Keep Leading!® Podcast 058_Socially Conscious Leadership_Anton Gunn

Keep Leading!® Podcast 058_Socially Conscious Leadership_Anton Gunn

Anton Gunn
Former advisor to President Obama and leading authority on Socially Conscious Leadership
Socially Conscious Leadership

Episode Summary
Anton Gunn is a former Harvard University lecturer and former senior advisor to President Barack Obama and the world’s leading authority on Socially Conscious Leadership. He is the bestselling author of The Presidential Principles. We discussed “The Audacity of Leadership.”

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Bio
Anton Gunn is a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama and the world’s leading authority on Socially Conscious Leadership. He has a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Carolina and was a Resident Fellow at Harvard University. He is the bestselling author of The Presidential Principles and has been featured in TIME magazine, Inc. magazine, the Wall St Journal, BBC News, NPR and on Good Morning America. As an international speaker and consultant, he has worked with organizations like Microsoft, Sodexo, KPMG, Verizon Wireless, Aetna, American College of Surgeons, FINRA, and the Boeing Company. From playing SEC football and being the first African American in history elected to the South Carolina legislature from his district early in his career.

Website
https://www.antongunn.com/

LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/in/antonjgunn/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/AntonJGunn

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/AntonGunn

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/antonjgunn/

Leadership Quote
“The truth doesn’t hurt, it heals.”
“The best leaders are in perpetual pursuit to make things right for the people they lead.”

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https://www.antongunn.com/books/

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The Presidential Principles: How To Inspire Action And Create Lasting Impact

Transcript

The key to sustainable leadership lies in the ability to thrive during uncertainty, ambiguity, and change. Grand Heron International brings you the Coaching Assistance Program, giving your employees on-demand coaching to manage through a challenging situation and arrive at a solution. Visit GrandHeronInternational.Ca/Podcast to learn more.

This podcast is part of the C Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast, the podcast dedicated to promoting leadership development and sharing leadership insights. Here’s your host, The Leadership Excelerator®, Eddie Turner.

Eddie Turner:
Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast, the podcast dedicated to leadership development and insights. I’m your host, Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. I work with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact through the power of executive coaching, facilitation, and professional speaking.

Many people have heard the phrase “People don’t quit their jobs. They quit their bosses.” My guest today says “No, that’s not why they quit. People quit their jobs because their boss is not a socially conscious leader.” What does that mean? Well here to tell us what that means and why it’s important for us to know about it is Anton Gunn. Anton Gunn is a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama and he is the world’s leading authority on socially conscious leadership. He’s the bestselling author of The Presidential Principles and has been featured in Time Magazine, Inc. Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, MSNBC, NPR and Good Morning America. Two things he’s proud of? You’ll know when you see him. He’s a former SEC football player and he is the first African-American in history elected to the South Carolina legislature from his district early in his career. I’m excited to have with me Anton Gunn.

Anton, welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast.

Anton Gunn:
I am so happy to be with you, Eddie. It’s a great day and always a good time to talk to good people who are doing good things in the universe and I really am appreciate you helping other leaders to grow with this wonderful podcast.
Eddie Turner:
Thank you. Well, I met you at the National Speakers Association’s summer conference that we call Influence and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. And I’m extremely impressed by the work you’ve done and what you’ve been able to accomplish in your career and it’s just fascinating. I mean, from working as a senior advisor to President Obama and the work that you did around legislation and even in starting your own business and some of the other work that you’ve done that we’ll talk about throughout your career. And, by the way, congratulations on being one of the top speakers in the world who has the Certified Speaking Professional credential.
Anton Gunn:
Thank you so very much. It’s a lot of hard work, as you know. CSP sometimes stands for “can’t supply paperwork.” I tell people, it’s so funny about you saying CSP which is very high destiny and now, only 12% of speakers in the world have it but it was easier for me to get my top secret security clearance in the Obama administration than it was for me to earn my CSP.
Eddie Turner:
How about that!
Anton Gunn:
That’s about how hard a work it is to be able to get that.
Eddie Turner:
Wonderful. I never heard it quite put that way. So, thank you for sharing that. That speaks volumes for the credential. What else should my listeners know about you before we get into socially conscious leadership?
Anton Gunn:
I think the best thing for people to know is that I live by my values. And there are three values in which I live by. These are the values that I teach other leaders and organizations as I primarily work with healthcare organizations. My goal is to help those organizations to build a world class culture with diverse high-performing teams and great leaders that everybody admires. And in order for you to do that, there are some values that I have to lead with whenever I’m doing any kind of consulting or training or even just keynote speaking with those organizations. And that first value is service and that is recognizing that we’re all here to serve and the greatest amongst us are the ones who commit themselves to serving other people. And that’s how I train leaders to do and that’s how I lead every day is I lead a servant life.

The second value is empowerment. If service is the prerequisite of leadership, empowerment is the essence of leadership. Leadership is about giving people the tools, the information and the resources that allows them to determine their own max potential. And my responsibility as a leader is not to tell you what you’re going to become or tell you where to go or how to do what you do but, more importantly, to give you the tools, information, and the resources to empower you to become the greatest that you can be. That’s my second value is empowerment.

And my third value, the last one, is the one that I think is most important and that value is legacy. And legacy is understanding that it’s not about being successful in life but it’s about being significant. And if you use your gifts and talents to leave something to those who come along after you, you will be more than successful, you will be significant. And my goal is to be significant in the lives of other people.

Eddie Turner:
Excellent. Thank you for sharing your values and being a man of value. So, Service, Empowerment, Legacy. And I love how you said that. When it comes to legacy, it’s not just about being a success but being significant. Very powerful.
Anton Gunn:
Thank you.
Eddie Turner:
So, what is socially conscious leadership?
Anton Gunn:
So, socially conscious leadership is something that I have been researching and studying for a few years. And before I’m able to summarize what it is, I want to make sure that for any of your listeners, for you and anyone else, in the sound of my voice, that if you’re in a leadership role … So, I spend a lot of my time talking to leaders who are in organizations, they manage teams and they manage individuals. So, in healthcare, you might be a nurse manager or a nurse director or maybe a chief nursing officer and you have a whole responsibility to a large group of people who day to day are trying to save other people’s lives. And the work is complicated. It is sometimes complex. It is high stress. It’s easy for you to make a decision at any moment that could have a dramatic impact on someone else’s life. And so, if you lead a team like that, it’s important for you to take stock of your role and your responsibility as a leader.

It is recognized that there’s two things that every leader has the higher they move up the food chain. The first opportunity is that they have an action opportunity. And when I say action opportunity, the higher you go in your leadership role, the bigger the action you can take on behalf of the people that you lead. You have every opportunity to have a bigger difference in their lives by controlling resources to move people around to just make bigger decisions that have an impact on the lives of the people that you lead.

The second opportunity you have is to be more aware of what’s going on in your organization, what I like to call situational awareness into your organization – what’s going on in your business. And the higher you go up the food chain, the more awareness you should have but here’s the problem. In most organizations, the people who lead people do not recognize their acknowledgement or their awareness and they definitely don’t take action. So, when I lay this out for people, I want you to understand that 50%, literally 50% of leaders are in a position of leadership but they have no awareness to what’s going on around them in terms of what’s happening with their team, that there might be fighting amongst your team members and you’re not even aware of it as a leader or maybe one of your team members doesn’t have the tools or the information or resources to do their job well but because you’re living in oblivion, you’ve missed what’s wrong for them, what’s not allowing them to be successful in their professional opportunities. 50% of leaders don’t have enough awareness but then you have another 35% of leaders who may have some awareness and have a little bit more ability to take action on behalf of their team but they don’t because they’re stuck in a state that I call paralysis by analysis, that they know that something is going on with their team, they know something is going on at work but they make excuses of why they can’t do it anything. Their response is “Well, that ain’t really my responsibility. That’s somebody else’s responsibility” or they might say “Well, I know what’s going wrong over there but that’s their department to fix. That’s not our responsibility to fix.”

Eddie Turner:
And so, because of working for leaders like this, people leave.
Anton Gunn:
Yes, yes. They just quit. They quit because they have a boss who doesn’t know what’s going on. And an employee walks away from the organization and everybody knows why that employee quit but the manager has no idea why that employee quit. They have no awareness. And then 35% of them might have known what was wrong for that person but they did absolutely nothing about it to fix it. They didn’t make it right for that person. So, you got 85% of leaders who are literally stuck in either not having any awareness and doing nothing about it but having awareness about it but still not doing anything about it.

Then you have another 10% of leaders who are at the top who are the worst of the worst. And what do I mean worst of the worst? They know what’s going wrong on their team, they see the discrimination, the unfairness or the inequities, the injustice, they know what’s going wrong but they choose intentionally not only to not do anything about it but maybe exacerbate the situation because they benefit socially, morally, financially, politically sometimes, that they get a higher position because they suppress what’s going wrong in the organization. And I think that is so dangerous because you have 2 million employees who quit their jobs every single month. And when asked why they quit, they say it’s because of management and because of the culture. I read a study that 37% of people in the tech industry quit their jobs because of unfairness happening at work. And it’s a huge financial cost to this kind of toxic culture where things go wrong, discrimination happens or negative environments become more negative environments become toxic environments and the leader doesn’t consciously do anything about it to make it right for the people that they lead.

Eddie Turner:
And then taking the steps to rectify it is what you identify as socially conscious leadership.
Anton Gunn:
Yeah, the whole context of a socially conscious leader is a leader who is 100% aware of what’s going on with their people, that they’re able to understand the details of what’s wrong but then, secondarily, they spend their time taking action to make things right for their team. That’s their job.
Eddie Turner:
How did you get interested in this type of leadership?
Anton Gunn:
Well, for me, it’s what I believe that the greatest amongst the students. So, I had the honor and privilege of working for the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, the 44th President, and that’s his approach to leadership. And what do I mean that’s his approach? It’s that his approach to understand what’s going on among the people that he leads and spend his time trying to solve the problem, spend his time trying to make a difference so that the people that work for him are able to do the best job possible.
Eddie Turner:
I saw that great photo on your website. I absolutely love it that you were giving advice to President Obama in the Oval Office. How cool is that! It was an incredible experience. I will tell anybody that one of the highlights of my entire life has been not only serving my country, again, that’s the context of service, but being able to serve in a meaningful way for a person who I have great admiration for because of what he was able to achieve, how he worked every day to have an impact. And I get goosebumps thinking about some of the remarkable opportunities that I’ve had over my career in public service. And being in the Oval Office on that day to speak with the President about the work we were doing on healthcare reform and to have him say thank you to me for what I was doing to help serve the country honor of my entire career.
Eddie Turner:
That is an honor indeed. Congratulations and kudos to you.
Anton Gunn:
Thank you very much.
Eddie Turner:
I’m talking to Aton Gunn, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, and the world’s leading authority on socially conscious leadership. We’ll have more with Anton right after this.

This podcast is sponsored by Eddie Turner LLC. Organizations who need to accelerate the development of their leaders call Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. Eddie works with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact. Call Eddie Turner to help your leaders one on one as their coach or to inspire them as a group through the power of facilitation or a keynote address. Visit EddieTurnerLLC.com to learn more.

This is Jane Anderson, personal branding expert from down under, and you’re listening to the Keep Leading!® Podcast with the one and only Eddie Turner.

Eddie Turner:
We’re back, everyone. I’m talking to Anton gun, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and the world’s leading authority on socially conscious leadership.

Before the break, Anton, you were telling us what’s socially conscious leadership is and its impact on the morale and productivity in organizations. How can leaders become a socially conscious leader?

Anton Gunn:
Well, I will tell you that the first framework, I’m actually teaching this in a two-day workshop and seminars, I call it the seven behaviors that build world class culture. And a world class culture is a culture full of leaders who are socially conscious around the teams that they lead. So, I won’t try to spend the two days trying to explain to you all seven parts of the framework but I’ll start with the first piece and that is having awareness that something is wrong, that you can’t fix what’s wrong until you know what’s wrong. And that’s the main point for any leader is that you have to be in a perpetual framework of asking your team two and three questions to understand what’s going on. And that’s asking them “How are things going for you personally? How are things going for you professionally? And is there anything I can do to help you to be successful?” Those three simple questions are questions that the best leaders asked every day. That photo that you saw on my website of President Obama listening to me as I’m giving him advice was because he asked me “Is there anything that I can be doing to help you to be more successful?” And I had started talking to him and he sat down on the Resolute desk to listen to me. And so, my context is that you got to have great awareness around what’s going on with your team. And you can’t fix what’s wrong until you know what’s wrong. And that’s the main point. You can’t fix what’s wrong until you know what’s wrong.

The second premise is if you identify that something has gone wrong amongst your team, if there’s some kind of problem that exists, the question is what’s your role as a leader acknowledging that problem. See, there are lots of times where people don’t even want to acknowledge what they know is wrong. The one example I like to use is that we all know about CTE which is a concussion syndrome that impacts professional players and college players but what people don’t know is that the National Football League had known about the impact of concussions for more than 20 years before they even acknowledged that this was impacting their players. And so, it’s a sad thing when you have the ability to fix something or to do something about it but you won’t even acknowledge that something is wrong. And the best leaders are the ones who make a decision that they understand that they’re going to acknowledge what’s wrong. They’re going to be transparent, they’re going to be respectful, unequivocal, and telling the truth that, they’re going to do it on time and not wait for years to go by before they tell it, and they want to do it in a heartfelt way. And so, that’s the second premise of becoming a socially conscious leader is being able to acknowledge the truth about things that you might have done wrong or that you have allowed to become wrong for the team that you lead.

Eddie Turner:
Excellent. So, thank you for those two principles.
Anton Gunn:
Yeah. I mean, I fundamentally believe that on this second principle that the truth doesn’t hurt, it heals. And that’s why you got to acknowledge what you know to be true, you got to acknowledge what’s wrong.
Eddie Turner:
Good. Now, speaking of those two principles, you actually wrote a book entitled The Presidential Principles. Is this based on your work with President Obama and principles like these that you just shared?
Anton Gunn:
Yeah. So, I will tell you that my book The Presidential Principles is based upon my experience with President Obama but also my experience with four other US presidencies.
Eddie Turner:
Wow! Tell me about that.
Anton Gunn:
So, I’ve lived an incredibly remarkable life that through military service and through my commitment to service, my family’s commitment to military service that I had encounters with the last five US presidents. So, President George Herbert Walker Bush’s administration all the way to President Donald Trump’s administration. And so, my book The Presidential Principles is a framework based upon the impact that a president can have on your life. So, if I gave you the names Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy, we know that all of these men have long since passed away. Yet, their decision making still has a lasting impact on our lives to this day.
Eddie Turner:
Indeed.
Anton Gunn:
And so, I basically looked at those last five presidents and their decisions and how they had a lasting impact on my life, the things that I do every day. And what I’ve distilled down into my book The Presidential Principles that there are some traits, there are some principles and practices that the greatest leaders amongst us do. And so, my point to all of your listeners and to all of the readers is that you don’t have to be President of the United States to have a presidential impact. You just have to want to be impactful in a presidential way over the people that you lead. So, whether you’re leading yourself, leading your family, leading a small team at work or leading a company or leading an audience through a presentation, you can have a presidential impact by mastering the principles that I lay out in the book The Presidential Principles.
Eddie Turner:
Good. And you’ve also written the book The Audacity of Leadership. Tell us about that.
Anton Gunn:
So, The Audacity of Leadership was my first book, written in 2009, and the title is very similar to two other books, The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama and The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe who was Barack Obama’s campaign manager when he ran for president in 2008. This book is really what I believe the formation of how you lead in the 21st century. I lay out the 10 essentials that I believe will help anyone to become a transformative leader in the 21st century. The premise is around vision. It’s also around your ability to listen, your ability to serve other people. Again, that prerequisite of service is always a part of everything that I write. And then a fourth principle is really focused on your attitude – how do you have a bodacious, bold attitude to believe that you can lead and make a difference? So, all of my books are focused on leadership. My writing is always focused on leadership because I think leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. And if we all understood our own personal leadership and how we show up in spaces with other people, we’d have a much better world. And that’s the reason why The Audacity of Leadership and The Presidential Principles are two great books to begin your leadership journey.
Eddie Turner:
Indeed. And that’s part of what this podcast is based on, the idea that we must not only be aware of our leadership style and understand its impact but also, we need to keep leading. We can’t stop.
Anton Gunn:
Correct.
Eddie Turner:
Not only have you written about leadership, not only have you practiced leadership, but you are a former Harvard University lecturer. Talk to us a little bit about your work at Harvard.
Anton Gunn:
Yes, that was an amazing experience. And so, in 2014, I was selected as one of six resident fellows to live on campus at Harvard University and to lecture in the Kennedy School of Government on a subject that we find important to us and that we have the greatest experience on. And so, I was paired with the former governor of Washington state, the former CEO of CNN, as well as Joe Biden’s sister, her name is Valerie Biden-Owens, as well as a couple other people. And our responsibility was to lecture a course every Tuesday. And my course is on Tuesday at 4:15 and my whole course was focused on the politics in the process of passing healthcare reform or as some people call it, Obamacare. And I talked about the leadership challenges that we faced as an administration or that our nation faced as we thought about changing our national healthcare system to try to make it more resolute for the uninsured and those who are underserved. And so, spending week after week at Harvard universe amongst some of the brightest minds on planet earth, I met three heads of state while I was there, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Henry Louis Gates and Oprah Winfrey and Shonda Rhimes, all who come to campus to do various activities. And sometimes it was amazing to have MDs and PhDs sitting in my study group, listening me lecture around the politics and the process of making healthcare reform a reality.
Eddie Turner:
You gave us five [inaudible][24:27] earlier and you talked about the lasting impact they’ve had on us but when you said Dr. Gates and Oprah and Shonda and you talked about the impact that people have made on us, there are too, huh?
Anton Gunn:
Yeah, on the dot. I mean, they’ve shaped kind of a narrative in the world from television and media to writing. I think, again, this underscores that you don’t have to be president of United States to have a presidential impact. Some people outside of government service had the greatest impact on our lives. And I would say Oprah Winfrey is one of those people, that she’s shaped a whole generation of people through her work and her control of the media, her influence over the media, should I say. We had a lot to learn from all of them.
Eddie Turner:
So, you met people like that but then you also had the peers that you were inducted with and not just being at the Harvard Kennedy School but specifically you were at the Institute of Politics and that is a hub, so much great thinking happens in the sphere of politics. And so, you had those great leaders you appeared with but then also your students who you were impacting. Talk about that, if you will, please, if there’s anything that stands out.
Anton Gunn:
Yeah. So, there’s a whole lot that stand out. So, literally, the Institute of Politics is for the students. That’s the thing that most people are not fully aware of. The whole focus of the Institute of Politics is bringing in senior leaders in government, bringing them into higher education to allow the freshmen sophomores and juniors, these young minds, to ask us questions to understand the importance of public service. And the Institute of Politics was founded by John F. Kennedy’s widow Jackie Kennedy right after he was assassinated. She wanted his legacy to continue on at Harvard because he was the first president that brought higher education officials or academics into his administration. Before that a lot of people brought businessmen into government and public service but President Kennedy brought his faculty members from Harvard, the people who taught him how to lead. And so, this Institute of Politics is really focused on students and the youth. And so, my study group had 40 people in it on any given day and I would have 25 of them be students. They also paired us up with six students who were like our staffing interns who helped us to manage our study groups. And these are some of the young brightest minds who had gone on to do incredible things to work in campaigns and public service work for governors, mayors, former secretaries of state. They’ve done all kinds of amazing things since being at Harvard in 2014. And that’s the biggest impact is that you can inspire young people to go into public service.
Eddie Turner:
Absolutely. And that’s why I wanted to definitely highlight that because you work with a lot of executives at the senior level of government and with corporations but you’ve also done a lot of work to inspire the youth of the future. And so, I wanted to highlight that part of your amazing background as well. So, thank you.

I could talk to you for hours. What would you say is the single most important lesson you would like to leave our listeners with from our conversation today?

Anton Gunn:
Yeah. I think, the thing that I will leave people with is I want people to think about the most admired leaders in our planet’s history. Whether it’s Gandhi, whether it’s Nelson Mandela or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., all three of these leaders have something in common, that they have always been into perpetual pursuit to make things right for the people that they like. That’s my most important quote, my most important framework is that if you want to be a great leader, you have to be in perpetual pursuit to make things right for the people that you lead. That’s how you become a socially conscious leader. That’s how you become the most admired leader. And so, above all else, do your part to make things right for those that you lead.
Eddie Turner:
Excellent. I love that. Thank you so much. Where can my listeners learn more about you, Anton?
Anton Gunn:
Well, great. You can easily learn more about me by going to my website AntonGunn.com. You can also find me on social media. My most impactful platform is LinkedIn. That’s where I do most of my dialogues. So, you can find me on LinkedIn at Anton J. Gunn, it’s easy to find, but I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter and Instagram as well but I love to dialogue with people on LinkedIn about their leadership challenges and how we build a better world. And I want to give a special gift to all of your listeners because of this amazing podcast. I want to give people a free chapter to my book The Presidential Principles. If you go to AntonGunn.com/FreeChapter, give me an email address and I will send you a free chapter of my book where I talk about my first presidential encounter and the lessons that I learned from it, the lessons that I still live by to this day.
Eddie Turner:
Fantastic. Well, the listeners of the Keep Leading!® Podcast will welcome the opportunity to get a copy of your book’s chapter. Thank you. We’ll put that in the show notes so that people can access it, okay?
Anton Gunn:
Sure.
Eddie Turner:
Thank you for being a guest of the Keep Leading!® Podcast.
Anton Gunn:
Thank you very much for having me.
Eddie Turner:
And thank you for listening. That concludes this episode, everyone. I’m Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®, reminding you that leadership is not about our title or our position. Leadership is an activity. Leadership is action. It’s not the case of once a leader, always a leader. It’s not a garment we put on and take off. We must be a leader at our core and allow it to emanate in all we do. So, whatever you’re doing, always keep leading.

Thank you for listening to your host Eddie Turner on the Keep Leading!® Podcast. Please remember to subscribe to the Keep Leading!® Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen. For more information about Eddie Turner’s work please visit EddieTurnerLLC.com.

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The Keep Leading!® podcast is for people passionate about leadership. It is dedicated to leadership development and insights. Join your host Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator® as he speaks with accomplished leaders and people of influence across the globe as they share their journey to leadership excellence. Listen as they share leadership strategies, techniques and insights. For more information visit eddieturnerllc.com or follow Eddie Turner on Twitter and Instagram at @eddieturnerjr. Like Eddie Turner LLC on Facebook. Connect with Eddie Turner on LinkedIn.