“Don’t Expect Your Friends and Family to Get it” 5 Leadership Lessons with Libby Gill

“Don’t expect your friends and family to get it. This is your obsession and it’s likely that no one will be as enthusiastic as you are. Realize that your ambition and drive may rock the boat and do it anyway.”
I had the pleasure to interview Libby Gill, former Hollywood studio communications exec who left the corporate world and became a leadership expert, executive coach, international speaker, and bestselling author. Her new book, “The Hope-Driven Leader: Harness The Power of Positivity at Work” comes out April 10 and is an action guide informed by the thousands of people she has coached in both the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds around the globe.

What is your “backstory”?

I grew up in a chaotic environment that included divorce, alcoholism, and mental illness all jumbled together in my immediate family. I went to eight different schools (including two as a high school senior) before putting myself through college waiting tables on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. After a myriad of jobs including as a talking Christmas tree, tap dancing bear, and hand model, I got my first “real” job at a production company founded by the legendary writer/producer Norman Lear. It was uphill from there and I went on to head the communications departments at Sony, Universal, and Turner Broadcasting. I left the corporate world in my 40s to become a first-time entrepreneur, founding Libby Gill & Company, an executive coaching and leadership consulting firm based in Los Angeles.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I was the keynote speaker at a Gulf Region leadership conference in Dubai where I participated in a panel discussion with heavyweight leaders from the oil and media industries as well as the government. I was the only woman on the panel and during the Q&A, every single question was directed to me. It was interesting to see the hunger for not only thoughts about leadership but for a woman leader’s thoughts about leadership. I am excited to see this shift happening in places one might not expect.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My method to help emerging and established leaders bring out the best in themselves and their teams is to focus on changing the culture of the workplace. My research is based on the scientific principles of hope theory, derived from the medical and positive psychology communities. It is a unique perspective to guide guidepeople to reframe the often relentless nature of change as an opportunity for growth.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Articulate a crystal-clear vision of the future that is so visceral and so exciting that employees can’t wait to jump on board. Whether you’re a data-driven strategist or an inspiring connector, find your unique leadership superpower — yes, we all have one — and develop it. By understanding not only what your company wants from you, but what your followers want, you’ll inspire rather than demand followership. According to research by Gallup, followers most want stability, trust, compassion, and hope. So, feed hope into your organization — in whatever way suits your style and culture — and watch your team flourish.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My coaching clients and the audiences I speak to have taught me more than any one person. I take their insights and feedback, including criticism, about my work very much to heart and that has helped me get where I am today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have been fortunate to be able to share stories about mental illness, which has affected my family so dramatically over the years. I’m honored to help bring that conversation out of the shadows and into the light. In my latest book, I suggest some ways that we, as individuals, can begin to address the complex issues of the mentally ill. And I’m just beginning!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

· Ask and answer these three questions before you get carried away with creating your logo and website: 1) What are my strengths and skills? 2) What are my passions? 3) What does the marketplace want from me? If you can answer and act on those, you might just have a business.

· There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Have money in the bank, great advisors, and an idea that you’re so passionate about, you’re willing to crash and burn rather than abandon it before you really play it out.

· Steal from the best. That is, find a role model or several who do what you want to do and see what works — and what doesn’t work — for them. It’s a lot easier than starting from scratch.

· Don’t expect your friends and family to get it. This is your obsession and it’s likely that no one will be as enthusiastic as you are. Realize that your ambition and drive may rock the boat and do it anyway.

· Invest in yourself and your business. What works for you today may not necessarily work for you tomorrow, so keep learning, growing, and hiring people smarter than you to help.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“Feed hope and people will follow you anywhere.” — Libby Gill

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this

I’d love to hang out with Jennifer Lawrence because she’s fun and fearless. And Bill and Melinda Gates because they have the smarts and drive to put their money where it really matters.

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