Lead With That: What MacKenzie Scott and MrBeast Can Teach Us About Leadership in 2023

Lead With That Podcast: What MacKenzie Scott and MrBeast Can Teach Us About Leadership in 2023

In this episode, Allison and Ren discuss some leadership highlights and low points of 2022 and what they’re most looking forward to when it comes to leadership in 2023. They explore examples of how leaders they admire have given back and made purpose core to their leadership style. They also discuss how wealth and power contributed to some toxic examples of leadership last year. So join them for the first episode of Lead With That in 2023, and discover how you might show up as a leader others admire in the new year, and lead with that.

Listen to the Podcast

Join CCL’s Ren Washington and Allison Barr as they discuss some leadership highlights and low points of 2022 and what they are most looking forward to when it comes to leadership in 2023.

Interview Transcript:

INTRO:

Welcome back to CCL’s podcast, Lead With That, where we talk current events in pop culture to look at where leadership is happening and what’s happening with leadership. 

Ren: 

Happy New Year! We did it. 2022 is over. 2023 is guaranteed to be better, right? Right?? Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure it works like that, and I’m not really sure it has to work like that. As we say at CCL, leadership, it never stops, and 2022’s problems are not over, and we will surely have some new ones to address in 2023, but I also know we have people and leaders who care and who continue to strive to make this world of ours a better place.

And so today, in honor of all the wilds of 2022, the unseen challenges of 2023, we’ll look at a few topics, the moments that made us smile, moments that made us cringe, and moments that gave us something to look forward to. You’ll hear some new stories today, we’ll revisit a few old ones, and cast a vision for what kind of leadership conversations are ahead of us.

So welcome back, everyone. Again: Happy New Year. I’m Ren Washington, joined as usual with Allison Barr. Allison, welcome. Happy New Year. Looking back at 2022, couple of prompts for you, maybe. Either what’s a big takeaway for 2022, or what’s a leader that we’re just not talking about that we should be?

Allison:

Well, Happy New Year to you, as well.

Ren:

Happy New Year.

Allison:

And as they say in jest, as we’re going into 2023, everybody approach very slowly, don’t make eye contact, nobody touch anything, and everything will be fine.

Ren:

Yeah, we can have those hopes.

Allison:

Right. Right. A leader that we’re not talking about, and something I think about frequently that we talk about at the Center as well, are all of the people who are not in a leadership role by title. As we like to say, leadership is a social process, anybody can be a leader, regardless of title. And I would like to see us and organizations talk about and highlight more those who are not in leader positions traditionally. What about you?

Ren:

Well, that makes me think about someone that we don’t typically talk about in that realm. And I would say a leader that we are probably not talking about, that maybe is tapped into the social process of leadership more than most is MrBeast. Now, Allison, who’s MrBeast? You know who MrBeast is?

Allison:

No, I have a strange visualization in my head, but no, I don’t know who that is. Enlighten me.

Ren:

Yeah. Well, Jimmy Donaldson, you may know him out there in the world as MrBeast, the famous YouTuber and maybe one of the most prolific YouTubers out in the world right now. Something like 120 million plus subscribers, over 12 billion views on his main channel. And he is a force to be reckoned with and he’s only 24 years old. So what the hell have I been doing?!

But maybe, I guess, a generation different. But what I also think is really compelling about MrBeast is too his willingness to give back. His philanthropy arm has fed thousands upon thousands of Americans, have provided meals. And it’s just interesting to hear this kid, this young man, talk about his business, talk about how he reinvests money in his business, and then talk about how that money then goes to the communities in which he’s a part of.

I mean, I even heard him on an interview with Joe Rogan, and he even told Joe some ways that he could diversify his business stream. And so when you talk about those leaders who aren’t yet leaders or those people who don’t have those titles, I think it’s really easy for the world to look at people like MrBeast and say, “Oh, you mean that guy who does those weird videos?” Or, “Oh, he’s got an avatar in Fortnite?” Yeah, and also, he is going to be a billionaire to reckon with! And so if you haven’t yet seen him, MrBeast, he’s been making waves and he’ll continue to make waves in 2022 and beyond.

Allison:

Do we know why he calls himself MrBeast?

Ren:

So admittedly, I don’t know enough about him to know that, but what I can say is that maybe he’s just a beast. I think it’s a hangover from his youth because he was a YouTuber once, back, once upon a time, his first YouTube deal was $10,000 in 2017, so I guess 6 years ago when he was 18 years old, 17 years old, maybe.

Allison:

Wow. I mean, that’s an interesting claim to fame. We’ll have to talk about that some other time or maybe today. Different ways of earning income. Purpose. I was reading a lot about the trends that organizations might see or are likely to see in 2023. One of them was purpose, but not in the traditional way that we might think of. Perhaps we can talk about that in a minute, or now. But I wonder if … I’m curious about him. I’m going to have to give him a Google after this. A), I want to know why he named himself that, and B), how he found himself to earn a living traditionally and holistically on YouTube. That’s his main source of income, is that what you’re saying?

Ren:

I’m pretty sure that is it. And I mean, I can tell you all one thing right now. He translates all of his YouTube content to other languages and then has separate channels for that. So the man very willingly and brilliantly diversifies his revenue streams. He epitomizes maybe one of my favorite leadership traits, which is work smarter, not necessarily harder, but also, he’s wildly diligent and really hard. And actually, there’s early conversations around him. Does he have that same kind of weird, separate-from-humanity brilliance that a lot of tech guys have where he’s just like, “I want to work, I want to develop more and more and more?” But then I don’t know, he’s got this philanthropy arm.

You talked about purpose and I think it’s a good entryway into the things that made me smile the most this past year in 2022. And it has to probably be the thing that aligns with what I think our purpose is. My purpose here is to make a difference for people.

And now, this might be a charged name, but MacKenzie Scott is someone who continues to make me smile and I find perplexing and interesting, especially in 2022. And so MacKenzie Scott, for those of who don’t know, her claim to fame once upon a time was Jeff Bezos’s partner, and then his ex-wife, who got half of his fortune because MacKenzie and Jeff went way back to when Jeff still had hair, and so she was a critical role in his development of this world-renowned business.

And you’d imagine someone like MacKenzie gets loads of headlines when now she’s one of the richest people in the world after divorcing her husband, what’s she going to do with that money? And MacKenzie said, “My goal is to donate most of my wealth.” And since 2019, she’s donated more than $14.4 billion of her wealth. This year alone, in 2022, something like $2 billion, and that was in November. So who knows, it could have been more. And that kind of donation is more, especially this past year, more than but 4 other Americans who’ve donated that. Only Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, and some others have donated that much money. And so, when we think about her, and what I find interesting about that is one’s willingness to give, as opposed to hoard. And so I don’t know, do you know much about MacKenzie Scott? What do you think? What are your reactions?

Allison:

I would 100% agree with you. I saw several articles on her in the last year and this year as well of her being one of the most generous philanthropists in the world. So I very much admire what she’s doing. I don’t know necessarily the causes that she’s donating to. I don’t need to necessarily in this moment, but I do think it is a quality … Generosity at that scale is a quality that I wish there was more of in the worlds, and absolutely admire what she’s doing. And I thought that I saw that Jeff later in the year in 2020 came out and said that he would also be donating as much wealth as he possibly could. Now, whatever that dollar amount attributes to, I’m not sure. So the 2 of them, while separate, are contributing in ways that hopefully will elevate pockets of society in ways that they probably didn’t have access to before. So I think it’s very admirable.

Ren:

Yeah, you raised an answer and question about who, and where, the money’s going. It’s interesting. No good deed goes unpunished. She’s donating and critics will say, “Well, to whom is she donating?” Or “Where’s this money going?” Or “Do your donations then cause organizations to stumble under the weight of the money?” Or “Does that stop other people from donating because you’ve donated so much?” And just smile at those things or to this idea of, hey, who are you sending your money to?

Now, I can understand that it’s important to track where money goes, considering money fuels so many nefarious things. But according to her, from her own mouth, a post that she sent, this year was to 343 organizations supporting the voices and opportunities of people from underserved communities.

Now, we are here, yes, talking about the subjective interpretation of it, an individual looking at what is underserved, but maybe this is what makes me smile most about this story is: I’ve alluded to this over the course of the year and it’s something that I really believe in, it’s something I explore in my own life, that tension between conquering, securing more, and stopping and spreading and growing within, as opposed to searching from without. And an interesting shift is that it seems like MacKenzie Scott isn’t interested in multiplying her wealth, but interested in setting up shop to give back to others so they can multiply their wealth. And it’s such an interesting leadership concept of, what does it look like as a leader, listener for you or others when you’re in a position to make other people your priority? And then what does that look like for the places you live and work?

Allison:

Yeah. You’re reminding me of a conversation I had very recently with a client, and this was off-the-cuff chit chat on a break, so this was unofficial leadership content. We were talking about: Is a leader successful because they amass wealth? And my answer to that is: Not necessarily, it’s not a behavior of a leader. Wealth is not a behavior, it’s just not. So what does it mean? How can you manage those tensions that you speak about? People need money to survive and people have goals that are different from mine, and that’s okay. But when do you get to a point where it’s a social responsibility or a purpose or a desire to serve others? It doesn’t mean that they haven’t worked as hard because they don’t have what you have.

So it’s an interesting conversation around business leaders acquiring wealth. Does that automatically make them successful? My answer to that would be no. A successful leader specifically. If you’re talking about successful in terms of amassing wealth, and that’s different. But regardless, it was an interesting conversation around, How do you measure what makes a leader successful? And I think that’s going to be a trend that we see this year, is people continuing to reevaluate what does leadership mean to me, what does it mean to be a successful leader? And again, that might differ between me and you and the rest of the world, and that’s okay. But it’s that insight and that introspection that I think we’re going to continue to see.

Ren:

I’m really, really latching onto that because this idea of leadership and what does it look like? I’m reminded of this idea. I was talking to a biological ethics professor of mine once in college, and he saying that the word de-evolution is a misnomer. Now, there is no such thing as de-evolution because everything is evolution, everything is in purpose of evolving to fit their environment. And so de-evolution is really just an organism’s response to its environment. It’s not a de-evolution, it’s just a correct response to where that thing lives.

And so when I think about leadership, I go, “Yeah, geez, we need to reevaluate that,” because I bet there are plenty of examples of leadership — just like maybe what I would consider really crappy or the worst kind — that then make a whole bunch of money or have a whole bunch of power and authority and influence. So yeah, it’s like, I guess it’s all leadership, but is it all good leadership? I don’t know. And so maybe that’s why MacKenzie makes me smile, because in my estimation — you can @ me if you can find me — that I think it’s not the worst thing in the world for someone with that much wealth to make a commitment to giving that wealth back to the place that gave it. I think that’s cool.

Allison:

Yeah, that is cool. And that’s a question I prompted with this client. You have to think about how people … You don’t have to. I would suggest considering how people amass that amount of wealth and how they amass it, how they get it might be a better indicator of the kind of leader that they are versus how much money they have. So we can digress there. But a question for you is: You mentioned earlier, stories from 2022 where leaders were a bit cringeworthy. I’m curious what stuck for you?

Ren:

Well, these are 2 that I have to go back to, the wealth, and it has to be, I’m thinking about slaps in the face. Slap in the face from Will Smith to Chris Rock — cringiest thing probably that I can think of, and maybe some ongoing cringe — and not to pile on, but just thinking back at Elon’s earlier communication to Twitter personnel before the whole thing of, “Hey, if you still work here, will you come to the office and tell me about your computer code, please? Or you could email me, but I don’t like work-from-home.” So I don’t know. There’s some cringe there, I think about, just continued. I still don’t think that I’m satisfied with the whole Will Smith thing anyway. I can only hope Chris Rock eventually has a conversation with him, and it likely will happen in private because that’s what going high looks like, but that is just shudder-worthy, and then Elon is just bemusing.

Allison:

Yeah. So the Twitter story, and I vaguely remember mentioning this to you, maybe in November or December, as something we should talk about. And you said to me, paraphrasing, “Let’s see where it goes.” And you were right, because there’s so much that has come from that. So it is both in some ways a positive story and a cringey story to me, because when Elon Musk determined that he was going to change the verification process, there was so much good humor that came from … I mean, I haven’t laughed so hard in my life. There was so much great humor that came from that, that it was, for me as a Twitter consumer, worth it.

However, on the flip side, Twitter’s still standing. Of course, however, not without major snafus, not without a major loss of employees, of course initiated by Musk. And the latest news is that Twitter Blue is not in fact verifying people’s details in a safe way, as it was intended to. And the former verification system that predated Musk was verifying identity. It didn’t need to change, though he did it to earn profit, of course. And reportedly, he has cut costs so dramatically that there’s no maintenance staff and employees have reported having to bring in their own toilet paper, of all things.

Ren:

Oh man.

Allison:

And in conjunction, Tesla stock, as you probably know, has dropped substantially. And Elon Musk is the first person in history ever to lose $200 billion. In 2022. And it’s January 6th today. As of this date, he’s lost $13 billion this year. It’s only the first week in January. So still curious to see where this will go. We will see. We will see. But can’t imagine our bosses saying, “You know what? I know you’re coming to the office, you’re going to have to bring your own toilet paper.”

Ren:

Yeah. That might be the best part of that whole story is just thinking about the post: “People can pretend to work somewhere else, but when you come in here and work for real, you better bring your own Charmin, because I’m not even going to give you Depression-era, one-ply toilet paper.” You must be outside of your mind. Now, I mean, to be fair, I think there is probably another part of the argument around the blue verification, and there was evidence of verified bot usage on Twitter, but I guess that would be the nature of the platform. Now, I might argue, doesn’t that bot usage still exist? I think we know, based off of those blue verified checks that you said caused humor, is that yeah, there’s plenty of fakery out there still.

I think what both of those men typify for me, what I find maybe most cringey, and in juxtaposition to MacKenzie Scott, is the utter self-obsession, at least manifested by the behaviors that I can see. I’m not going to get Freudian. I’m sure that Will Smith is contrite. I’ve seen him, and I know that you’re not here to talk about that, and I will. As a mixed man of color and as a man, I feel like I can tell Will Smith that I’m dissatisfied with his behavior in that moment. And in his ongoing response, I wish to see a little bit more recognition of the other in these behaviors.

And it would be interesting to have ever seen a vision of the other in Musk’s behavior. I think what we saw was a lot of … It’s almost that those moments where we hear from leaders in programs, people who have no self-awareness, and then they get these things then they go, “Is that why Alison doesn’t like me? It’s because I ignore her and I call her mean names and I think she’s inadequate, and I tell her that to her face?” And then all of a sudden it’s showing up on a 360, and then I go, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea.” And I don’t even know if there’s a 360 robust enough for Elon, but it’s those moments of this self-aggrandizing and then this idea like,I’m so right.” Now, take it from me, people, I think I’m right a lot, so I can only empathize with it, but at least I try to measure it with some awareness of the other. These 2 just seem unable to.

Allison:

And the 2 that you’re talking about are Will Smith and Elon Musk, to be —

Ren:

Specifically, yes.

Allison:

Okay, gotcha. Yeah, I think I’m really curious to know … This is a conversation for another time, likely. I’m very curious to know what happens psychologically to people when they have power that is unchecked. I suspect, and I’m talking about Elon Musk here, there’s so much that he says that is unchecked. He essentially can say and do a lot of things because, from a legal standpoint, he has the capability to bypass the accountability. And so I think it’s very interesting to learn about at what point, in terms of power, at what point does that become the opposite side of the coin? So is it power over or is it power with?

Like you said, there’s a lack of relating to other human beings. So at what point does it flip to, I’m in a position of power and I’m here to have power with you, I’m here to serve, I’m here to do this with you, I’m here to help the community, I’m here to help the business, etc., etc., or I’m here to hold power over you. And it seems to me that the coin might have flipped for him. And again, there’s context that I don’t know, so I want to be careful here, but some of the things he says is left completely unchecked, and it’s curious to me. So I’m very curious to see what will happen this year with his quote unquote “leadership.”

Ren:

Well me, too. I really struggled about not putting this in like, Ooh, am I looking forward to this? Because I really want to see, because here’s the thing that maybe concerns me, and I’ll use Will Smith as an example: Unchecked power. Not only can you walk on stage and slap another man in the face, sit back down, but then moments later in the same evening, get a standing ovation and a reward. And so we’re all standing here and looking at this experience with Twitter and Elon, and you and I had a conversation around his, I think, Draconian style of leadership and how it wouldn’t float, and we saw it then play out real-time in front of us. Massive layoffs, suck it up, get on board, fly to the office, give me your computer code. And yet, I don’t know, Twitter’s still here, like you said.

Now, users may fluctuate and competition may shift, but it’s … God, I almost wonder too, what does Stockholm syndrome look like for those of us who work with organizations where we think … What if someone really believes that they’re the last bastion of defense in this tool that they believe in, Twitter? And they can’t leave. They don’t have the luxury of saying, “I’m out of here,” even though I work for this despot who won’t give me toilet paper. All right. And I’m using despot as hyperbole, people. I understand that Elon Musk is a capitalist operating within Americans confines, and so too, the market will respond. I’m just really curious. Like I said, I started concerned that the ends will justify the means.

Allison:

I think, to your point, as long as we have systems and a culture where people will be in poverty and people will be desperate for money and people won’t have the luxury of choosing a job because they need a paycheck, these kinds of things will continue to happen, where we will have leaders who are unchecked. And Twitter might fail in terms of how Elon Musk sees it going, I think it will remain standing for a very long time. I don’t think Twitter’s going to go anywhere. However, Elon Musk will be fine, based on the system that we live in. In terms of him being able to take care of himself, his reputation, he will be fine, mostly because there’s always going to be a pocket of human beings who idolize wealth as their north star.

Ren:

And I went even further and just say, our idolatry of power is quite the aphrodisiac. It’s a hard thing to let go of. It can grasp, I think, our higher functioning brain. And what’s interesting, think about the higher functioning brain, the thing that gets in the way of that is the lower functioning brain, the lizard brain, the brain that responds and responds to threat and negative stimuli. And in that mechanism that’s built for our survival, so is the desire and celebration of power. Dopamine is triggered when we are given or reward at a dominant posture. We aim to seek reward, not only to perpetuate the experience of reward, but because we’ve been designed to do so.

And again, maybe that’s why I go back to my “smile story.” It’s this MacKenzie Scott who’s seemingly got ahold of her lizard brain and saying, “I’m going to donate this.” And now, you might be listening or you might even think, “Alison, what’s the big deal? She’s a billionaire donating billions.” And I was like, how many other billionaires are doing that? There’s plenty of billionaires who I think, as we just previously cited, who would rather just exhaust their money in shows of power with the outcome being hundreds of people losing their jobs. And so there are examples, just —

Allison:

Thousands.

Ren:

… thousands of people, hundreds upon hundreds, thousands of people losing their job as an example of billionaires not just giving back. And so it’s so interesting, that parallel or juxtaposition, really.

Allison:

Yeah. And if there’s one thing that I wish there was more of in the world, it would be the ability to see nuance and to see the full picture. Sometimes we don’t have that luxury. We’re talking about 2 human beings who have absurd and hard to imagine amounts of wealth and what they’re doing with it. And we have one of those people who has a rap sheet, lawsuits, the abuse of treatment of human beings. That is, to me, pretty horrific. And another one who doesn’t. So the full spectrum and the full picture of a leader is important. I want people to be careful who they look up to. Again, it’s really hard. We’re talking about 2 people who are public figures, so it’s easier to see, but when we’re at the workplace, it’s harder to see. But everything’s nuanced, there’s nuance in everything, and I just hope that people can be a little bit more thoughtful and considerate before really singing the praises publicly about certain leaders, air quoting “leaders.”

Ren:

Yeah. Believe me, I had to do … I mean, I know I’m likely going to swallow my words with MacKenzie Scott. I can only imagine —

Allison:

No, I hope not.

Ren:

… that in the nature of humanity … Well, I think what you’re highlighting is that maybe this is something that we continue to speak to and what we talk about all the time at CCL, is this leadership in the gray. We’ve got to relinquish ourselves from these binary structures. And no, I think at least from all signs, MacKenzie Scott is a paragon of contribution and she’s still a human. And so it would even bring me always back to my initial question: Would it matter if Mackenzie Scott was, let’s say, on the level of Elon Musk’s behavior, would it be worth it for $14.4 billion?

Allison:

Well, let’s just not even get into … She would get dragged through the coals. That’s what happens to women.

Ren:

Sure.

Allison:

That’s what happens to women. And there’s another point though that’s even more important to make, I think, is mistake-making. Two, that’s important. How are people, how are leaders, how are you as a leader handling it when you make a mistake? Because we’re all going to do it. And so, should she make a mistake — she probably has and she probably will — how will she handle that, is what I would want to see. And again, goes back to nuance. Leaders that I admire at CCL have probably made mistakes I don’t even know about, and I’ve made mistakes, so have you.

Ren:

Undoubtedly.

Allison:

It’s how you handle those that matters, I think, more.

Ren:

I agree. And I’m curious, and I’m going to stay here just for a moment, that’s not hypothesized about MacKenzie Scott in the fact that she’s a woman in a patriarchal America, but how about Elon? Is Elon’s behavior worth $14.4 billion?

Allison:

Did you say worth it?

Ren:

Yeah. If he had his rap sheet like you said, but then also in the past 3 years, donated $14 billion to 1,500 organizations that went to serve underserved communities, would it be worth it?

Allison:

Worth it to who?

Ren:

I’m asking you.

Allison:

Worth it to me?

Ren:

Yeah. Would you say, to the world, “He’s a prick, but he donated $14 billion to help feed people?” So I’m just curious. I don’t know. What would you think?

Allison:

No, I would say and, I would say his behavior is atrocious and has a terrible impact, and he donated $14 billion, so you decide. Is he a leader I look up to? Not right now.

Ren:

No.

Allison:

Not in this moment. Ask me in a year. We’ll follow up next January maybe, but no. Has he done some good things? Absolutely. A lot of people —

Ren:

Could he turn it around? What could he do to turn it around? What could he do to be a better leader? I know it’s not the topic of the conversation, but I’m like, hmm, this is interesting. What do you think? Speaking of looking forward, before we get to our looking forward to ideas, what could someone like Elon … Screw it. What could Elon Musk do to redeem himself in our eyes? So you’re not alone in this. I’d said some things about him too. What could he do? Is it redeemable?

Allison:

I’m pausing because I’m thinking. What’s the opposite of redeemable?

Ren:

Irredeemable, I think.

Allison:

Because I just don’t —

Ren:

That was one of those easy ones, I think.

Allison:

I don’t know how much I care about —

Ren:

Yeah, interesting.

Allison:

Because I don’t look up to him.

Ren:

Yeah.

Allison:

So could he repair the harm that he’s done to human beings? Yes. I would like to see him do that. Maybe he has. That’s the thing with the law, too. There’s a lot we will never know. So he might have, I don’t know. Would I like him to stop, in my perspective, abusing his employees? Yes, I would. I don’t work for him, but I have empathy for people and I care about people. I would like him to be honest about his accomplishments. He’s not the Tesla founder. He had the founder sign a non-disclosure and an agreement that the language used would be him as the founder. That’s public. You can Google it. I would like him to be honest. I would like that.

Ren:

Yeah.

Allison:

What do you think?

Ren:

Well, firstly, I think non-disclosure agreements are useless because I always hear about them.

Allison:

I know.

Ren:

So NDAs, I think, whatever. I guess eventually they have their moments of, whatever. What’s that called when something is no longer a crime? Anyway, doesn’t matter. I think, yes, to look forward to … Ultimately, when I look at someone like Elon Musk, when I think about my beliefs of business and leaders in the world, I think that people can make a difference. I think that organizations and people like Elon Musk can make a difference. He is making a difference. I think he can make a bigger difference for good, and I would want him to. I think it’s an interesting paradigm. Is it redeemable or irredeemable? Do I care? No, I think I even asked you, “Would it matter to you if he owned Twitter?” And you were like, “I don’t know. No.” And it wouldn’t matter to me, either.

I think it does matter to me if he succeeds and he’s still a big butthole about it. I think that’s one surefire way for him to maintain his irredeemable status, if he doubles down and says, “Actually, the story about the toilet paper is right. And by the way, I also have the people tie their hands up before they go to the bathroom.” And so it’s like extra weird. I’m using money to use zip ties or something. I don’t even know. It could be worse, but I think I’m probably looking forward to seeing what happens and hoping that he in his position can demonstrate some positive behaviors for those people who do look up to him as a paragon of leadership.

Allison:

Yeah. I saw recently, I don’t know where I saw this, so I apologize, I don’t know who I’m quoting here. It was a statement that said, “The best leaders are the people who don’t want power.” And I thought that was interesting and I still think about it, and we can talk about it another time, because otherwise we’ll be here for an hour. But I thought that was interesting. I just thought that was interesting. If you want power, what kind of leadership style might you have, versus if you want collaboration, if you want organized success, if you want direction, alignment, commitment? What’s your leadership style? Is there a difference? I don’t want to make snap judgments, but my guess is that yes, there probably is.

Ren:

Yeah, that power question is interesting, and I think a good segue to what I’m really looking forward to, because as you know, I love movies and I’m a big Marvel movie fan. The MCU, by the way, out there in its years of existence all the way since I think maybe the first Hulk or Iron Man, $26.6 billion the movies made. It’s nothing to shake a stick at. You know what I’m saying, people? So I mean, holy moly, but Kevin Feige. Allison, do you know Kevin Feige?

Allison:

No.

Ren:

Creative executive producing mind, kind of like the storyboard stitcher behind all of the Marvel work. The 10-year plan they had was created in the way beginning with Kevin Feige and some other creatives. He’s the guy who has a blazer and a baseball cap on. He’s this unassuming dude, doesn’t look “Hollywood,” but is in so far that he was this creative mind among the most successful cinematic franchise or universe that there has ever been. And the juxtaposition is DC Comics, which is actually like saying ATM machine, because I think DC stands for Detective Comics, but I don’t know. If you are a comic buff out there, @Allison, please.

But they, seeing a Marvel thrive, they go, “Ooh, we should do that too. We want to make a 10-year plan, but we should do it in a couple of years.” And you may not know, or if you do know out there that really, the DC universe has been met with fits and starts, it’s utterly lacking direction, alignment, and commitment, and it’s not at all been set the foundation for the future that’s ahead of them. And so I’m interested in 2 things now. Now, DC has hired an individual to play the Kevin Feige for them. It’s Tim Gunn, actually, the guy who did Guardians of the Galaxy, director. So he’s this creative mind who’s had some success, and now he’s setting the path for DC over the next 10 years.

But what I’m really interested in is Marvel. So Kevin Feige has led the Marvel group to the most successful bit of work in the past 10 years, $26.6 billion. Maybe one of the biggest movies ever opening weekend was the Infinity War and Endgame saga that happened. Now, what’s next? Their whole major cast or stable of their actors is out of contract. They’ve got new IP, new paths, and they’re faced with the real challenge of fatigue. People are getting tired. There was a time in American history where the action movies were it, where Stallone and Schwarzenegger were the guys. And then that time came to an end.

So I wonder, is this comic book thing going to last? Will it look the same? What’s next? How can Kevin continue to organize egos, creatives, minds, and power in support of an almost untenable tasks? So I’m done now with my tirade or my soapbox, but that’s what I’m most interested in seeing. Can Kevin Feige and Marvel keep up the good work, and will DC continue to fail in their adaptation?

Allison:

It sounds like a tall task, how you’re describing it. So we will see. It does. I have to admit, that’s not my niche of choice, but I do understand it has a huge fan base, so I’ll be curious to see what happens there.

For me, I’m curious about a broader organizational trend that has been floating around the research, and I’m very curious to see what will happen. We are, of course, in 2023 and technically speaking, still in a pandemic. When the pandemic started, we had a meshing together of 2 worlds, the home world and the work world, and it’s caused a lot of people to consider, What does work mean to me? As we’ve talked about before: What do I get out of work, what I want to get out of work? Is it a check or is it something more purposeful? And so what the projected trend is leaning toward is that individuals will decide what their purpose is, and it will be the organization’s role and opportunity to help people figure out and uncover and to live that purpose. So to clarify, the organization will play more of a facilitative role in purposeful living, we’ll say. And we’re leaving behind the notion that the organizations dictate to employees what their purpose is, which I think is fascinating.

The other thing I want to say about this is that there’s a direct business case. McKinsey found a direct business case for organizations helping others to find their purpose. So, 7 out of 10 employees reflect on their purpose. Those who quote unquote “live their purpose” are 6 times more likely to report being resilient, 4 times more likely to report better health, and 6 times more likely to want to stay and be successful and grow at that company. Six times! So to clarify, these employees have a purpose, not that their organization or the organization’s purpose is their purpose. So it’s flipping purpose, flipping purpose as we know it. I’m very curious to see how that will unfold.

Ren:

How important do you think it is for someone to map their purpose to the organization’s purpose, or is it just a matter of knowing that I have purpose?

Allison:

My opinion on that and what I’ve read is that it’s more important that a human being has purpose.

Ren:

So just helping me understand that I have things that I care about is enough to help me feel invested in the work I’m doing, even if our purposes don’t align?

Allison:

Right, because your behavior then and your quality of life changes, having a purpose. And so the way you show up at the workplace as a leader is significant. And you might align with the organization’s purpose too. You might, you might not. What they’re saying is either way, you align with our purpose, great. If you don’t and you have a purpose, great. And so it will be the organization’s responsibility to facilitate more purposeful living.

Ren:

I really like that because I often cite the idea or importance of values-based leadership and communication. But how do I have a value-driven conversation if someone doesn’t know what they value, or they don’t have purpose or clarity? So even before I can begin to say, “Hey, look, if you work for us, I can help you meet your purpose,” I’ve got to define for someone or help them define what their purpose is. So that immediately clicks for me, especially the idea of discretionary effort if I realize that, Hey, my purpose is creating a better future for my girlfriend and unborn child, then okay, I can get on board. I need to work hard for that. And it doesn’t really matter to what end, as long as I’m showing up and caring, and then maybe I can tap into that as a leader of that person. But it starts with purpose. I dig it. I like it.

Allison:

Yeah. And before, it was an unspoken norm that if your purpose didn’t align with the organization’s, they would see you as not being a culture fit, which is a term I loathe. But again, the projection is it’s not going to be that way anymore, so we’ll see.

Ren:

Because of the current numbers that more people will have this demand and more people will … More organizations will capitulate, for lack of a better word.

Allison:

In theory. In theory. We’ll see.

Ren:

Well, exactly. So I guess that’s what we’re looking forward to.

Allison:

Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Ren:

Look at us go.

Allison:

So I would say my takeaways today are so many, but following the purpose-driven life, I will call it, as an organization, it’s a good idea for you to invest in your leaders having coaching skills so that you can encourage that kind of culture. And if you’re someone listening who has never thought of your purpose, a good place to start is, you can consider: Where did I feel most alive today, and what drained me? So, 2 questions you can ask yourself. What are you leaving today with, Ren?

Ren:

I mean, I might have to steal that. Where did I feel most alive today and what drained me? Yeah, I think 2022, if your reflections haven’t had those questions involved in them, everyone, they should.

Allison:

Great.

Ren:

And I think maybe my biggest takeaway is that, You got to do you. I mean, I hope that in by doing you, you do right by others. I don’t know if there’s right or wrong though. I know Allison and I certainly have our points of view about what’s right and what’s wrong, but I truly believe you meet people where they are. And so whether you’re MacKenzie Scott, or you’re donating, or you’re Will Smith trying to make it right, or Elon trying to do whatever, or Marvel, or any of those other things that we discussed, what you can do to be honest with yourself and those around you, I think is a benefit for you and those around you. So thanks for another awesome year though, baby. Our first full year, 2021, we did it.

Allison:

We did it.

Ren:

Hoorah. And here we go, 20 —

Allison:

Here we go.

Ren:

— 23.

Allison:
2023. Yes. Thanks as always for the conversation, Ren. I’m looking forward to seeing how this year plays out. And as always, a very big thank you to Emily and Ryan who are behind the scenes helping to make this all happen for us. And to our listeners, you can find our show notes and all of our podcast episodes on ccl.org. You can also find us on LinkedIn, where we do talk about a lot of this stuff. Ren says he’s unfindable, but I’m going to out him, he’s on LinkedIn, so you can add him on.

Ren:

I am on LinkedIn. You can find me there.

Allison:

So find us on LinkedIn. Let us know what you want us to talk about. What’s on your mind for this year? And we’ll look forward to tuning in next time. Thanks everyone.

Ren:

Thanks everybody. And find Allison on TikTok.

Allison:

Find me on TikTok.

Ren:

Bye, folks.

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