Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Steven Howard, and I am an author of 20 nonfiction books on leadership, marketing, and professional development, as well as the editor of 9 personal development books in the Project You series.
Additionally, I design and delivery leadership training programs for new supervisors, mid-level leaders, high-potential leaders, and senior leaders. Over the past 25 years, I have trained over 10,000 leaders in North America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
Lastly, I am an independent certified Health Coach helping people on their transformation journeys to better health, long-term cognitive protection, and longer lives.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
Leadership is an art. It is the art of achieving progress through the involvement and actions of others. It was best summed by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper when she said, “You manage things. You lead people.”
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
I once delegated a new product launch to a junior team member, who was fully capable of developing the product launch marketing plans. We needed to present these plans to our Regional VP (my boss’s boss) and unfortunately, she got nervous during the presentation and made a total disaster out of it.
I had set her up for failure by not understanding the pressure she would feel and the embarrassment this would cause her. She resigned three days later.
I learned that when delegating one does not need to delegate the entire project. I also learned that I needed to co-present to senior management when my staff have not done so previously.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
Self-publishing will continue to grow for authors and this will remain a key way for consultants to gain credibility within their fields of expertise. However, books will become shorter and the trend toward audiobooks will continue to increase.
Leadership training will evolve from one-off classroom instruction sessions to learning journeys that incorporate on-going reinforcement and behavior implementation.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
The phrase “it’s not personal, it’s business,” is the worst advice (and mindset) still going around. Business is about people interacting. Leadership is about people. It’s all personal and becoming more so rather than less so.
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
Ideas and projects that are “great ideas” but not in line with my three key areas of focus: writing, leadership development, and health coaching. I have had the tendency to get pulled in multiple directions in the past, but now am more resolute in staying within my three areas of focus.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership because everyone needs to learn that our lifestyle habits are negatively impacting the long-term health of our brains. As a result, dementia, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease are projected to increase by 67% in the next decade.
These can be postponed, perhaps even prevented, if people understood how stress, excess weight, and poor sleeping habits impact these brain illnesses, starting in our 30s and 40s.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Always take care of your health, which includes your physical, mental, and emotional health. This is in the best interest of you, your employer, and your loved ones. If your employer does not understand this, find a new employer.
Always ignore any advice or suggestions to do something that is unethical, illegal, or immoral. In today’s world of social media, not only will you be found out, but so will everyone else. Remember, the folks at Volkswagen thought they could cheat the U.S. Clean Air Act and the EPA. To date, this has cost VW over $33 billion dollars, and the Dieselgate Scandal is still far from over.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
When I was a teenager I told myself to always Observe and Absorb. This pithy self-made statement served me well in my early career years as I always observed how the managers and leaders above me evaluated options and made decisions. I learned more from observing others in action than from any college classroom session.
This also helped me enormously when I moved to Asia at age 23. Observing and absorbing the different local cultures greatly aided my professional and personal success and led to me living in Asia for 21 years, then moving to Australia for 12 years, before returning to the U.S.