Veteran Leaders: Win $10,000 and World-Class Business Coaching with Gary Slyman, USNA ‘81

Veteran leaders, listen to the Service Academy Business MasterMind Podcast at:

You have the opportunity to win $10,000 to assist you in developing your leadership to lead your social enterprise. The deadline is 31 August 2018.



Are you a leader or are you just in charge?

  • If you do not understand this question –  get in touch with me
  • If you do not know how to tell the difference – get in touch with me
  • If you are just in charge and want to be a leader – get in touch with me

“What is my return on investment?” As a business owner you constantly ask yourself this question. Here is a case study of a startup that made the investment in a professional coach.


You have the experience, the technical expertise, and are accountable for your people and the results of the organization. Are you fulfilling the responsibilities of the leader?

Reflect on the following:

Do you feel your responsibility as a leader? To reach a leadership position you must have a number of prerequisite skills and experiences. But to truly be a leader you must feel the responsibility of your position. Military leaders readily talk about how they feel the responsibility of keeping their charges safe. Business owners clearly feel the internal pull their responsibilities have on them. Until you feel that strain – you are not a leader you are merely in a leadership position.

Take the perspective of a subordinate; ever observe a leader who did not feel the responsibility of leadership? Put that picture in your mind and recall what it looked like. Did they truly care about the critical issues? Did they resolve challenges no matter the personal cost, or were they able to walk away with the intent to resolve it later. The responsibility of leadership is a selflessness that puts others and the mission before self.

Leaders carry the burden of responsibility and can feel its gravity. Good leaders do not buckle under the load, but shoulder it without complaint. How does your leadership responsibility feel and look? Do others see the responsibility of leadership on your face? Should they?

Do you take action on your responsibilities? At times the burden of responsibility can be paralyzing. The information is not perfect and the results not always positive, however being responsible requires taking action. Sometimes your action may be incrementally small, while other times grave and drastic. Nonetheless, action is required, based on the reality of your situation and your position as a leader. Action establishes your credibility as a leader. Fail to act and you undermine your credibility. How do you act on your responsibilities?

Do you own your responsibilities?  You alone are responsible for your decisions, actions, and inactions as a leader. Ever experience a leader who would not take responsibility for their own decisions or lack thereof? How do your subordinates talk about you in this area? Respect is garnered by taking responsibility.

There are many facets of being a leader, with few being more important than accepting and acting on the responsibilities of leadership. How did you do with this short reflection? If you don’t feel the weight of your leadership responsibilities, if you don’t act on them, and own them, you are not a leader. You are merely standing in front of a group.


As the Founder or CEO you are the determining factor for the growth or lack of growth of your business. While there are a large number of variables in running a business, particularly a startup, how is it possible to pin the limitation or advantage on one thing or person? This is what Bob Tinker the CEO of MobileIron had to say in a talk at Stanford:

“…as the company grows, the CEO job changes, so what that means is you have to change. The way you behave, how you work, and even change on the inside.”

Pretty simple from his standpoint, you have to change and grow in many areas as the company grows. Okay, but there are other factors besides the CEO. What about all those articles touting the top reasons startups fail or succeed? Rarely do they state leadership as the only factor; it is usually timing, cash flow, market, or product failure. Failure and success is a product of a combination of factors.

Let’s look at the success side. Neil Patel in a 2015 Forbes article looks at the common elements of the 10% of startups that succeed. He came up with these four: they have a product that meets a need, they don’t ignore anything, they grow fast, and they recover from the hard-knock startup life. Does that sound like leadership to you? Let’s break it down further.

  • The product meets a need – I interpret that as vision, mission, and market research.
  • They don’t ignore anything – Attention to detail, process, and procedures.
  • They grow fast-They keep pace with a dynamic market, adjust, adapt, and learn.
  • They recover from the hard knock startup life -The company matures into a sustainable well functioning organization.

Maybe it does sound like leadership.

In 2015 CB Insights published a study of the 20 top reasons startups failed using data from 101 failed startups. In an analysis of the reasons Geoffrey James of Inc., placed them into the following seven groups: arrogance (85%), shortsightedness (55%), hubris (47%), egotism (36%), sloppiness (34%), imbalance (30%), and inflexibility (17%). Wow, that is a humbling list that screams leadership.

Here is a testimonial from Scott Cook of Intuit assessing his leadership growth as CEO.

“I wasn’t growing as the company was growing, personally. And so I made the decision after 11 years as CEO that I should hire a CEO who had the skills I didn’t. Because I felt I was holding the company back. And after all those struggles and pains, I didn’t want to be the guy hurting us.”

That is a humble admission from a leader who grew the company from nothing to a household name.

The message: your development as a leader is the cornerstone of success for your business. The sooner you take ownership of your leadership development the better for you, your customers, and your employees. Bob Tinker created a CEO’s Oath for himself and here is part of it:

“…I recognize that very few things can screw up a company more than founder drama. And if we are fortunate enough, the company grows beyond us, that I will step aside gracefully for the good of the mission.”

True leaders are in it for the mission. Companies serious about success continually develop the leadership capacity of their leaders. As the leader of your company where are you on the leadership development continuum?

The best performers in every field have a coach to optimize their performance. Why don’t you?

If you want to accelerate your professional growth or the growth of your organization/startup/business stop by our office hours for a free 30 minutes coaching session. Explore any area of your life or business you want to improve or just experience what coaching is and what it can do for you.

Sign up at:…/1df3uzUvGzsJ58eKX7MAZsto3Id…/edit…

You will meet with Gary Slyman a professional coach, leadership educator, and trainer. His focus is to empower you to transition to the next level of performance by developing your leadership capacity. For more information go to: or contact him directly at:

It is difficult to find a leader who would answer the above question with a “No”. However, how do those you lead and serve know you care and what you care about? There are two ways to communicate your level of care: The depth of your commitment and level of accountability to your vision, your work, your teammates, and your customers communicate – you care.

What is meant by commitment? It is doing the small things consistently correct. Attention to detail in your interactions is contagious to those around you. It sends the universal message that details are important. The more you know about your endeavor and those with you on the journey, the louder the message. When you tend to details of your vision, your, work, your teammates, and customers those around you sense – you care.

The depth of your accountability and to whom is the second element that transmits – you care. As a leader you are accountable first to yourself for your vision and work. Being true to yourself takes care of any superiors you may answer to. A close second are teammates and customers. Being able to look your teammates and customers in the eye and be accountable for your work ethic, performance, and results sends the clear message – you care.

Put the theory to the test. Pick two leaders that stand out to you as caring. Think of an icon and one of your leaders.

An icon that comes to mind is Steve Jobs. He was committed to making Apple into a force that delivered life-changing products. He was known for his relentless obsession with details, how employees performed, each product, and the Apple experience. On commitment it was clear – he cared.

On accountability, he was just as relentless. He set the vision for the company and pursued it with passion, being his own worst critic. He used continuous feedback from within Apple and customers to improve products to reach new standards. Demonstrating accountability to his teammates and customers. His methods and the fervor with his approach invite much criticism. However, there has never been any doubt – he cared.

Now put yourself to the test. Take time to reflect and provide specific examples on the following questions:

  • How committed am I to the details of the organization I lead?
    • My vision, my work, my teammates, and my customers
  • What is the depth of my accountability for my vision and work to:
    • My self, my teammates, and my customers

Consider receiving feedback by using the above questions as a 360-degree evaluation. Have your teammates and customers answer the same questions as you just did. Does the thought of asking and receiving this feedback make you nervous? Consider this: everyone except you already knows the answers. It will show your commitment and increase the depth of your accountability. Take the risk and get the feedback. It shows – you care.

How many Startups or businesses have you seen fail because of the relationship between the leadership team?

If there were specific actions you could take to almost guarantee a positive relationship amongst your leadership team, would you take them?

John Gottman, PhD a relationship researcher has developed the ability to predict with over 91% accuracy the success or failure of marriages for the subjects in his studies. Through his research he identified seven principles that are predictors of healthy lasting relationships and documented them in “The 7 Principles for Making a Marriage Work.”

As founders the relationship with your cofounder or leadership team is a marriage. You go through the best and the worst of times together and are committed to making your business work in sickness or health. Read or better yet listen (multiple times) to the audiobook and apply the 7 Principles. Applying the 7 Principles to all your relationships, not only your leadership team, will dramatically improve the probability of success for your business.

What are the 7 principles? Here is the link to a short clip of Dr. Gottman at the start of a workshop listing the 7 Principles:



On this Martin Luther King Day it is good to reflect on those who had an impact on you.

Is there a mentor that has affected your development as a leader? If you are a true leader you likely have had at least one. It is also likely that your mentor provided guidance, advice, and an example for you through a close comfortable relationship.

Now reflect on the individual that has had the most profound impact on your growth as a leader.

  • Was that a close comfortable relationship?
  • Were their words always encouraging?
  • Did the individual present challenges, conflict, and push you to struggle?

If your definition of a mentor is one who fosters your growth as a leader, look around and you may find some atypical mentors pushing you to new heights. Whether the relationship is close and comfortable or formal and edgy, accept the lessons they provide and thank them.


As a leader you must have a vision for your future. However, for that vision to guide you it must be something you can achieve and it must be yours. Individuals with good intentions constantly attempt to shape us. Unintentionally we adopt the dreams that others have for us. Take the time to reflect and answer to the following questions:

  • How realistic is my current vision?
  • What percentage of my current vision is truly mine?

Setting the end state of where you want to be is the key to your growth as a leader.