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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

Feb 1, 2017

Co-hosts Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos interview Josh Spodek, an Adjunct Professor at NYU, leadership coach, workshop leader for Columbia Business School, columnist for Inc., founder of Spodek Academy, and author of Leadership Step by Step (launching February 2017). Josh talks about how academic teachings failed to prepare him for entrepreneurship, and how learning a theory is insufficient without practicing it.  They discuss the critical need for emotional intelligence, and psychological safety, and how they can be developed, and the techniques Josh uses to strengthen them. 

Listen in to learn more about leadership practices, releasing passion, changing beliefs, and nurturing teams.


Key Takeaways

[2:59] Josh is concerned that academic education is emotionally and socially passive. At Ivy League schools, Josh learned was intellectually challenged, but he was not taught socially and emotionally. Josh had trouble working with others when he founded his first company. His leadership was ineffective during the recession, and investors forced him out as CEO.

[10:34] Reading books, and learning theory, but not learning how to practice the theory, you might as well read about weights, but not actually lifting weights. Josh wanted a place to teach leadership. For Spodek Academy, Josh researched fields that show leadership, to learn from their techniques. He created exercises, tested and refined them, to teach sensitivity to others’ emotions.

[18:32] Joshua cites exercises by Marshall Goldsmith, such as “FeedForward,” and “No, But, However,” that taught him so much about listening and empathy. Small changes in behavior change your worldview. Josh organized Goldsmith’s exercises, and others, into a progression of learning, with each exercise being more challenging, and all tied together.

[19:58] One exercise is to write down your inner monolog, the voice inside your head — not what you’re thinking about, but the actual words. A later exercise is to speak your inner monolog. That’s scary, because people hear it. It turns out to be authentic, and people respond genuinely. Further exercises are to write your mental model (what creates the inner monolog), and models of others.

[25:12] We’ve all been hurt. When part of your identity is mocked, you can’t get rid of it, but you can hide it. We don’t get hurt by casual acquaintances, but by people close to us. We learn to close off our vulnerabilities. Leaders who learn to get people to get past vulnerability to share their passion can get them to engage in their work, for purposes about which they are passionate.

[26:50] Jim talks about psychological safety, determined by Google’s Project Aristotle to be the number one key performance driver of high performing teams. With psychological safety, it is easier to have discussions in touch with your inner monolog. Josh says Laszlo Bock’s research at Google revealed the need for our educational system to educate to emotional intelligence.

[29:47] Josh teaches adopting a challenging belief, in Unit 2 of Leadership Step by Step. Unit 1 is Understand Yourself. Unit 2 is Lead Yourself. A leader needs to know that beliefs affect how people view the world. Two people, looking at one thing, see two things. To change motivation, change belief. Joshua describes changing the “dandelion belief,” to the “burning building belief.”

[33:36] If you can look at a difficult problem from a different perspective, and solve it that way, you have an additional way to solve problems, or more intelligence. Helping someone change a belief is simpler than convincing them of something. The progression in the book is, understand your belief, adopt a challenging belief, understand other’s belief, and help them adopt a belief.
[37:48] Visiting North Korea taught Josh about himself. Seeing pictures of Kim Jong Il everywhere, and tuning them out, made him wonder what he tunes out here in the U.S. It hit him, that advertising and brands are what he tunes out. We incorporate into our reality things that are actually aspects of our external culture. Sometimes it takes an outsider perspective to see it.

[40:48] Josh teaches entrepreneurs, when they find an industry where everybody has the same fixed beliefs, it is a huge opportunity, especially when the beliefs do not match the interests of the market. The more fixed the belief, the more the opportunity. Google is an example. Before Google were simple site aggregators, like Alta Vista. Google tried to sell “search” for $1 million. No takers!


Books Mentioned in This Episode

Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow, by Joshua Spodek (Available February 16, 2017)

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

Marshall Goldsmith author page on Amazon

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, by Peter M. Senge

NYT Magazine, "What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team,"
article by Charles Duhigg

Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead,
by Laszlo Bock



Joshua Spodek is an Adjunct Professor at NYU, leadership coach and workshop leader for Columbia Business School, columnist for Inc., founder of Spodek Academy, and author of Leadership Step by Step (launching February 2017).

He has led seminars in leadership, entrepreneurship, creativity, and sales at Harvard, Princeton, MIT, INSEAD (Singapore), the New York Academy of Science, and in private corporations. He holds five Ivy League degrees, including a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA, and studied under a Nobel Prize winner.  He helped build an X-ray observational satellite for the European Space Agency and NASA, co-founded and led as CEO or COO several ventures, and holds six patents.

He earned praise as “Best and Brightest” (Esquire Magazine’s Genius Issue), “Astrophysicist turned new media whiz” (NBC), and “Rocket Scientist” (ABC News and Forbes) and has been quoted and profiled by ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, Fox, NY1, CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Newsweek, Forbes, Esquire, The Guardian, Nikkei Shimbun, Taipei Times, Salon, and more.

He’s an award-winning artist, marathoner, world-class Ultimate Frisbee competitor, fitness fanatic, and world traveler.  He lives in Greenwich Village and blogs daily.



Twitter: @Spodek


Facebook: Spodek Academy

LinkedIn: Joshua Spodek