Jullien Gordon on What It Means to Be a Leader

In Chapter 11 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, business coach Jullien Gordon answers "What Does It Mean to Be a Leader in What You Do?"   Gordon notes the importance of having original thoughts and following to lead.  This gets him in a place where he can identify opportunities in his field and use his iteration process to release products and services that put him in a leadership position.  Jullien Gordon is a high performance coach and consultant to organizations, individuals and teams who want to increase employee performance, motivation, engagement and retention.  He earned a BA from UCLA, an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a Masters of Education from Stanford University.


Erik Michielsen: What does it mean to be a leader in what you do?


Jullien Gordon: I think being a leader means having original thoughts, not just following the steps or the path that was currently laid out for you by, perhaps the original pioneer in your space. And so I like the notion of not following the leader but following to lead. At some point, the leader in your space is going to transition, exit, or go in a different direction and you have to say, “okay, I’ve been following and learning for this long from this person, but what original, authentic thoughts are coming through me that I need to bring into the world and bring forth?” So it really means being you at the end of the day because nobody can be you better than you, and while you may have someone who guides you for quite some time, ultimately you have to find out what is your authentic message and voice, and I think that’s what makes you a leader in whatever space it is you choose to operate in.

Erik Michielsen: What role does the trial and error process play in that leadership development?

Jullien Gordon: My whole life has been a journey of failing forward. I’ve made a lot of mistakes from losing amazing team members to unsuccessful online product launches to errors in written documents and published documents, and I constantly learn from that. I’m more of a get-it-done than a perfectionist, I used to be a perfectionist but now I’m more about getting it done and you can tell from my Good Excuse Goals book that it’s about getting the product out and then iterating from there, and getting it at least 80-90% right but not trying to get it 100% right and so. I recognize the consequences of moving in that way. But for me, even with mistakes and errors along my journey, my life has continued to impact other people’s lives. Whereas if I was trying to make things perfect, I still may be in cubby hole somewhere trying to make things perfect before I show it to the world, and my 80-90% right things have been out in the world and people have found them valuable and been inspired by them. And of course I need to close the gap over time but that’s the process for iteration for me.