Organizational success really does depend upon leadership. The good news is that these success principles are simple and come down to things you can do. 

In this episode, you’ll learn: 

  • The three keys to leadership effectiveness 
  • Why it’s critical to choose which habits to develop 
  • The importance of asking the right questions 
  • How to develop clarity of vision 


Learn more about the benefits of clarity of vision and how to develop it.


The Transcript

Brad Wolff: 00:03

Welcome to the, “It is about you podcast”. Today I’m honored to have as my guest Roger Young. Roger is the Partner and Principal Consultant with “Excel Leadership Group”. Roger, welcome to the show!

Roger Young: 00:21

Thank you! Glad to be here.

Brad Wolff: 00:25

So tell me a little bit about yourself and your organization Excel Leadership Group?

Roger Young: 00:33

Well, a little bit about me. I’ve been practicing leadership and organization development for quite a while. Crazy how fast time flies but about 25 years and I’m not, I mean that’s what I’ve been doing and haven’t had the opportunity to do that around the world and different organizations. And so that’s professionally me from a personal side, married, live in Atlanta with my twins, boy and a girl and that it keeps me young at heart, at least

Brad Wolff: 01:13

Young by name, and young by heart, that is a good combination.

Roger Young: 01:18


Brad Wolff: 01:20

So Roger, tell me a little bit about the journey that’s brought you to where you are today.

Roger Young: 01:28

You know, the journey I started as I mentioned 20 years ago or so. And one of the things that happened early after I was, I’m almost through with graduate school I had a job kind of my first real job in the field, at least not my first job, but, and in that capacity, my task was to help build the assessment systems that would determine who was going to get to keep their job and who wasn’t.

And you know, for somebody coming out of grad school at a pretty young age that was a, you know, a crucible moment, that’s a tough thing to do. And to share that kind of news with people who are no longer going to have a job after having spent more years in a role that I had been alive at that point that was tough. And so that was kind of a pivotal point in my career early.

Roger Young: 02:26

And it kinda put me on this trajectory of development. The know is what we’re going to be chatting about here. But personal development, leadership development, I decided that was where I wanted to focus rather than focusing on downsizing or rightsizing as we called it in that organization, it was going to be development. Because the one truth is that, you know, nobody can be and nobody is assured lifelong employment and in our world today.

But one thing that is certain that I believe is that nobody can take the experience that you have and the development that you quire over your career and life. Nobody could take that. So that’s what I’ve devoted my career to and you know, so it’s been a fun journey. It’s been a fun journey.

Brad Wolff: 03:21

So your experience out of grad school where you were asked to make decisions that you didn’t, it sounds, I interpreted that you didn’t really feel like you should be making, really spurred you on. Did I get that right? You didn’t feel like that was, that you were appropriate to be making those decisions at that point?

Roger Young: 03:40

You know what I think it was appropriate in the sense that it did have to be done. You know, preparing for deregulation. There were decisions that had to be made, but I do believe that it was in a large part of failure for leadership. I believe that it’s up to leaders to set a vision, have a strategy to hold people accountable. You know, my dad used to tell me when I was a kid, leave it better than you found it. And he was talking about his car. By the way. One of the things I’ve taken that to mean is that applies to people as well. And I, you know, I saw in a leadership role, challenging people setting high standards, coaching, developing them, leaving them better than you found them, I think is, it’s a huge responsibility. So I do think the decision had to be made, but I do think that the organization could have done a much better job much sooner. So it didn’t have the tremendous impact that it did. And you know, in the end there were about 5,000 people lost their positions or careers out of 20,000 people. So it was a huge, it was a traumatic thing

Brad Wolff: 04:54

And for each one of them it was traumatic. And I think what I’m interpreting from what you’re saying, Roger, is if leadership and had done a better job of helping these people develop so they could adapt to the changes they were undergoing, then a lot of those people would have been suitable for new jobs that were needed from the organization. Is that okay?

Roger Young: 05:20

Or you know, put into different roles, challenged, you know, I’m challenged with new responsibilities sooner so that they would have had a broader set of skills to fall back on rather than having done just a singular thing for better

Brad Wolff: 05:39

Right. So their lack of development was also related to leaderships, not challenging them and not creating an environment that encouraged their development.

Roger Young: 05:49

Largely, yes.

Brad Wolff: 05:50

Okay. So clearly that was a pivotal moment for your career. So what is it that you find excites you most about what you do?

Roger Young: 06:04

I love facilitating a conversation where the “aha” moment happens. I mean, that is, to me, you know, the most fulfilling thing and having somebody come back later and say, you know, this do, you know, challenged me to think in a different way but it’s made me, and it’s helped me get somewhere where I didn’t think it was possible and I, you know, and I get to do that every day. I mean, that’s, that’s what I do. And so that is something that excites me. That’s something that, you know, I go to bed, you know, thinking about and get up thinking about that. Whether it’s individual or groups of people, I mean, that’s, that’s the thing that I find exciting.

Brad Wolff: 06:47

Okay. And based on your experience of many years working with leaders, what do you see as really the keys to leadership effectiveness?

Roger Young: 07:01

The key to leadership effectiveness there’s three things that I think are key. One is if you think about the essence of leadership, and this is kind of, these are the silly conversations that my wife and I have and kind of the things that, the geeky things we think about. Yeah. Leadership, if we weren’t dealing with change, leadership wouldn’t be necessary. In order to be a leader, you have to be willing and able to lead people to a better future or to a future that’s better than for us the situation sometimes before we realize what that current situation is. So, I mean, the essence of leadership gets back to that. It’s do you have a vision for the future? Do you have someplace to lead people toward? Then it’s helping to equip people with the skills that they need in order to achieve that future vision.

Roger Young: 08:04

It’s also thinking about what is the organization, how’s it structured? Because most people in my experience get up and actually want to be productive. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to contribute to a team or the organization or purpose. But there’s something that gets in the way. And a lot of times that something is the organization itself. So I think that’s part of being an effective leader too. It’s putting the right systems and processes and tools in place with people can achieve and work toward that vision or that future.

And then it’s, you know, the probably the part of it that’s the least sexy as the execution. It’s the continuous driving for results. What are, you know, thinking about what are the behaviors, what are the habits that you have to instill in people but also in the team and also even in the organization so that you can consistently get results over time.

Roger Young: 09:11

So those are the three things I, you know, I come back to what does the future envision? Equipping the people with the right skills and abilities within a system where they can be successful. And then it’s the continuous repetition. Those three things to me pretty much encapsulate all of what it takes to be an effective leader. Of course, there’s a lot of skills that go in to that, you know, connecting with people for example. But you know though, those, so there are a lot of things that it takes to lead effectively. But I think those three things really kind of bucket nicely, you know, the components of what a leader does,

Brad Wolff: 09:49

Those are great points and why those three things make sense as keys for leadership effectiveness. What I want to highlight is that execution piece, because that I think is often a really missing piece. And I want to expand more if you would on habits and how focusing on habits is so important.

Roger Young: 10:18

So with habits, you know, I look at this as, you know, you look at the research and how long does it take to create a habit, you know, and you’ll find things like 26 days or 28 days or whatever it is. And I will tell you, I mentioned I have kids and they’re 15. So if you’re, so if you’re in Atlanta, I would, I would advise you to staff the sidewalks because they have their learner’s permits. They’re learning to drive and you know, draw, to me, driving is such a good example of a habit that does not take 28 days to really bore. That takes years.

Brad Wolff: 10:57

28 years I think

Roger Young: 10:58

Probably. And then we’re still forming, right? We’re still learning. But because there’s so many different things that you have to do when you have to put yourself into the situations where it’s like, okay, now somebody could just break part in front of me. I, you know, obviously break, but if you break too fast, what about the person behind you? You know?

And so all of these things, and it’s amazing though, it’s, you look back, I’ve been driving for a long time and it’s like I have had instances where I’ve driven home from work. You get home, you’re thinking about other stuff. You get there and you think back to the driving and you don’t remember the drive that it’s because it’s become unconsciously, you know, you just, it’s become, you know, a subconscious thing that you do that. Once I had that, when a habit has really, you know, formed because our brains are incredibly efficient.

Roger Young: 11:49

So I think with leadership as well, you know, if we your listeners that, what are some of the traits or characteristics of highly effective leaders? One of the things that we would hear is they’re calm under pressure. I would imagine that would show up on the list. And is that a habit? I mean, is that something that we, over time we learn how to do that and we learned to turn off that part of our brain that says, you know what, we’re going to run or run away or run toward it. You know, I think that is something that we learned to do over time and it probably takes more than 28 days to do that.

Brad Wolff: 12:29

I would say that’s maybe a little bit of an understatement. Certainly more than 28 years if we start from birth.

Roger Young: 12:37

That’s a yes.

Brad Wolff: 12:40

So, what are the ways that you help leaders develop in these three key areas? Roger

Roger Young: 12:46

You know, the most important, the most powerful tool that, you know, whether it’s me or I think anyone else. It’s the power of asking questions, asking the right questions. I think a lot of times people, they have the answers, they’re just not necessarily thinking about the right questions that they need answers to. So all of those three things that I heard, those three things that I mentioned to you before, the envision, you know, to me it’s asking questions about what that vision looks like. What does it look like? Why is it so important? What is it going to look and feel like when we get there? How are people going to work together? Asking those kinds of questions. Because that then really helps people. Leaders get clear about what is that future vision or future state, then getting. And once we know that by the way, then it gets so much easier to come back into what is the vehicle that’s going to get us there?

Roger Young: 13:45

What are the skills that people need to have in order to help us achieve that future vision? What are the things we need to be developing right now? Because if we don’t, there’s going to be a missed opportunity. All of those things, they come out of that question or those questions about that future. You know, they say the hardest part about getting where you want to go is knowing where you want to go. But here’s the deal inside of organizations. I, you know, I’ve lived there, you’ve been there and it, you know, and we’ve all been there. You get tied up in the day to day and it’s like, it’s pretty tough to step back and think bigger picture when you’re tied up and you know, the stress of the day. Well, sometimes the questions, it’s just simply that it’s asking those questions to get people to step back and then dive, you know, diving deeper into, so, you know, where do we need to do to achieve that vision? And so to answer your question, the most powerful tool to me in my mind, it’s the power of questions. Without a question, without a question,

Brad Wolff: 14:50

I would say that’s unquestionable. So I’m with…

Roger Young: 14:56

That’s funny

Brad Wolff: 14:57

You know what? This is a very effective comedy routine that we’ve developed here at Roger. So with respect to we talked about the importance of questions and the question is leading to clarity because I’ve, I think about this a lot of how clarity, it’s so difficult and that I write about it. I think about it that it’s a skill that we develop as opposed to something we’re born with. And I wondered if you can weigh in a little bit on of the amount of time and effort in iterations it takes to develop clarity. Because I think sometimes there’s a myth that somehow some leaders are just born with this vision and they just, it’s there and they know what it is and it’s clear. I wonder if you can weigh in a little bit on that.

Roger Young: 15:48

Yeah. I would weigh in and say, I’ve, I’ve had the opportunity to have conversations with senior executives, CEOs, some leaders of cities and countries end up, you know, that’s not true. That’s not the genetic thing in my strong opinion. That’s something that evolves over time. The clarity comes with thinking about it over and over and over. It comes from having conversations with people. It comes from asking questions, getting people’s thoughts about what’s working, what’s not working.

So much about what we hear in Oregon, you know, in organizations comes from down within. And so setting the right tone, the right culture by asking questions back to asking questions is so key. Because you understand then more the engine of the organization and what’s possible given the organization that you would otherwise know that helps you be clear. It helps you be clear.

Roger Young: 16:59

The more you say it, the more you practice it, the clear it gets. So back to that vision, that strategy, which by the way, the strategy to me, it’s, that’s simply your game plan. How are you going to win and how are you going to achieve that vision or strategy or division that you’ve set? So clarity comes with practice. If you’ve heard a great presentation, you’ve heard a presentation that’s been practiced over and over and over that has received feedback and that it’s been fine tuned.

That’s the key to it. I don’t know that there was anyone who had, there’s some great, you know, presenters, but the good ones, they’ll tell you they’ve practiced it over and over and over. I’d love a comedy and there’s a great, there’s a great podcast by Kevin Hart and he, you know, the thing that struck me about that was his talking about going into just the small comedy you know, comedy store, the comedy story, I think in New York, and just practicing getting up in front of a small venue and it takes about a year, sometimes two years before he’s ready to go, prime time with something, you know, with his sketch.

Roger Young: 18:12

And you just assume here’s kind of hard, probably the great one of the, you know, grapes in our time and he spends much time practicing his routine, you know, so I heard that. I’m like, wow, that’s pretty cool. It’s so it’s the hard work that gets you to clarity.

Brad Wolff: 18:31

And that’s what I really wanted to drive home is the myth is somehow if we not clear that something’s wrong and there’s visionary or is it somehow just have these flashes of clarity and they just somehow just, it’s just there and that’s just not true. So it is a developed skill that I think is so important for anyone because everyone really is a leader, I believe. Because in that they’re influencing themselves and others. So that clarity is definitely a developed habit. And that you work towards as opposed to something that you just gifted with.

Roger Young: 19:07


Brad Wolff: 19:11

So we’re talking, as we’re talking about these things, it strikes me that what we’re really talking about it to a great extent, it’s personal development, the development of greater capacity to handle the challenges that are relevant to you. So I want to delve in a little bit and get your definition of personal development and how it relates to the effectiveness of leaders.

Roger Young: 19:35

I believe that personal development, is it something that we do? It’s something that we are, I believe that you have to focus on. You have to create back to the habits. How can you focus on and become a better leader every single day. I’ve had the opportunity to have some coaches in my career who have written big books and have been Jim noted executive coaches to other powerful leaders and all of that.

And one of the one in particular that I was having a conversation with, he, you know, I asked him, what’s the best book that you’ve written? And he’s written at the time, 30, well about 32 books and hundreds of articles on the topic and studied leadership all over the world, taught it, you know, the know big Ivy league schools. And he said, the best one that I’ve ever written is one that I’ll never publish. And he took out his journal and he said, you know, it’s here because I looked to learn something new in every conversation. And, and you know, it’s one of those things where when you’re ready to learn, a teacher will emerge. That’s not my quote. And I forget who said it,

Brad Wolff: 20:55

That’s definitely an old one.

Roger Young: 20:57

How true is that? I mean, to me development is in something that you just, that you do, it’s gotta be part of your mindset. It’s part of who you are and, and you know, and everything that you do, you can learn. So personal development, you know, it’s about growth. It’s about being somebody different tomorrow than you are today in the next, you know, it’s that continuous evolution of becoming, of growing, of growth, of development and powerful.

Brad Wolff: 21:31

Now, how do you see that impacting the effectiveness of leaders? How big of a deal is that to their ability to really be effective and be outstanding at what they do?

Roger Young: 21:45

I think it’s paramount. I don’t think if a leader is not open to learning and constant your continuous development, then I don’t know, you know, how effective they’re going to be at getting other people to learn and develop. And if you just think about it and you know, those terms and how important it is for us to develop, you know, given the pace of change today in the world, given, you know, the fact that if you look at the largest automotive or transportation company in the world, doesn’t own any cars, largest hotelier, doesn’t own any hotel rooms. You know, we’re the pace of change. And I’m sure every generation has felt that this generation, okay, this generation is the, you know, we’re dealing with more change that anybody ever in the history of the world. And maybe that’s true, but I, I would say the consistent thing there is that we’re all feeling that every generation or however far you go back, you know, so, but in today’s world, it’s like in order to stay competitive, in order to stay relevant, you have to constantly up your game.

Roger Young: 22:57

You have to learn new skills. I mean, you go and you going turn on your phone in the morning and soft workmen updated. You have to learn like, well, now how do I get to my contacts? How to, so if it’s something as simple as that versus, you know, something else, learning a new strategy, learning a new business model, you have to be growing all the time. And if you don’t do that as a leader, then I don’t know how effective you’re going to be at convincing your team or your direct reports, your organization that they too need to continue to develop.

Brad Wolff: 23:31

Those are really great points. The speed of change one can be at the top of the world and be irrelevant almost in the blink of an eye due to changes that you never would have predicted just because someone came up with an alternative that you, you’re offering obsolete or there could be any number of things. And they’re often things we don’t predict. So the ability to adapt, I believe is the most important skill we and thriving today. And I’m using the word thriving cause I don’t want to just focus on surviving. I want to focus on doing much more than that. So even surviving takes a lot of ability to adapt these days. So I’m curious what, what regular practices do you have, Roger, that you feel are most helpful to your own growth and development? Because it still comes back to us because we’re the only ones we can work on, right?

Roger Young: 24:24

Yeah. You know, I’m one who, you know, back to the quote that I mentioned before, when you’re ready to learn a teacher will emerge. I think there’s three things that go to growth. One is having a growth mindset. You know, there’s some great work out there, Carol Dweck. You know, her book I think is great. But going through your day, looking to what you can learn. So, you know, the growth mindset gets you focused on learning. So that’s another part of it.

Focusing on learning. If you’re focused there, you’re gonna learn, you know, you’ll find something, you’ll take something away from, you know, each day. And then I think, and this was the, this is the harder, well, I’d probably a hard start at the three that I’m going to mention. One is being open to feedback. I think a truly being open to the feedback that we get from others, recognizing that feedback is their perception, their perception is reality.

Roger Young: 25:30

And think it’s easy for people, even myself, you know, to get defensive because we put hard work in and you know, we get this feedback and our first inclination may be to defend, you know, defend our thought, our thinking, our thought process and you know, that shuts us down to learning and growing. So, you know, for, to me, you know, those three things. Here’s the other thing that you know, I don’t know about you. I’ve mentioned my dad and you know, the leave it better than you found it when I’d come home from school when I was known a kid, The question that I would get asked is, so what did you learn today?

Brad Wolff: 26:11

Nothing. Isn’t that the common answer of a kid?

Roger Young: 26:16

That was my answer, it was all the time. I’m like,

Brad Wolff: 26:18

That’s universal. Kids don’t have to be taught that. If you ask that question that you will nine times out of 10 with most kids get that.

Roger Young: 26:26

I say this in front of groups all the time,

Roger Young: 26:28

Time and I always get a resounding nothing and I was doing

Roger Young: 26:35

And of course it wasn’t true. Well in my case it kind of was.

Brad Wolff: 26:37

Well it’s a tough question because you got to sit there and come up with my God, that’s an infinite number of things that could potentially.

Roger Young: 26:44

It is there’s so many different things so you really have to think about it. I’m going to bring that back into the habit I was doing this not too long ago, I was doing a lot of international travel and I’d be gone for weeks, a couple of weeks, maybe three weeks at a time. And you know, I was asking, you know, the kids who were at the time, they were 10, I guess, right? 10 or so. And I started this little thing that I would do. I called it my one in one R one and one and the one it was every day before I would go to bed, I would say I would text them. What’s one thing that you learned today and what’s one thing that you appreciate about the day? And of course you have leadership is so much, you know, lead by example.

Roger Young: 27:35

So I would send that out to my son and to my daughter and you know, the three of us and it’s, I’d say here is the one in one thing and I sent it out and I don’t know, you probably take a guess. What did I hear back?

Brad Wolff: 27:47

Probably nothing.

Roger Young: 27:50

I didn’t hear anything. It was silent. It was like I just sent it out. Kind of a heartfelt thoughtful tax. I got nothing. Crickets chirping. You could cue up crickets, chirp children when you edit this. But eventually, you know, leadership is like this. You talked about execution and how that is, if it’s the right thing to do, you have to continuously follow through to make sure. Right? Because eventually people are going to follow. Maybe not everyone, but you’re going to get enough people. And so what ended up happening? It took a few days. My son started responding with what he learned and what he appreciated and it was pretty cool.

Roger Young: 28:24

Because you know, the thing that he would learn, there are things like I learned that preparing the next day for the next day, the night before makes the next morning so much less stressful or, and he’s working towards as an Eagle scout and you know, so he’s very planful, always prepared, although that’s not always the case, but you know, and what do you appreciate? You know, I appreciate being prepared for a quiz or a test and not the way I do that is by having a plan. And so while we’re doing this, I’m like feeling good. What is his sister saying? Nothing. I’m like, it’s okay.

We’re going to keep doing this. And over probably a week or a week and a half, what ultimately ended up happening and this is really cool. I, you know, I just, I well up and I, my daughter, our daughter she responded by saying, I learned that, you know you know, friends or you know, porn and they’re there to support you. But when she got you though, what did she appreciate? She said, I appreciate that I have a roof over my head and food on my plate. This is from a 10 year old. And so what is the approach that I take to learning? It’s about repetition. It’s about having a plan. How many people actually have a curriculum for themselves, right? We get that when we go through college and you know, school or whatever level. We get a curriculum and we go through it, but then at some point we stop.

Brad Wolff: 29:58

We got to make our own. In fact, you’re attending R.O.Y.U. Right now, Roger Young University. You just make the curriculum, you’re the, you know, you’re the Dean, you’re it.

Roger Young: 30:09

And it’s, you know, and I can put in some fun stuff as well, but back to the story with the, with the kids, I would imagine, you know, one of the skillsets that kids, you know, my kids, you know, any gets out there today, any people, anyone, they’re going to have to be lifelong learners because this pace of change thing that we’re experiencing, it’s never going to slow down. But the one thing, the one certainty that we, we can, you know, take with us is that thought of in practice of lifelong learning, back to the example that I gave with downs, you know, that downsize of letting people go and be, you know, being a part of that whole process.

The one thing that nobody can take from you is what you learn. And in today’s world, none of us can afford to go through a day without learning and without growing in some way, shape or form. And the other thing that I think is not just nice, but it’s appreciating what you have. And I, you know, I think if you are always thinking about what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough. And you know, so the appreciation, being appreciative, being grateful, I think the learning, those become habits. And if that’s how you train yourself to think that’s a powerful thing that’s going to take you through, you know, life and to help you leave it better than you found it, not just for you but for others.

Brad Wolff: 31:38

Right. And you know what, that’s how great leaders are developed because I don’t think they’re born and we’re all leaders. I just want to wrap up what we’re talking about with it. You can’t opt out of leading. Leading is influence and it starts with self-leadership. So everyone is a leader whether you recognize it or not. And if you do these things on a regular basis, you will continue to be a more effective leader for yourself and influencing others which you do through yourself. So you can’t go wrong with those practices. Those are Sage, well proven practices. So as we wrap this up, Roger, I wonder if you share it, what is your website for listeners that want to learn a little bit more

Brad Wolff: 32:22

About you and being able to communicate with you?

Roger Young: 32:26

There’s one, there’s two I’ll give you. One is The other is my and that

Roger Young: 32:39

One that is about balance and I, you know, the balance is kind of like the flight attendant tells you when there’s a shortage of oxygen. Put your own mask on first. Do that take care of you. One of the consistent themes that I hear more and more today from executives is around the whole work life balance. I know there’s a lot of programs, you know, every organization seems to have a program for that, but it’s, but I don’t know how effective those are.

In fact, I would say a lot of those are probably less effective than what they would hope for. I think that too becomes a habit. And so that website that I just mentioned is really about how do you form the habits and the six areas of life that matter the most are six key facets to life, one of which is work by the way.

Roger Young: 33:38

But you’ve got to pay attention to all of the others as well. And if you don’t, then you know the energy you’re going to look back and have regrets. I’ve seen that happen more times than you know, I would’ve liked to have seen. But so that’s what that one’s all about.

Brad Wolff: 33:55

Awesome. And I definitely encourage everyone to check this out cause there’s a lot of value that can have a huge impact for yourself and other people in your sphere of influence. So Roger, thank you very much for investing this time and sharing wisdom and very practical ideas that people can put into action now. So I want to thank you for taking that time and being my guest today.

Roger Young: 34:22

My pleasure. Thanks so much, Brad.

Brad Wolff: 34:23

Okay, you have a great day, Roger.

Roger Young: 34:26

Take care, bye now!

Brad Wolff: 34:26