Jun 14, 2017
Summary & Ideas for Action
Gus Lee, bestselling author, and expert on leadership and
courage, presents a mini course for developing leadership. He says
it starts with moral character and courage, and builds up through
practices of respect and and integrity. Gus talks about the many
challenges of his youth, and the rescuers and mentors he found
along the way who taught him the principles of true character. Gus
looks to the words of Aristotle, Confucius, and modern teachers,
for the principles that lead to moral character, courage, and
authentic leadership, starting with positive respect. Listen in to
learn more about how leaders can strengthen themselves and their
[2:08] Gus got involved with leadership in an effort to learn
American culture, as he had come from a broken immigrant family. He
was essentially raised from the age of seven by the boxing faculty
of the downtown YMCA. They took him in, and kept him in the ring
for 10 years. Then, Gus attended West Point, a premier leadership
[3:17] At West Point, he was mentored by H. Norman Schwarzkopf,
a young engineering professor, who modeled leadership development
for Gus throughout a 47-year relationship. Later, Gus taught
Leadership at USC, along with Warren Bennis, who invented modern
leadership theory. However, Gus was in denial that he lacked the
character to be a good leader. He says he didn’t have the moral
[4:59] Gus went on to become West Point’s first Chair of
Character Development. Gus says his first influence was Aristotle.
Aristotle said it’s simple to understand and grasp both character
and leadership. First, get rid of your bad habits. Second, practice
the behaviors of courage. It’s not a feeling; it’s a discipline of
[7:55] Gus says that by developing habits, you change your inner
disposition — your inner deep attitudes — and then you achieve
character. He learned from Aristotle: stoicism, or
grit, as traits an individual needs to survive, and
moral courage and character, which are only for
the benefit of serving others.
[12:14] Gus’s upbringing was tough. Gus grew into an isolated,
intellectual introvert, fearful and distrustful, and prepared to be
a hermit. What he learned through his education was that character
allows us to assess our disadvantages from the past, and to face
them with a great deal of nobility, without blaming the adults.
[15:10] Gus talks about the integrity related to moral courage.
With the behaviors of moral character, we can have a splendid life,
regardless of the tragedies of the past. For most of Gus’s career
of teaching, he relied on the psychology model of leadership. He
has moved to a platform of the character of leadership.
[18:47] Gus credits a host of people for turning him around. It
started with his first friend on the street, at age six. This
friend, also six, taught him the six behaviors of character as he
had learned them from his mother. At seven he went to the YMCA and
found three boxing coaches, from the Bronx, Manila, and Oakland.
They mentored him in boxing and life, and served as his Dads, for
[21:27] Gus says it is hard to develop character. He describes
how he learned the behaviors of boxing, and compares boxing to
character and leadership. We have to witness the behaviors and the
modeling of character in our homes and by our teachers. Character,
leadership, and boxing are not academic subjects. They are taught
by observing and doing.
[24:45] Gus warns that leaders cannot expect behaviors out of
those they lead that they do not model for them. As a leader, it’s
not about your needs and your ego, but it is about your character.
Gus offers clear steps: take responsibility to change yourself,
stop your bad behaviors, develop other leaders intentionally, and
be accountable always. Adopt the six behaviors Aristotle
[29:59] Gus explains the first product of moral courage is a set
of behavioral tools to not be controlled by fear and emotional
reactivity. The second is that you learn to be humble — “I need to
improve in order to be of value to others.” The third is
self-sacrificing, selfless leadership. Gus points out that many in
our culture have poor values that cannot lead to happiness. He is
grateful to his mentors, especially his wife.
[34:17] Gus comments on what is the biggest, most common
leadership stumbling block — it is the first required behavior of
high character and moral courage, to unconditionally, positively,
non-negotiably, honor all persons; to respect those we dislike, to
listen truly, and be attentive to, and even love, the person who
drives you nuts, and is most dangerous to your organization.
[35:47] Gus says the all-purpose tool to improve all
relationships is to have the moral courage to respect, care about,
and listen to the other person, even as that person is attacking
you. That’s the Achilles’ heel in how we to teach leadership. We
don’t teach to UPR — unconditionally, positively, respect all
persons, under all circumstances. It doesn’t mean endorsing; it
doesn’t mean approving of bad behavior.
LinkedIn: Gus Lee, Owner,
Leaders of Character LLC