Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

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!

Jan 25, 2017

Co-hosts Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos interview Mary Kelly, CEO at Productive Leaders.  They speak with Mary about the challenges of leadership in industry, and what happens when a leader tries too hard to be liked. They also discuss how employees perceive leaders differently than leaders perceive themselves. They discuss accountability, fairness, consistency, and mentoring. They end with a discussion on motivation, happiness, and contributors to depression.

Listen in to learn more about steps leaders can take today to build trust and accountability in their organization.


Key Takeaways

[3:23] Productive leadership is hard, with competing demands from above and below. In the military, everyone wants to lead; to be productive. In many cases in business, we take the enjoyment out of being a leader. We’ve made it difficult to be a leader. If leaders make mistakes, they get fired. Some ineffective leaders put themselves first, and lack compassion.

[6:34] Simon Sinek did a video on Millennials, whose parents wanted to be liked instead of being respected. Jim says, being respected is hugely important. If you care about people, they will like and respect you. Mary says, they like you, until you make a decision that is not in their best self-interests, and then they don’t like you — but, if you made a fair decision, they will still respect you.

[8:38] For Peter Stark and Mary Kelly’s recent book, Why Leaders Fail, they studied over 100K employee surveys from over 10 years, used that data, and crafted a survey for the employee’s bosses. They received 1,000 survey responses. The responses exposed a large disconnect between the bosses’ thoughts and the employees’ perceptions of what was happening.

[9:28] The book observes seven common leadership failures: (1) lacking vision and clear goals, (2) sabotaging trust, (3) self-interest, (4) unfairness and inconsistency, (5) not understanding how to build a team, (6) wanting to be liked instead of respected, and (7) turning confidence into arrogance. This last failure stirs the most emotion.

[15:55] Hold people accountable for their actions, for what they do, as well as for what they don’t do. Encourage them to take initiative, even if it means risk. The right risks are acceptable. Make sure people are doing their job. Don’t just go to your go-to person and let others skate. Assign jobs consistent with people’s job responsibilities, and then hold them accountable.

[20:12] Jan talks about succession planning throughout the organization. People want to know what their path is, and that there is a concerted effort to develop their skills for their future aspirations. Mary sees some who come into an organization for a specific job, want to do it well, and not to be promoted. Leaders will recognize where individuals can do their best work.

[24:23] Big companies in many ways have outsourced the risk-taking to startups; and if they’re successful, then they absorb them, destroying the startup culture. Big companies just aren’t good at taking risks. Risk is the path to growth.

[26:36] Jan quotes Dan Pink and Frederick Herzberg about motivators. Mary says attracting top talent is critical for every organization. The happy medium between Herzberg and Pink is that people are individuals. Everyone needs different motivators. Most people leave jobs because of their boss or coworker. They knew what the job and salary were when they walked in the door.

[31:30] Mary believes in strength-based jobs. Don’t “work on” weaknesses. Develop existing strengths. Student report cards with five A’s, but consistent D’s in Economics, give awesome clarity. It means their strength is not in Economics, but in the A subjects. They should not try to be economists. Employees with a project that they love, and have passion for, lead themselves.

[40:16] Mary did a study on happiness vs. the need to feel valued. The age group with the highest suicide rate is people over 85, because they feel as though nobody cares, and they’re not valued. The next group is 45 to 65. They also feel they’re not valued. Being valued, needed, and feeling as though you are contributing, is the most important support we have for mental health.


Books Mentioned in This Episode

Why Leaders Fail: And the 7 Prescriptions for Success, by Peter B. Stark and Mary C. Kelly

Master Your World: 10 Dog-Inspired Leadership Lessons to Improve Productivity, Profits and Communication, by Mary C. Kelly

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink

The Motivation to Work, by Frederick Herzberg, Bernard Mausner, and
Barbara Bloch Snyderman



Raised in Texas, Mary Kelly is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and spent over 20 years on active duty in intelligence and logistics. She retired from the Navy as a commander, has a Master’s degrees in history and economics, and a PhD in economics.

With over 20 years combined experience at the Naval Academy, Hawaii Pacific University, and the Air Force Academy, she taught economics, finance, history and management. She has experience in business development, human resources, finance and organizational leadership. Mary has a track record of success as a leadership expert and executive coach.

Mary’s sister and brothers were also in the military. Mary is the author of 11 books. She was once the Chief of Police, she makes her own wine, and she’s never played a video game.


Through her work in college teaching and in the military, Mary discovered the need to make the principles of leadership and communication available to all types of businesses. Her book, Master Your World, became a bestseller and launched her career as an author and speaker.

After publishing additional books on leadership, productivity, communication, business growth, and organization, Mary desired to make leadership fun and fulfilling. Mary views conferences and events as a partnership, and she works to eliminate worry and uncertainty for her meeting professionals. Mary knows leaders today are developing talent, managing change, building teams, communicating across multiple platforms, and worried about profitability. Mary helps leaders and managers save time, reduce conflict, decrease absenteeism, resolve challenges, gain clarity, and make decisions that boost morale and productivity. “Great leadership can be learned.”



Website: for a free chapter (the Trust chapter) of

the book, and a free 36-question leadership assessment to use with your team.