Today’s guest is Hans Finzel who is going to help us understand the secrets of great leadership.  Hans is just the guy to help us with this topic.  He has a Ph.D. in leadership studies and is a prolific author.

His new book, Top Ten Ways to be a Great Leader is the basis for our conversation today.  We’ll learn what the ten ways to be a great leader are and how you can apply them to your business.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn in today’s episode:

  • Why listening is where you need to start to be seen as a great leader.
  • What a servant leader is and why you should care.
  • If you want to be a great leader integrity is a crucial key and without it, you can never be a great leader.
  • Where great leaders need resilience to become great leaders.
  • Where delegation fits into being a great leader and what you need to know to be seen as a great leader.


Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.

Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                Hey, this is Josh Patrick and you’re at The Sustainable Business.

Today, our guest is Hans Finzel. Hans is a leadership expert. He got into being a leadership expert because he was really unhappy with the leaders that he had worked under and knew there had to be a better way. He got so interested in leadership, he’s even got a PhD in leadership. He’s written ten books. His new book is Top Ten Ways to be a Great Leader. Instead of me yammering on about what Hans is, we should really bring him in and let him talk for himself, so we’ll do that.

Hey, Hans, how are you?

Hans:              I’m doing great, Josh. Good to see you. Nice to be on the show with you.

Josh:                  Well, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. I think leadership is one of these really interesting topics. I’m so glad that you contacted us to be on the show.

My first question for you, and this seems to be the ongoing argument in the leadership world is, are leaders made or are they born?

Hans:              Yeah, that is the question I get asked the most.

Josh:                Yeah. Well, it’s a big one, I think.

Hans:              Yeah, it is a big one. My answer is always yes.

Josh:                Okay, we have to go past the yes.

Hans:              All right, so–

Josh:                Will you give us some more, please?

Hans:                Well, there’s no question. Some people are born with what I would call “a wiring” to be leaders and people just naturally follow them. It’s a charisma. It’s a personality. It’s a style.

But I think, in the long run, it’s more important what you learn. I’ve met some great people who didn’t have any of that and yet were extremely powerful leaders because I define leadership with the word influence. I think about a Warren Buffet, one of the most influential me in America. But he’s, to me, a gentle giant. He’s not the kind of guy that would sort of be the one that has all that personality to be a naturally born leader.

I think it’s both. It’s what you’re born with. I was born with that kind of leadership [inaudible 00:02:47]. And then, when I was a little kid, I was the leader in my neighborhood. And then I became a boy scout and I was the leader of the troop. It seems like I always fell into leadership naturally. But I think it’s more important what you learn that what you’re born with.

Josh:                Yeah, I think I would agree with that.

Well, at least, this is just my own style of leadership is that, I prefer not be the name leader of a group. I have found that I can have more influence and be a better leader when I’m not the official leader.

Hans:                That’s totally true. The positional leaders are not often the big leaders in an organization or a company. That’s why I say, “Leadership is influence”. Whoever influences the most people are the biggest leaders in that company or that group. It’s often not the appointed leaders.

Josh:                Yeah, that’s been my experience. I call that “leading from the back”.

Hans:                Yup. Yeah, well that’s what Nelson Mandela was a big proponent of, of servant leadership. He used the shepherd analogy where you’re behind the sheep and you’re letting the strong ones go out front. That’s great leadership.

Josh:                  Yeah, I love the idea, the concept of servant leadership. I also love the concept you take your leadership or your organizational chart and turn it upside down.

Hans:                Yup. I turn mine sideways. I didn’t like the top-down chart but I like to lead the charge. If you imagine taking a chart and turning it sideways. I was the CEO of our company for 20 years, so I was out front leading. But the upside down, the problem with that is that it can become what I call slave leadership where you have to carry everybody on your back. I’m not sure that’s the best kind of leadership.

Josh:                I think it’s a terrible type of leadership. I call that delegating up.

Hans:              Yeah, there you go.

Josh:                Which is something you never want to participate in.

Tell me, why do you care so much about leadership?

Hans:                I care so much about leadership because leaders make things happen. Everybody listening or watching today, you are affected by leaders where you work, in your community, of course, our country. And so, leaders make things happen.

I care so much about leadership because I’ve seen a lot of bad leadership and I’ve just had a passion to help leaders become better at their craft. That’s kind of the space that I love. If I can help a leader realize some of their blind spots, some things they’re doing wrong, help them improve – just the trickle down effect of how many people that affects.

Many companies aren’t successful because of their poor leadership. And if you can tweak that leadership and make it work better, the company will be more successful. It’s all about leaders. Leaders make things happen. History is a story of leadership – good leaders and bad leaders.

Josh:                What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re thinking about the world of leadership?

Hans:              Well, first of all, they think they know how to be a leader if they get into a leadership position. Just because you’re in a leadership position, it doesn’t mean you’re a good leader. I think one mistake people make is– I like to say, “If you do what comes naturally, you’ll be a poor leader.” Remember the old song, “All you’ve got to do is act naturally”?

Josh:                Mm-hmm.

Hans:              Well, if you just act naturally, we are naturally not going to be good leaders. I don’t think because naturally we’re self-centered, selfish human beings. It’s all about me and it’s about building up my portfolio and my career. That’s not good leadership. Servant leadership is the opposite.  The first mistake people make is they don’t take any time to learn about leadership, to learn the craft. Those are some of the big mistakes they make right on the front end. Just because you’re in a position of leadership, it doesn’t mean you’re a good leader.

Josh:                I would agree with that 100%.

I’m a leader. I want to be a leader. What are the things I need to be doing to make myself better at it? This is especially true for owners of private businesses that employ less than 25 people. So if you employ less than 25 people, listen up.

Hans:              That’s right. And if you’re successful, you’re going to grow and your leadership is going to be more and more important every month, the more you grow.

Josh:                I have less than 25 employees and I want to grow. I want to build a bigger business. What do I need to be learning to do?

Hans:              Well you’ve got to learn to change what you’re doing with your time. That’s the first thing because when you started the company you were probably small. Maybe it was just you and you did all these things. Whether it’s selling a product or selling a service, you were doing all this frontline stuff. But as you grow, if you’ve got 25 people, you can no longer micromanage that frontline stuff and do that activity. You have to shift your activity to leading your team and building a team. One of the most important jobs of leadership is to develop other leaders.

Josh:                  I remember at GE. You weren’t eligible to be promoted until you trained your replacement.

Hans:              There you go. I love that.

You see, a lot of small business owners can never take a vacation. They have to be there all the time. That shows me they’re are control freak and they haven’t given up their child and let somebody else raise it because it’s their baby and it’s such a temptation to be a micromanaging control freak when you’re building a small business. That’s the wrong play.

You have to back up. You have to learn. The H in leadership, in my new book, stands for hands-off delegation. You have to learn to be more hands off and to focus on developing a team of people around you that can lead. If you can’t go on vacation without the place falling apart or not making any money, you’re really not a good leader.

Josh:                I would say that’s probably true. In my experience, one of the biggest problems that smaller private business owners have is the issue with trust. If you’re going to be a great leader– can you talk about trust a little bit, please?

Hans:              It’s the number one reason that people don’t delegate well, is they don’t trust other people to do the work. I love the book– I don’t know if you’re familiar with Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team?

Josh:                One of my favorite business authors of all times.

Hans:              Me, too. I was just on another podcast and they were asking me for my two most impactful books in the last five years and that’s one of them, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. You know that whole pyramid he builds is about trust.

Josh:                Yes.

Hans:              People, when they don’t trust each other, you don’t have a team. You don’t work together. You’re not vulnerable. You’re not working together as a team. Trust is everything. In building a team and also learning to delegate well, you’ve got to hire good people and learn to trust them.

Josh:                One of the five pillars of creating a sustainable business, or at least in my world, is to become operationally irrelevant in your company.

Hans:              I like that.

Josh:                It’s a really hard thing to do. The two things I find that keep people from doing that– it’s actually more than two. But the main two are, us learning to trust our employees and have a tolerance for mistakes within the organization.

Hans:              Absolutely. I talk, in my delegation chapter, about why people don’t delegate well. Did you know that the more gifted are, the more talented you are, the more you do things well in your space, the harder it is to delegate? Because you can do things better than they.

Delegation, to me, is another word for mentoring and developing other people. That means you have to take the time. You have to trust them. You have to be willing for them to make mistakes and give them that margin again. But you don’t want to be the micromanager.

Dirty delegation is when you’re looking over their shoulder every minute, telling them what to do.

Josh:                You see, that’s not delegating. That’s when you have a bunch of helpers working with you.

Hans:              Yeah, exactly.

Josh:                And most–

Hans:              And you’re  not developing anybody.

Josh:                Most small business owners I know think they’re delegating but what they’re really doing is they’re creating a bunch of helpers to help them do the job.

Hans:              Yeah, to help them do the job.

Josh:                Right. At around 25 employees, that doesn’t work anymore.

Hans:              Okay, so that’s the critical spot where things have to shift?

Josh:                Yeah, because I think that once you get to 20 to 25 employees, you no longer are supervising supervisors. You actually have to get work done through others. If you can’t learn to do that, you’ll never grow. At least, that’s my experience.

Hans:              I totally agree. That’s right.

I pride myself on the fact that I developed a really– now, our company was a lot bigger than I lead. I mean, we had a $35-million budget annually when I left and about 600 employees. But my team, directly to me, I really worked hard at developing them. When it was time for me to go, I had a guy that took my place. It was the Board’s decision, not mine, but he was my recommendation. He’d been on my team. It’s a funny story because I left and I thought, “You know, I ran the place for 20 years. I relocated us to Colorado. Built a beautiful headquarters.“ I just said, “Hey, Jeff, just call me whenever you need me.” Guess how many times Jeff called me.

Josh:                Zero.

Hans:              Zero, that’s right. He never calls. He never writes.

I’m like, “I went into oblivion and it kind of hurt my feelings. But then I realized, none of us are irreplaceable. And actually, I guess, I must’ve done a pretty good job because he just took the thing off and ran with it and they didn’t need me anymore. At the end, I thought, “Yeah, I feel good about that. They’re just doing fine and they don’t need Hans anymore.” That’s what a leader should aspire to – work yourself out of a job.

Josh:                Well, the truth is what you just described is what I call “seller’s or retiree’s remorse”. What happens, because you get off somebody’s radar screen and the phone stops ringing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good leader or a bad leader or Attila the Hun. The truth is once you get off the radar screen, the phone stops ringing and people just don’t ask for your advice. It’s not because they don’t want it or they don’t like you. It’s just you’re off the radar screen. That seems to be my sort of thinking about that.

Hans:              Yeah, totally. I totally agree with you on that. Absolutely.

Josh:                Well, it’s not a good or bad thing. It just isn’t is, as far as I can see.

Talk about listening for a little while.

Hans:              Yeah, the L in leadership. I use the cross stick of leadership in my new book, Top Ten Ways to be a Great Leader. I always tell my audience is “hold up your finger like that, the L.” The two most important words on a leader’s vocabulary is listen and learn. Nothing more important.

By the way, the last chapter of the book is the Power of Humility. I’m a huge fan of humility. May we can talk a little about Jim Collins. He’s my other go-to guy that I love for leadership. A lot of business  people think humility is weakness but it’s not. It’s the opposite. There’s a power in humility.

If you’re humble, you will listen and you will learn because you realized you’re not the only smart person in the room. Success is all of us working together as a team. We score when the team works together. That’s the kind of leader who will listen to the team.

When you get to that number of 25 employees, you have probably no involvement in the frontlines anymore of direct selling or whatever you’re selling, whatever service you’re providing. You’re more now into managing. They’re the ones that are in touch with the customers and that’s why you’ve got to listen to your team because they’re in touch with the customers. Listen and learn.

And I do think that you need to be committed to lifelong learning.

Josh:                What happens if you’re a business owner and you’re not very curious about the world? Good listeners, in my experience, are just really curious people. I have the Socratic method of management where I believe a good manager really just asks questions.

Hans:              Yeah, that’s good. That’s like good coaching. The key to good coaching is asking good questions.

Josh:                My question is, okay, most people are not especially curious. Is that a fatal flaw in leadership?

Hans:              To not be curious?

Josh:                Yes.

Hans:              Yeah, I think that is a fatal flaw because I think the world changes so dramatically that if you’re  not curious, you’re not learning. Sometimes, you might so dominate an industry that it doesn’t matter because you hold this amazing patent that nobody else can take.

Generally, I always think about companies like Kodak that missed the digital photo revolution because they weren’t paying attention. They weren’t listening.

Josh:                They actually even had the camera. They just didn’t want to sell it because they thought it was going to cannibalize their film sales.

Hans:              Yeah. Okay, that’s interesting because I was in Rochester New York after the whole company fell apart and all of the 40,000 people lost their jobs. I always thought it was a great, great illustration of not listening and not learning. It’s organizational arrogance, by the way.

Josh:                Yes.

Hans:              You know, people can be arrogant. Companies can be arrogant. “You know, I know everything. I don’t need to listen to anybody. I know my market.”

Josh:                Yes.

If somebody’s not curious, what would you tell them to do?

Hans:              How do you make somebody curious that’s not curious?

Josh:                Yeah. I mean, if leadership can be learned then going from being not curious to being curious has to be possible.

Hans:              I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know how you can make somebody curious that’s not naturally curious. Do you know? I don’t.

Josh:                Well, I think it’s possible. It certainly happened with me. My own story. I started in my first business when I was 24 years old. Up until I was about 30, it was my way or the highway. I really wasn’t interested in learning anybody else’s opinion. And then my business almost fell apart three times on me. I realized I had to change if I was to do that. I’ve always been a voracious reader. I just took that and I said, “Okay, what I’m doing is not working. Let me see if I can find something that is working.” I realized that being curious got me a lot further than being certain about what I thought was the right thing to do.

Hans:              You went on that journey on your own though. It’s not that somebody– I think it’s hard for me to sit down with somebody who’s not curious and say, “You really need to be curios.” I guess, that’s what I would try. I love what you just said because hey, they’re going to become curious. They need to if what they’re doing is not working.

Josh:                If what you have isn’t working, don’t do it anymore.

Hans:              Yeah, right. If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

Josh:                Yeah. Well, you know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s one of my favorite little wise guy– I have lots of wise guy sayings. That’s just one of them.

Hans:              Yeah, that’s a good one. That’s a good one.

Josh:                Let’s talk about emotional intelligence for a second just because I think that that’s a really interesting piece of good leadership.

Hans:              Yeah. I love EQ. I fired a lot of people in my career. I had some high-level people I’ve fired. When I look back, every one of the ones I had to fire, it was not because they weren’t smart or because they weren’t competent in their area of responsibility. It was because they had terrible EQ, emotional intelligence.

I remember a woman I had to fire who was so gifted women in leadership. She was on my top team. She was so smart and so gifted. But people would come to me and say, “Hans, I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around her. I never know when she’s going to explode.” She would explode and get angry – explode on people in the hallway, in front of other people [inaudible 00:18:40] situations. That’s a great example. She was smart but she lacked EQ.

Josh:                I call people like that “the brilliant jerk”.

Hans:              The brilliant jerk, yeah. There’s a lot of brilliant.

Josh:                There are a lot of brilliant jerks and you can’t let them in your company.

Hans:              No, you can’t. And so, when you interview people for your company, you’ve learned this, I’m sure. When I’m talking to references– sadly, today, references won’t even talk to you anymore because of legal climate, but I ask people “Tell me how they get along with people. Tell me about their people skills.” That’s emotional intelligence. My assistant and I always used to say, “We hire for attitude and we train for skill.” It is all about emotional–

Josh:                Well, that’s true. If you go into Jim Collins’ “right person, right seat”, that really fits in there. If I have my choice between the two, I want a right person before I go right seat–

Hans:              Absolutely.

Josh:                –because I can usually train the right seat.

Hans:              Absolutely. Above the waterline is IQ. And below the waterline is a lot bigger and that’s EQ. I think about what sunk the Titanic was under the waterline. So yeah, I don’t want those people in my organization.

Josh:                Yeah, I don’t either. Hey, Hans, we are unfortunately out of time for this podcast episode. Tell us a little bit about your book and where they can find it– where they can find you.

Hans:              Well, they can find me at my website,, H-A-N-S-F-I-N-Z-E-L. Amazon, where we buy books, you’ll find my books there. Top Ten Ways to be a Great Leader.

Josh:                Cool. Thanks so much Hans. I really appreciate having you on today.

I have an offer for you also. I have a one-hour audio CD course. It’s called Success to Sustainability: The Five Things that You Need to Doing in your Business to Create a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. It’s really easy to get it, just take out your smartphone – if you’re driving, wait til you stop driving, take out your smartphone, and text the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222. That’s the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222.

This is Josh Patrick. You’re at the Sustainable Business. I hope to see you back here really soon. Thanks for stopping by.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at, or you can send Josh an e-mail at

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.


Topics: leadership, sustainable business podcast, Sustainable Business, podcast, delegation

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