In 2005, motivational speaker and consultant Jon Gordon decided to sell his restaurant franchises, which, as he writes in his new book The Power of Positive Leadership, were “draining” him and keeping him from doing what he loved doing: writing and speaking. Although he had a few speaking engagements, and perhaps enough money to survive for a while, he did not have an established motivational business in place and had not written any books from which to grow such a business. Yet, “somehow, some way, it was going to work out,” he writes. “And it was then that my vision was born. I was going to inspire and empower as many people as possible, one person at a time.”
After six months, the speaking and writing business was still stagnating, and he writes that he was “filled with fear and doubt.” But still chasing his vision, he suddenly had an idea for a book, which he wrote in three-and-a-half weeks. Then came a long period of rejection — 30 rejection letters from publishers — before John Wiley & Sons finally expressed interest. The book, called The Energy Bus, was published and was a surprise hit in South Korea but went nowhere in the U.S.
Led always by his grand vision, Gordon went on a “book tour,” speaking to whatever library or coffee-shop group (often numbering 10 or less) would listen to him. Eventually, he started making relationships and, over time, became a best-selling author as well as a sought-after speaker and consultant to Fortune 500 companies and many professional sports teams.
“Positive leaders create and share a positive vision,” writes Gordon, and he uses his biography to prove it. “I’ve experienced the power of a vision in my own life, and I know what is possible when you see it and act on it,” he explains.
Creating and sharing a positive vision is one of the nine imperatives for positive leaders that Gordon lays out in The Power of Positive Leadership. The other imperatives are
- Positive leaders drive positive cultures. Leaders have the responsibility to spend their time, energy and effort creating a positive culture that empowers people and fosters teamwork.
- Positive leaders lead with optimism, positivity and belief.
- Positive leaders confront, transform and remove negativity.
- Positive leaders create united and connected teams. “A team and organization that’s not connected at the top crumbles at the bottom,” Gordon writes.
- Positive leaders build great relationships and teams. If people don’t believe that they can trust their leaders and that their leaders truly care for them, they will not follow those leaders.
- Positive leaders pursue excellence. Because they don’t think they know it all, they are always looking to learn, improve and grow.
- Positive leaders lead with purpose. Effective leaders not only find and live their purpose, they share their purpose and inspire others to live their purpose, Gordon writes, to “join the mission and be on a mission.”
- Positive leaders have grit. Gordon defines grit as “the ability to work hard for a long period of time towards a goal to persevere, overcome and keep moving forward in the face of adversity, failure, rejection and obstacles.”
Living the Values
While none of these imperatives are inherently surprising, they can have a fundamental impact on the success of the organization as long as leaders move beyond the words and, as Gordon emphasizes, actually live these values.
The scores of stories packed into this book are truly inspirational –– for example, the story of Marva Collins, who started her own elementary school for children wrongly labeled as “learning disabled.” But whether the stories involve corporations, coaches or just caring individuals who go beyond what most people think is possible, readers will be hard-pressed to read them without realizing that, as Gordon insists, anything is possible, which is exactly where he wants to lead his readers.