296: Jan-Benedict Steenkamp – Leadership Lessons from History


Jan-Benedict Steenkamp Show Notes Page

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp was doing very well in the academe when he hit a hump in his life. He was regularly writing many academic publications but became dispirited and demotivated when he was not able to see how his publications could move the needle in someone else’s life. Through reinventing himself, JB started writing business books where leaders and managers could read what he wrote and make a positive impact in their lives. Despite facing opposition from others around him, JB continues to do what he loves and make a positive impact to those around him.

Jan-Benedict (“JB”) Steenkamp grew up in Amsterdam with two older brothers and a passion for history. His parents instilled in him the values of hard work and taking responsibility. His greatest mentor on everything concerning leadership was his late father, who was a businessman, dean at a technical university and a leading politician. His father took his leadership cues from historical leaders and before he was even a teenager, his father spent his spare time explaining to him what we can learn from historical figures.

JB began his career as an assistant professor of Marketing at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He held leadership positions in a political party, three universities in the Netherlands, and Belgium, and professional organizations before being hired as chairman of the marketing department by the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2006.

JB has written several business cases on inspired leadership. He felt the urge to write a book on leadership, in which he combined his passion for history, his marketing knowledge, and his leadership knowledge and experience. The book’s title is Time to Lead: Lessons for Today’s Leaders from Bold Decisions that Changed History.

In today’s time of global crisis and obvious lack of faith in leaders at all levels, more than ever, we need to – and can – learn from the great men and women in the recent and more distant past, who often faced much greater challenges. As The Economist wrote: “Those who have passed through the fire surely have something to teach modern-day managers.”

JB is a Knox Massey Distinguished Professor at UNC and co-founder and Executive Director of AiMark, a non-profit institute that bridges the world between academia and practice, and has helped countless academics to do work that actually matters to business.

JB currently lives in Chapel Hill with his wife Valarie. They have four kids scattered throughout the world and three grandchildren.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @SteenkampJb get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShowClick to Tweet

“We cannot make people into something they are not. They have to select the kind of organizational culture that they feel comfortable with.” – Click to Tweet

“The top leader is ultimately the person responsible.” – Click to Tweet

“The one thing that every successful leader needs to have is grit.” – Click to Tweet

“Grit is essentially like the song by Billy Ocean – When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” – Click to Tweet

“Grit is focus, self-confidence, motivation to succeed, and resilience. Without grit, it’s very difficult to be a strong leader.” – Click to Tweet

“Mandela, Thatcher, etc. – these are ordinary people who overcome their own problems and left the world a better place, and they could be you and me.” – Click to Tweet

“You cannot change anybody unless you first understand yourself.” – Click to Tweet

“You are not the first one to have had issues. You can learn from other people, just like Mandela learned from Dr. King.” – Click to Tweet

“Changing yourself is not an overnight process, so you better start today rather than tomorrow.” – Click to Tweet

“The higher your position is, the more trouble you’re going to look at.” – Click to Tweet

“A leader that is liked by everybody is not a good leader.” – Click to Tweet

“It is far better to have a slightly smaller group of people that love you than a big group that is lukewarm about you.” – Click to Tweet

“People that you have really touched stick with you when the going gets tough.” – Click to Tweet

“Any leader has to have a certain amount of steel in them, so I am not that put out being called the Iron Lady” – Margaret Thatcher

Hump to Get Over

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp was doing very well in the academe when he hit a hump in his life. He was regularly writing many academic publications but became dispirited and demotivated when he was not able to see how his publications could move the needle in someone else’s life. Through reinventing himself, JB started writing business books where leaders and managers could read what he wrote and make a positive impact in their lives. Despite facing opposition from others around him, JB continues to do what he loves and make a positive impact to those around him.

Advice for others

Success does not equate to happiness.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

Lack of time.

Best Leadership Advice

Stay true to yourself.

Secret to Success

Extreme goal direction.

Best tools in business or life

My ability to conceptualize, to see relationships between disparate events in meetings that other people do not see.

Recommended Reading

Time to Lead: Lessons for Today’s Leaders from Bold Decisions that Changed History

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Contacting Jan-Benedict Steenkamp

JB’s UNC page: https://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/faculty/directory/jan-benedict-steenkamp/

JB’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jan-benedict-steenkamp-bb535ab/

JB’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/steenkampjb



Show Transcript

Click to access unedited transcript

Unedited Transcript

Jim Rembach (00:00):

Okay, fast leader Legion today. I’m excited because we are going to have a fantastic discussion and use history to do really what it’s been intended to do. And that is to help us to learn and then do better.

Jim Rembach (00:15):

Jan-Benedict “JB” Steenkamp grew up

Jim Rembach (00:19):

In Amsterdam with two older brothers and a passion for history. His parents instilled in him the values of hard work and taking responsibility. His greatest mentor on everything concerning leadership was his late father who was a businessman Dean at a technical university and a leading politician. His father took his leadership cues from historical leaders and before he was even a teenager, his father spent his spare time explaining to him what he can learn from historical figures. JB began his career as an assistant professor of marketing at Weddington university in the Netherlands. And he held leadership positions in a political party at three universities in another lens and Belgium and professional organizations before being hired as chairman the marketing department for the university of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler business school in 2006, JB has written several books, business cases on inspired leadership, and he felt the urge to write a book on leadership in which he combined his passion for history, his marketing knowledge and his leadership knowledge and experiences.

Jim Rembach (01:23):

The book’s title is time to lead lessons for today’s leaders from bold decisions that changed history in today’s time of global crisis and obvious lack of faith in leaders at all levels, more than ever. We need to and can learn from the great men and women in the recent and more distant past who often faced a much greater challenges as the economist wrote those who have passed through the fire. Shirley have something to teach modern day managers. JB is a Knox Massey distinguished professor at UNC and co founder and executive director of A-mark a nonprofit Institute that bridges the world between academia and practice and has held countless accurate and has helped countless, uh, academics to do work that actually matters to business. JB currently lives in chapel Hill with his wife, Valerie, and they have four kids scattered throughout the world and three grandchildren, JB, JB stint camp. Are you ready to help us get?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (02:22):

Absolutely. Thank you very much for the introduction and look forward to talking to you.

Jim Rembach (02:26):

No, I’m glad you’re here. We’ve already had a great discussion that I hope we can bring onto this interview, but before we get into all of that, can you please share with fast leader, Legion listeners or the fast leader show listeners what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (02:43):

Well, my current passion is, first of all, I am passionate about this book and passionate about history. So I now try to get this book under the attention of people, because I do believe it has a, there’s a message. And I have started to work on a next book. It’s going to take some time and that next book will be provisionally, titled transformative female leadership in history. So I combined the history and the leadership, and I now want to, to put a lens in that book with them will be a few years. So, uh, um, females have been relatively when they’re emphasized in the leadership literature and there have been a lot of very important leaders from time immemorial till the present day. And that’s another interest of mine.

Jim Rembach (03:33):

Well, I am to me. And even when you started talking about that, being at the, you know, the UNC and probably have an access to the entire 14 school system, when you start looking at the leaders of tomorrow, they are female.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (03:47):

Yeah. Many of them are female, uh, especially in the undergraduate student population, the MBA population females about one third. And that is a hope to increase that towards more to 50%.

Jim Rembach (04:01):

Well, hopefully, uh, that your works are going to have general generational impacts, just like the people who you covered in this book. And what I found quite interesting is how

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (04:11):


Jim Rembach (04:12):

I look into seven different parts, which address many of the things that we hear about in the leadership community and world, uh, in regards to the types of leaders we should be. And you section it off into adaptive leadership, uh, which is identify or modifying according to the circumstances, persuasive leadership, which is changing the minds of followers directive leadership, which is defining the marching orders, disruptive leadership, which is breaking from the past authentic leadership, which is setting the example, servant leadership, which is putting your followers first and charismatic leadership, which is buy into the leader and then follow their vision. Can you explain, can you explain though, um, how you present all of these leadership styles in the book?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (04:57):

So it came about that. I first identified a number of key leaders that made the decision that really changed world history, but do you know, then I had a long list of leaders and that can be interesting, but I will need to bring structure to it. That’s where let’s say my academic mind comes to, uh, uh, to the table. And so I ran up in the leadership literature and I kind of thought about it a little bit about my own experience. And then I came up with these seven categories, which govern a lot of what is, what is possible. And I try to place each lead in a category. Now, then it turned out to be that for some categories I had fairly few. So I needed to look at for additional examples, but for other categories, I had too many, you know, and then I wanted to be a little bit balanced. So that is the combination of some of the leadership thinking to get with my historical knowledge, kind of combining them, but me to this particular set of leaders,

Jim Rembach (05:56):

Well, I’m talking about particular set of leaders. I mean, you, you call them, uh, you know, a cast of characters, uh, and, and there they come from all or figures and they come from all different areas of the world in different time periods. Um, I mean, so there was everything from Margaret Thatcher, all the way to, um, you know, going back to the, the rise of the Franks, um, at that time, you know, going, you know, all of course covering Martin Luther King jr. And Nelson Mandela, uh, Jackie Fisher, which, you know, some people may or may not know about him that are from North America, but all of these different people, like you said, have impacted the world and history, as we say, why do we study history so that we don’t repeat some of the mistakes? And we take some benefit from the findings, but I started looking at today’s world and I started looking at the volatility and I start looking at the complexity and I’m wondering, do we have to be all of these people?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (06:56):

Well, as an academic, I would say, yes, be everything together, but that doesn’t make any sense because humans do not have everything together. Um, say for example, it is very difficult to be a servant leader and to be very directive it’s possible, but fairly few will have that. No, actually you don’t have to have everything because as I show in, in this, this book, you can be very successful having particular leadership traits. So you don’t have to have everything to get it. And that offers a lot of hope, but I think in November, people will have to choose the kind of leader that they want for the country. Now, as we all know, people think very differently about the kind of leader that the country needs. So that means you and I may not have the same idea about this, and that’s why we have democratic elections. Now I have an idea about the kind of leader that the country needs, but I’m pretty sure that some other people have other ideas.

Jim Rembach (07:51):

Well, even as you’re saying that I, Steven start taking it down to an organization that I work for or one that I’m running. And I start thinking about the culture, you know, that’s really what we start talking about. And, and also knowing the type of dominant, you know, leader you are knowing and B you know, and not, I guess I’d say trying to be something else and then therefore apologizing for it. It’s just saying, look, this is who we are, and this is what we do. And this is what we believe in. And then finding others that believe in the same thing.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (08:22):

Yep. That is exactly the point. So in the forward to my book, general Holt, who was the deputy assistant secretary for the, um, for the air force wrote a very insightful point. General health is a leader, like a great leader, actually of the us armed forces. He says, we can have a certain culture and we, she let people that, that go with it. We cannot make people into something that they are not. So what people have to do is they have to select the, actually the kind of organizational culture that they feel comfortable with. And don’t try to change yourself into something that you are not, it is not going to work

Jim Rembach (09:04):

Well. Even when you say that, I started thinking about me, even, even now say I’m from a candidate, right. And I’m looking for an organization. I start wondering whether or not people thinking from a general perspective have actually been able to even identify that in themselves. So how do we cut through that as an issue to make sure that we’re making the right hiring decision and then therefore nurturing that and reinforcing and setting expectations based on that,

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (09:32):

Oh, a lot starts actually with the CEO, a CEO, meaning the business, but that can also be the boss of an NGO or of a political leader for that matter, or a military leader that is that the military. And certainly not the middle, the leader in general of organization, he or she sets the tone for the organization. Not, it has to be more than only the leader, but if the leader is doing one thing and it’s essentially preaching a very different gospel, honestly, that, that doesn’t work. It starts at the top, you know, as, as president Obama said in the past, you know, uh, I think the buck stops here or something like that. Uh, ultimately, you know, the top leader is ultimately the person responsible. Um, but it has to be feed fed through your organization, through HR departments. And what they do in the book is to help people to generate you more awareness of their own leadership qualities.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (10:30):

So I have self assessment tests that they’ve at the back of the book that people can just answer, honestly, you know, do it by yourself. Nobody else sees it. And so honestly, these questions, and then I identify based on these answers, okay, you are high on this aspect, low that aspect, go to debt. Part of the book to study it a little bit more because actually when I did the test myself, I discovered some of the issues about myself that, Hey, actually I didn’t think did they sink of it? Actually, it is true, but I did not want it to be. So people can just do an assessment of yourself because every success of a human being starts with an assessment of your own things and weaknesses.

Jim Rembach (11:17):

And even as you’re saying that, I would dare to say that that’s somewhat changes through time and you talk about six core qualities, uh, that are also important. And again, we hear about these a lot in society and in literature and different, you know, people and what focused in on and heck even reporting. And so we hear about intelligence, you know, that could be a, um, different, you know, actual, you know, smarts, IQ, um, self competence, integrity, social bearded, socio ability, emotional intelligence, humility, and grit. So am I to understand that if you are, if I was to think about this, you know, analytically or that if I take these particular elements and based on my strengths and weaknesses in these that I therefore become one of these types of leaders, adaptive, persuasive, and all, is that, is that how I should look at this? Or no?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (12:07):

Nope. Actually, um, uh, my apologies fell out. Um, it is not what you can find is these different qualities to more or less degree in each type of leader book, actually my book show, and I did not know that beforehand is that you don’t need most of those. Now, if you have nothing, then there is an issue. But for example, some people were very intelligent, proven like Alexander, the great was extremely intelligent. All those were not particularly intelligent, like one reader, which is just monumental impact, uh, Henry campbell-bannerman, which some Americans may, will be familiar with. So yeah, that’s some interesting learnings are, for example, not some people have high humility, which, you know, people say humility hate, uh, st. Peter had high humility. Other people like Jackie Fisher that you mentioned earlier, or to go for fairly low on humility. And they changed the history.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (13:08):

There are some corporate legal at this point, which I suspect at flow humility, even some political leaders. The one thing that I found that every successful leader needs to have, there’s only one characteristic and that is grit. You other things, of course, it’s all nice to have. Absolutely. But grit is essentially, and to understand what grit is and just look at the song by Billy ocean, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, essentially that lyrics is any everything that you know, that you need to know about good at this, at this focus, it is a motivated self, confidence and motivation to succeed. And if you have that, if you have grit that actually without debt, it’s really difficult to be strong leader.

Jim Rembach (14:03):

Okay. So when you start talking about grit, I start thinking about other things as well. Um, resolve, uh, resilience, um, you know, several different elements associated with grit. And I start thinking about the complexities of all of these different things. So, and I have to start thinking about when, when you start studying all these leaders and you go on through even the assessments that you’re talking about, I have to figure me out first. And then I have to figure out my place and where I am the organization with the organization, I’m running the culture, I’m creating all of those types of things. And then I start thinking about developing others in the process. So how, how do I go about actually pulling people in and developing their leadership skills and their ability to now start, you know, we’re collaborating and working together to create a better,

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (14:57):

It depends very much on the organization that we are talking about. Say, for example, when you are in the U S military, and what you need to have as an officer is a combination of directive leadership and servant leadership directive. Leadership is very clear because there is a moment that you have to give orders and that the people are following the orders. You cannot have a group discussion when you in the fire, servant leadership is important in the U S military with mine too. It is not common in the military, in Iraq. It is not coming in the military of China. And I’m not saying that those guys are Iraq is not too strong, but China is weak, but the U S military culture has essentially you as an officer, make sure that you take care of first of your man before taking care of yourself.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (15:48):

Now that is something, therefore, if you are in a senior leadership, what you are looking for, people that have the combination of having the ability to be directive. So they have to have a certain degree of self confidence and in their own competence, but they do not have a feeling of being entitled, entitled because they have this higher rank. Therefore, I am entitled to all kinds of perks. Of course, they are entitled to different books. You know, they have more stars on their shoulders, but it is, it is a mindset, but there are other, I would say that other company, organizational cultures, where perhaps, you know, servant leadership is not that particularly important, where honestly speaking, there may be cultures where actually disruptive leadership is something that you looking for. If you are looking for example, in a high tech company where technological developments go really fast, you know, if it’s fairly static, not so much of an issue, if it goes fairly fast, you need to have people that have a mindset to be able to disrupt their business, their own lives, because as it is related to what you are doing, and that’s not given to most people.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (17:09):

So for example, one of the people that they interviewed for my book, he was an extremely successful leader at a large oil company, but that’s not a very disruptive business, but he also said, I’m not a disruptive leader. I am BI by my personality. I don’t like disruptive events. I don’t like disruptive leadership, but it was a very successful there active leader. So you see, but those same qualities, you know, perhaps if you are in leadership of Google or Netflix or so may not be so good. Those are companies that have to reinvent themselves a lot. So fortunately for different people, because there are many different organizations around the world and different things. I would not be suitable for the military because I just don’t like anybody else to tell me what to do. Many directive leaders don’t form to be the active artists themselves. So Mark as such is a good example. They don’t actively the, one of the greatest in world history and she hated to be told what to do. Now. That’s actually very common. Now I’m maybe also a little bit more of a directive leader then kind of leaderships. I think that’s fair to say. So I can’t go in the military.

Jim Rembach (18:31):

Well, as you’re saying that, I started also thinking about one issue that is a real issue with a lot of organizations of today is this whole creative thinking and innovation opportunity and issue. And so what I mean by that is if I start creating this particular environment and culture, and I’m not the military, it’s a different story. And I need to have the diversity of views and thinking and types of leadership. But then I also need to include that. And I think that’s the bridge that needs to be passed. It’s not just having the diversity, but that including the diversity, you know, how, how do I prevent myself from having the problem of group think, right. Everybody thinks the same. Everybody’s the same type of leader. And therefore now we’re stifled and we can’t be creative and innovative or we’re so darn disruptive. We can’t get anything executed.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (19:23):

Um, well fortunately, even if some people are disruptive and there is still a lot of variation. So the seven categories that I’m talking about, you know, in America does, so, you know, 30 million people, it’s not that they can be pigeonholed into, into one thing. So you have people that are very digital directive like Margaret Sacha, and you have people that are perhaps a little directive like me, and I don’t want to compare myself to be great, but it is prime minister. But the thing is what you need is, and you have to also to look at different parts of the organization, there may be parts of the organization, where do you need not so much directive leaders or disruptive leaders even say, for example, even in like airline industry, and when you’re talking about maintenance, which is a big part, and you may not really need disruptive leaders in maintenance. And I don’t, you need leaders there as well, but you may need the disruptive leader when it comes to having the strategy departments. So within a company, you still have different tasks, but take, for example, one example, one area that I’m fairly familiar with, that the shady area of R and D new public development there goop think is about a, that you can have

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (20:48):

There. What you need is a fair amount of these disruptive leaders. You may not need them as much in HR perhaps, and certainly not in maintenance. So there is a game in the company, you have different groups of people for different kinds of jobs.

Jim Rembach (21:09):

Okay. So when I start thinking about all of these leaders that you have covered in this book and how they have impacted and are actually represented all of these different types of leadership and all these different traits, um, I started thinking of some of them rising to the top as your favorites. Is there one or two that you like that you’d like to point out?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (21:28):

And yes, I would say I have many favorites, but one person that has impacted my personal life very much indirectly, I will be able to look, has been the British prime minister Margaret section. She has, um, I do believe she has, she was a great leader and I admire her as one of the greatest post-second world for leaders. Um, so when she came to power in 1979, um, I was an undergraduate student and in the Netherlands, and it was a suffocating, uh, kind of general wisdom of, of essentially socialism and, um, a welfare system. So essentially, uh, there was no, no incentive essentially to Excel and to perform hard because it was all kind of, kind of flattened out. So, which did not appeal to me very much. Margot central was the first to break so that the president Reagan came a year, the year that after, but market section was the first what she did actually.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (22:33):

So her life is very inspiring to many people. Also. Now also women’s Toshiba helped sexism, which actually was very long, especially I would say in hope we had just politics, but certainly also, you know, own conservative party. She broke through elitism, which is very strong because she did not go to the Eatons, et cetera of this world. And she broke through the suffocating power of the, of the unions. Britain was the sick man of Europe at the time. At the time that she left office in 1990 bulletin was strong and actually hardly any of the things that she changed in those years have been undone when labor came to power afterwards. And for me, she has been so important because Europe, after she came to power, started to shift away from suffocating, socialism and social welfare towards more rewarding initiative and accomplishment performance, et cetera. So that is why Mark has said, I think objectively has been very impactful, but I also linked it to my personal wife, why she has been so impactful for me. I was liberated after that second.

Jim Rembach (23:48):

I see, before we go into that second person, I would like to ask a question, because in the book you wrote something about her husband trying to influence her to leave the position, uh, sooner than she did. You also talked about her height of fame and the amount of adoration and respect that she had, and that she should have left the office sooner than she did. Can you explain in our lightness a little bit about that?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (24:13):

And I think that’s, that’s a great point, essentially. And it is too, when she left, she was forced out of office by your own conservative MPS, because at the end, people had had enough of her now because she was a very strong personality. But over time she became, let’s say more and more only, only relying on herself and less and less on other people. Now, debt is something that is very common. So that is a good reason why in America, we have to limit on the presidential elections because politicians have the tendency to remain in office far too long. They have the tendency to think that they are indispensable and that is for Brezhnev and the Soviet union. If we can still remember, it’s cool in Germany, Mexico, essentially at state wrong. But now because of COVID essentially it is for her a lucky break because otherwise she would have left and everybody said, Oh my God, happy she’s out now. COVID is for her actually. Okay. Gotten back into game because she has done that quite well. Politicians stay in office too long. And the longer you stay at the top of the greasy pole, you’re more, you’re starting to believe that you are right, and everybody else is wrong. And that there’s nothing to do with that. It is the wisdom of the two terms in America.

Jim Rembach (25:38):

Okay. So now the next person who has influenced you the most

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (25:41):

And a second person that has, let’s say effected me a lot. And I admire a lot there’s president Mandela offers South Africa and because, and so South Africa, uh, was before 1994 until the apartheid regime and walk mum, Della had done his, I mean, it’s really amazing. And Marbella by the way, was deeply affected by King. So Martin Luther King effected Magdala in his thinking very much, just like Dingwalls affected by Gandhi. That’s how you gauge historical leaders are deeply affected by Albany historical leaders. And what mob Della was able to do is to first overcome his own hatred, because you have been terribly treated by the, by the government and in prison and everything overcome his own hatred and then reach out and essentially guts South Africa to a post. The part that democratic sells Africa in a way that everybody

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (26:44):

I was in the eighties, you know, we all knew that if apartheid would collapse, South Africa would drown in a sea of blob because of all the pens are paid to it, et cetera, Emma, Della was the only person to diffuse that. And you could only diffuse it because he overcome his own hate. And that is something that is amazing. And again, Jim, these, these are not saints. It is not like the, like a like Geist or st. Paul or whatever. These are people, Mandela, Fetcher, if they could be you and me in the sense that those are the obese people that overcome their own problems and, and sexism racism in [inaudible] and they left the world a better place. And these, these things can happen also today.

Jim Rembach (27:38):

Well, and okay, so for me, you know, and you’re, and I truly, truly believe what you just said is true. And I also think about that when I start talking about organizations and impacting and the experience internally and externally. And so I think it’s often difficult for many of us to understand the translative property, uh, and the influential property of many of these things that we are seeing and that you witnessed and that you research within these historical leaders and the impact they had on the world. So, you know, how can I take what I’m learning from this book and about leadership and these traits and these styles and all of that and impact the employee and the customer experience.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (28:21):

I think the first stage is, um, to read the book, do the test at the end of the book, because you cannot change anybody unless you first start to analyze you understand yourself, you cannot change anybody unless you actually understand what are your things, or what are your weaknesses? And then my is not to shore up your weaknesses unless they’re completely unacceptable, but play to your strengths because are you going to make the difference? And then what you have to do is then to see, okay, am I in the right organization, given my things. So is this the organization that, that suits me now? And you may perhaps conclude no, actually I should better go to another organization. And that is, that is good. But if you say, okay, now I understand myself, what do you, what can I do differently? Because you analyze what I do in this test and that you can do is okay, what would you like to be?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (29:25):

And what are you currently, where are big gaps? I like to be really like this, but I am only like this. So I like to be really a disruptive leader, but actually I’m not so much of a disruptive leader. Then I give indications, okay, what you can do. But because you’re not the first one that has had this issue, you can learn from them. People just like, like Madell alert. So what did these other people do? And then work hard in changing some of it yourself. And then it’d be an overnight process because it is not going to be overnight. You better start today other than tomorrow, because it is going to take some time. But what is a final thing is, and what I also found in this book is that all the successful leaders had an overarching goal, which actually animate their life.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (30:21):

And, um, so yes, they had some sub goals, but they had an overarching goal. For example, Mark, essentially the overarching goal was essentially make Britain strong nation again in economically, culturally, socially, and also militarily now, um, others had other, uh, other things. Um, so if you have that overarching goal, then what you need to do is okay. And that’s what I’ve done in my life. I made the decision early on the shake gate, if that is the overarching goal, then, and I’m here, which kind of steps can I take intermediate steps to reach that overarching goal. So for example, if you, and if, if you will aspire to be, uh, say, uh, the Le the lead of, of a bit of a big church, um, which requires probably servant leadership, um, and you are not so strong on servant leadership, which many of them are not okay.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (31:29):

Can I, can I perhaps also take some courses on servant leadership? You don’t take the course in something else, like the elective leadership that is great to the military, but not if you were in an NGO, for example. So take the courses, read the books, study the kind of things that help you getting from where you are now to where you want to be. If there’s one thing, at least in my life, which has been probably the most important factor in my success in my life is, is very simple. I have been extremely golden active, meaning that, okay, I set a goal. I’m here. I set a goal and I do not start tomorrow. I do not start today. I start right now, essentially getting from here to there to achieve that goal. And that is something where businessman a very good, if you would ask them, what is really your goal in your life? And I’m talking about professional goal, because you can also of course, as a father or mother, whatever, but of course I’m not talking about that necessarily. No,

Jim Rembach (32:41):

Well, as you’re talking, I start thinking of, okay, this is a journey. This was a step. This is, I need other people to collaborate with all these different factors. And we look for inspiration on this show to help us stay focused

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (32:51):

So that we can achieve.

Jim Rembach (32:53):

And one of the things that we look at to help us do that, our quotes now, Stephanie studying all these historical figures and many of the other figures that you have said,

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (33:01):

The two that you’d like that you can share. And I must say that what I want to, uh, to give us a quote from the person that I admire fairly much. So that’s, that’s a quote that I give, and that is Mark and Sacha. And what she said, I caught her now, any leader has to have a certain amount of steel in them. So I am not debt boot out being called the iron lady. And to me, that is not for everybody. That will be an inspiring quote for me, that is an inspiring quote because you, as you said, any leader has to have a certain amount of steel in them. And that has to do with the resilience that resilience. And we talked about it a little bit earlier is very key component of grit. That is any person in, in their lives are going to get into some trouble.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (33:59):

That’s unfortunate. Some people are going to get into more trouble than other ones, but actually one thing that is also fair to say is that a higher your position is the more trouble you’re going to lose, because simply speaking with a higher position, you are going to face a lot bigger problems than if you have a low position. So if people say, and some people in this show may have really some significant headwinds, I would advise them, you know, perhaps read the chapter on Margaret Thatcher. And if you have a little bit of time, take a biography on factual, you know, that’s a lot longer, of course, in the book chapter. So, but the thing is that the steely determination of a woman, like she, I think that helps about anybody. I wish I had more of first deal. I also,

Jim Rembach (34:54):

I think that, you know, w part of that additional, other side of that quote, and once she gets past that, you know, is to say, okay, I accept that I am this way. And I’m good with that.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (35:05):

I believe Jim, you are. Absolutely. I love that because she has been as, as do eludes people, you know, the poached, her for being the idle lady. And she kind of said, essentially, well, I accept that. Not everybody is going to like that. Well, do you know the thing is Jim, I can tell you one thing, a lead of that is liked by everybody. I, this is dangerous to say, but I would argue is a good chance of not being a good leader.

Jim Rembach (35:40):

Well, yeah, I, I agree with that. However, though, you get pushed and swayed and talking about the grit, that’s where the grit comes in yet. You know what I, you know, I, not everybody is going to be, you know, wanting to, to be part of, you know, the culture that I’m trying to create here and, and you know what that’s okay.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (35:59):

But the thing, the gym that is just like, not everybody is going to like your show. And at that day, I mean, it’s guided of course, but not everybody’s going to like that is okay. It is far better to have possibly a slightly smaller group of people that love you than a big group that is lukewarm about you because lukewarm followers in your organization, the moment that has any problem, they run for the exits. But people that love you. So people that you have, you’ve really touched, they stick with you when to go and get stuff,

Jim Rembach (36:35):

Talking about a goal, your goal should never be apathy.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (36:38):

Nope, no, no, no. Well, apathy and leadership is about, or at least impactful leadership. That’s about to polar opposites.

Jim Rembach (36:47):

Yeah. Got that. Right. Okay. So however, you know, we have a lot of learnings and things that, you know, we, we, you know, cutoff cause us to course correct. And we talk about life lessons and getting over the hump on the show. Is there a time where you’ve gotten over the hump that you can share?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (37:03):

Um, yes. And let me give you an example that this, um, so in academia, so the, the, the, how, how success, how you are evaluated is based on the number of academic publications. Those are tend to be written for other academics, not very impactful practice because they are full of mathematical formulas and all that kind of stuff. So about 10, 15 years ago, I, I hit him because I had written so many of these publications that, okay, I can ride to another one, but how is that really going to move the needle? How I’m going to have any additional impact by writing another publication. Now, all the performance criteria said, you should not change course because the university summer support promotions, everything else, a seller’s promotion could make the salary increase, et cetera. It’s based on these numbers of academic publications, but I found actually I became really kind of dispirited de-motivated and then I reinvented myself. And so I started to write business books, which by the way, so business books are books that are written for managers. So not for academics for managers in those books, you cannot hide behind mathematical formulas because people say, you’re okay, the formula is great, but what am I to do differently based

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (38:36):

On this? You know, actually I learned that the hard way when it was on time to gamble, and I presented some statistical formulas that people said, this is really good stuff, but tell me, what does it mean for me selling me more tight? I said, well, it’s kind of difficult to, you know, I kind of, I got some of these things earlier. So then I decided to change that activity. I wrote a bunch of cages for business cases that are being used to teaching a number of them, inspired leadership. I wrote four books written for managers. And so I changed actually trajectory, um, from being a traditional academic, to becoming a thought leader. And, and these books had been actually that was of course encouraging. There were fairly well received. The comprises, they have translated it shattered languages and, and those kinds of things. But the thing is, I reinvented myself from a marketing, traditional marketing, academic to management, to a business soft leader.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (39:44):

Now you could say, well, you know, isn’t that normal? No, because actually, first of all, the university that doesn’t, doesn’t like it. So it is actually do go against the performance criteria. You have your own organizational plays, you can do B. And the second thing is it’s actually really risky to do something different. Is it going to be successful? Do people good people like it? And most academics don’t they keep on doing the same thing and I’m not kidding resizing them. But if there is a reason why most academics at the certain age don’t do fairly much anymore because I’m not no longer motivated. So to me, there was a hemp. I ran into something that others ran into and I decided to reinvent myself. Wow.

Jim Rembach (40:27):

And I’m glad you did, because I’ve really enjoyed your book. And also to, I start thinking about, and you even mentioned it yourself, I start thinking about goals, you know? Right. And you talk about very goal oriented. And I think it’s important for us to learn from others in regards to their goals and what they think about them. So it’s are one of those goals that you can share with us?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (40:47):

Um, yes, I, if, if I’m, um, if I’m on the side bus, uh, when I was 23, I decided that I wanted to be at the top of whatever profession I will choose. And in those that was either at the, on those days, the CEO of a lunch Dutch company, I was in the Netherlands in those days, you know, you wouldn’t hire foreigners, or I would be in the top of, because I was interested, always your marketing, at least academically speaking in the top of the marketing profession. And, okay, so if I’m 23, um, I worked on being a top of the marketing perfection, but then I had the speed hump because I was at top of the marketing. And

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (41:34):

I kind of thought, actually, this school is not sufficiently ambitious. I want to be a thought leader. And yet being a marketing scholar, it can be an element of that. Yes, you don’t want to be only selling hot air, not at all then to assault leader. And then the next step, that was more recently that they said, actually, I want to move out of marketing. I really want to move into a leadership, which has marketing elements in it. So it just, by reinventing myself, I’ve been able to keep myself energized

Jim Rembach (42:12):

Fast leader, Legion wishes you the very best. Now, before we move on, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor. And even better place to work is an easy to use solution that gives you a continuous diagnostic on employee engagement, along with integrated activities. They want improve employee engagement and leadership skills in everyone using this award winning solutions, guaranteed to create motivated, productive, and loyal employees who have great work relationships with our colleagues and your customers to learn more about an even better place to work visit [inaudible] dot com forward slash better. Alright, here we go. Fastly Allegion. It’s time for the home. Okay. JB, Dante, hold on. As a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward, faster JB Steenkamp. Are you ready to hone down? I try it. All right. So what is holding you back from being an even better leader today? A lack of time,

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (43:07):

I would like to give people more personalized attention, and I seem to have so many balls in the air.

Jim Rembach (43:12):

What is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (43:16):

What my mother taught me stay true to yourself.

Jim Rembach (43:20):

And what do you believe is one of your secrets that helps you lead in business or life?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (43:26):

Um, extreme gold director.

Jim Rembach (43:29):

And what is one of the best tools that you use that helps you be more effective?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (43:35):

My ability to conceptualize, to see relationships between disparate events in meetings that other people do not see. And that is because of my study of history.

Jim Rembach (43:46):

What would be one book that you’d recommend to our Legion? It could be from Annie.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (43:51):

We’re going to put a link to lead on your show notes page as well. I, unfortunately, I, it sounds self serving, but I do think honestly the time to lead would be at this point, that would be the, kind of the suggestion that I would give.

Jim Rembach (44:07):

I’ll let you get off that easy. You got to give me one other record.

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (44:11):

Okay. Okay. That’s okay. That’s absolutely fine. And then what I would see, let be kind to think about it. And I would suggest president Mondelez book long walk to freedom, essentially as

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (44:32):

An autobiography about the struggles that he went himself through to get to the place where he could lead the nation to his freedom.

Jim Rembach (44:39):

Okay. Fascinator Legion. You can find links to that. And other bonus information from today’s show, by going to a fastleader.net/jb-Steenkamp. Okay. J B this is my last Humpty. Hold on question. Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you, but you can’t take it all. You can only take one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (44:58):

You take back with you and why? I would take a piece of knowledge and that is that success does not equate happiness. When I was 25, I saw that being successful would automatically mean that I would be happy. I have learned the hard way that that is not the case. I still, I still value success. That’s not the point, but I do not believe that I will be happy because I have success.

Jim Rembach (45:25):

  1. I had fun with you today. Can you please share with the fast leader Legion? How then?

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (45:29):

Yes. Um, so please reach out to me on, uh, LinkedIn and, um, I would be extremely happy to connect with you and keep you, uh, you’re informed about the things I’ve ugly, proposed their articles and, uh, and other things. So send me an invite and for connect and I will accept you

Jim Rembach (45:51):

J B Steenkamp. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. The fast leader, Legion honors you, and thanks to you for helping us get over the hump.