Major General Robert Mixon: That’s good advice. That’s very good advice Steve.

Steve Rush: So Robert, how can we make sure our listeners can hook into the work that you do, maybe get a copy of the books, find out a little bit more about Level five associates.

Steve Rush: Yeah, great. Our website is you know, HTTPS http://www.levelfiveassociatess spell out the five levelfiveassociates.com. I certainly invite any of our listeners to you know, come to the site and you’ll learn more about me and the work that we do. And you can contact me by, through website or my email address is robert@levelfiveassociates.com. And you know, we’ll circle back with you. If I don’t circle back with you, you know, something seriously wrong with me,

Steve Rush: We’ll make sure that we put some of those links in our show notes as well, Robert.

Major General Robert Mixon: Oh, thanks, Steve. It was wonderful speaking with you.

Steve Rush: And it’s been a real honor having you on the show Robert. I love that the six principles, I think there are really great philosophy for leading teams and culture. So we’ll do our best to help share this message with our global audience.

Major General Robert Mixon: Well, thanks, Steven. I wish you continued success with The Leadership Hacker program and the good work you’ve been doing.

Steve Rush: Thanks very much Robert.

Major General Robert Mixon: All right, take care.


Steve Rush: I genuinely want to say heartfelt thanks for taking time out of your day to listen in too. We do this in the service of helping others, and spreading the word of leadership. Without you listening in, there would be no show. So please subscribe now if you have not done so already. Share this podcast with your communities, network, and help us develop a community and a tribe of leadership hackers.

Finally, if you would like me to work with your senior team, your leadership community, keynote an event, or you would like to sponsor an episode. Please connect with us, by our social media. And you can do that by following and liking our pages on Twitter and Facebook our handler their @leadershiphacker. Instagram you can find us there @the_leadership_hacker and at YouTube, we are just Leadership Hacker, so that is me signing off. I am Steve Rush and I have been the leadership hacker.

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