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Leadership Redefined: Crack the Code and Empower Your Influence and Skills

Leadership is always a challenge, but today workforces are younger, more global, and increasingly remote, which begs the question:

How do we define (and redefine) "effective" leadership for today's corporate world?" And secondly, how do you become an effective leader in this environment?

These questions are more important than ever and as you delve into this blog, we will show you how to "Crack the Code" and improve your skills with Building Your Legend’s (BYL) innovative principles, transformative philosophies, and foundational fundamentals.

The "Elephant in the Room" is clear...the corporate world today is undergoing a seismic shift, influenced by a workforce that is the "new normal":

  • highly educated 
  • highly diverse 
  • highly mobile, and...
  • motivated by a faster and advanced technological career structure 

At BYL, we understand that redefining leadership transcends traditional paradigms. Modern leadership demands agility, empathy, strategic acumen, and an authentic connection with diverse teams. 

Let's explore these qualities together, blending lessons from the military battlefield to the corporate boardroom, from the industrial plant floor to far reaches of the globe. You will gain perspective to address the intricacies of leading in today's multifaceted business world.

And most importantly, giving you the tools to strengthen your leadership portfolio and improve your team's performance.

What this blog will help you discover is a transformative experience that will fundamentally change your approach to leadership. With a unique mixture of BYL principles and real-world experience, this blog post is poised to offer unparalleled guidance.

To be clear, you're not just going to read about leadership theories; you're going to uncover practical, actionable strategies that have been tested and proven in the most challenging environments. 

These strategies are designed to not only enhance your leadership skills but also to rally your team behind you, creating a unified, motivated force ready to achieve exceptional results.

The goal is simple: to revolutionize the way you lead.

Welcome to a journey of leadership transformation.

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves."
Ray Kroc

The Traditional Leadership Paradigm: A Contrast to Today's Reality

The traditional paradigm/concept of leadership presents a stark contrast to what we encounter in today's corporate world.

Historically, leadership in corporate settings was modeled on a hierarchical, top-down approach. Decisions were made at the highest levels and trickled down through the ranks.

This system, reminiscent of the structured chain of command I experienced in the military, had its strengths in certain contexts. It provided clear structure and order, essential in high-stakes military operations where quick, centralized decision-making could be crucial.

However, the rigidity of this model often stifled creativity and minimized the contribution of lower-level service members.

In my time as a military officer, I observed that while a clear chain of command is vital, the most effective strategies often came from empowering individuals at all levels to contribute their insights.

This lesson is particularly relevant in today’s corporate environment, which starves for innovation and collective problem-solving.

BYL recognizes this shift and advocates for a more inclusive and dynamic approach to leadership.

In contrast to the traditional model, BYL Principles emphasize a leadership style that values collaboration, open communication, and empowerment across all levels of the organization.

This approach aligns with the changing demographics and expectations of a more diverse, globally oriented, and technologically savvy workforce.

Moreover, BYL Philosophies and Fundamentals resonate with some of the leadership qualities honed in the military – such as Adaptability, Resilience, and a Strategic Mindset.

However, in the corporate world, these need to be applied slightly differently.

  • Adaptability in business often means being open to new ideas and innovations,
  • Resilience involves navigating market uncertainties, and... 
  • Strategic Mindset encompasses not just achieving organizational goals but also fostering an inclusive and motivational work culture.

Today, leadership is less about commanding and more about inspiring and guiding. It’s about creating an environment where every member of the team feels valued and is encouraged to contribute their best.

The BYL approach to leadership is about adapting to this change and leading the charge in redefining what leadership means in a modern context – blending the best of military precision and corporate innovation.

Take ownership of your job, of your team, of your future, and take ownership of your life...
...and LEAD!

    - Jocko Willink

Risk-Aversion vs. Strategic Growth Mindset...and the AAR


In "corporate leadership", there needs to be a critical shift...a transition per se, from risk-aversion to a strategic growth mindset. 

Traditionally, corporate leaders often leaned towards a risk-averse approach, prioritizing stability and predictable outcomes.

This cautious approach, though sometimes effective in ensuring short-term gains, frequently led to missed opportunities and a reluctance to innovate. 

In my military experience, risk-aversion, while crucial in certain high-stakes scenarios, could also hinder proactive problem-solving and adaptability when overly rigid.

This is where the concept of the After-Action Review (AAR), prevalent in military operations, becomes highly relevant.

The AAR is a structured review process used to analyze what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better.

It is grounded in the idea that every operation or mission, whether successful or not, holds valuable lessons.

This process begins by examining what was planned versus what actually occurred. Then, it looks at understanding the reasons behind these outcomes, fostering a culture of open and honest feedback. 

Finally, it focuses on learning from these experiences, identifying both strengths to be leveraged and areas for improvement.

Applying the AAR framework in a corporate context, especially within a strategic growth mindset, encourages leaders to view risks and failures as opportunities for learning and development. 

Rather than shying away from challenges, leaders are encouraged to analyze outcomes critically and use these insights to foster continuous improvement and innovation.

This approach aligns perfectly with BYL’s philosophy, which values learning from every experience and using those insights to drive growth and success.

Incorporating the AAR process in business settings also transforms the way leaders approach risk. 

It encourages a mindset where calculated risks are seen as necessary, much like in military operations where risks are often strategically undertaken to achieve mission objectives.

Here is a diagram illustrating the AAR process (this diagram can be found in our Resource Hub for download):

According to a February 2006 Report by USAID "After-Action Review Technical Guidance", the following is a detailed explanation of each step in the AAR process:

AAR Process

What was Supposed to Happen? (what was planned)

  • Revisit the original objectives and plans.
  • Clearly state what the intended goals were, what strategies and tactics were planned to achieve these goals, and what the expected outcomes were.
  • This sets the foundation for the review by establishing a baseline against which actual performance can be compared.

What Did Happen?

  • Discuss the actual events that occurred during the execution of the plan.
  • Ensure a factual recounting of events, where the focus is on what really happened, not what should have happened or could have happened.
  • Be as objective as possible in this stage to gain a clear and accurate understanding of the execution.

Why Did it Happen?

  • Delve into the reasons behind the outcomes.
  • Explore why things happened the way they did, looking at both successes and failures.
  • Analyze the decisions made, actions taken, and factors (both internal and external) that influenced the outcomes.
  • Identify the root causes of both successes and challenges.

What Can We Learn?

  • Derive lessons from the experience.
  • Based on the analysis, identify what worked well and should be repeated in the future, as well as what didn’t work and needs improvement.
  • This is where learning is crystallized into actionable insights.
  • Develop recommendations for future actions, considering how similar tasks or projects can be executed more effectively.

This process is not about assigning blame but about understanding and improving.

It fosters team cohesion, effective communication, and a commitment to ongoing improvement – all of which are essential in both military and corporate environments.

Before diving into the After-Action Review (AAR) process, it's crucial to set the stage with a solid foundation. That's where the AAR Planning and Prep Model comes into play. 

This preparatory model is designed to ensure that teams are not only ready to engage in a productive AAR session but also equipped with the right mindset and resources to fully benefit from it. 

Additionally, and equally important, is what a leader does after the AAR. 

Below is a diagram to help you continue to see the benefit of the AAR after the review has completed (also available in BYL's Resource Hub).

This step is pivotal in ensuring that the lessons learned during the AAR are effectively implemented, leading to real and sustainable improvements.

Let's explore how this preparatory model, along with post-AAR actions, can enhance your AAR experience, setting the groundwork for meaningful learning and continuous improvement.

Shifting your Leadership Perspective with the AAR

By adopting this military-informed practice, corporate leaders can shift their perspective on risk. 

This shift is at the heart of BYL's approach to leadership – embracing a Strategic Growth Mindset that is open to change and challenges and actively learns from them to continually evolve and improve.

Contrastingly, a strategic growth mindset, a core component of BYL, advocates for a balanced approach to risk.

As stated earlier, in the military, calculated risks are often necessary to achieve mission objectives, requiring a keen understanding of the situation and potential outcomes.

Similarly, in the corporate world, embracing calculated risks is essential for innovation and growth. Leaders should view challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, and push boundaries, rather than as obstacles to be avoided.

BYL's 'Deeper Dive'

As we've explored the pivotal role of a strategic growth mindset in adapting to and leading through change,

it's crucial to also understand how this mindset is informed by a deep understanding of the market and competitive landscape.

 'Market Research Unveiled: The Proven Pathway to Success

will provide you with insights into leveraging market research for strategic advantage, perfectly complementing the principles of strategic growth and adaptability discussed here.

The global market is continually evolving, driven by technological advancements and changing consumer behaviors. Leaders who adopt a BYL strategic growth mindset are better equipped to navigate this, as they are open to new ideas, willing to experiment, and able to adapt to changing circumstances.

Moreover, BYL emphasizes the importance of learning from both successes and failures.

In the military, after-action reviews are a vital process for understanding both the successes and shortcomings of a mission.

This process of reflection and learning is equally valuable in business, where a strategic growth mindset includes being open to feedback and learning from every outcome, whether it’s a triumph or a setback.

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them."
John Maxwell

Employee Advocacy and Purposeful Action

In an ideal alignment with Building Your Legend (BYL) Principles, today's corporate world urgently needs to shift its leadership focus towards a greater emphasis on employee advocacy and purposeful action. 

This critical shift necessitates moving beyond the antiquated view of employees as mere resources. Instead, it calls for recognizing them as indispensable contributors whose well-being is paramount to the health and success of the organization. 

It's imperative for leaders to actively champion their employees' interests, needs, and development.

Such a transformation is both beneficial and essential for cultivating a thriving, sustainable business environment that reflects the core values of BYL.

The Importance of Employee Advocacy:

Employee advocacy in leadership means standing up for your team, ensuring they have the resources, support, and environment they need to succeed.

In other words, creating a workplace where employees feel valued and heard. This approach builds trust and loyalty, which are crucial for long-term organizational success.

In my military experience, the well-being and morale of the team were always paramount, as they directly impacted our effectiveness and cohesion.

Transferring this mindset to the corporate world, leaders would see significant benefits in productivity, employee retention, and workplace satisfaction.

Purposeful Action in Leadership

Purposeful action involves aligning every decision and strategy with the broader goals of the organization and the personal and professional growth of its employees.

It's being intentional in leadership actions, ensuring that they contribute positively to the team's and company's objectives.

This approach aligns with BYL’s philosophy of strategic, goal-oriented leadership. Yes, achieve business outcomes but also foster a culture where employees can grow and thrive.

Building a Supportive Culture

Creating a supportive culture where employees feel empowered and appreciated is a key aspect of employee advocacy. 

This involves providing opportunities for professional development, recognizing and rewarding achievements, and fostering a work environment that supports work-life balance and mental well-being. 

Such a culture encourages employees to take initiative, innovate, and feel more connected to the company's mission and values.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence

A crucial component of employee advocacy and purposeful action is emotional intelligence in leadership.

Understanding and empathizing with employees' perspectives and emotions can significantly enhance leadership effectiveness.

It involves active listening, genuine concern for team members' well-being, and the ability to communicate effectively and compassionately.

BYL's 'Deeper Dive'

Having delved into how emotional intelligence underpins effective leadership, communication, and team dynamics, gaining a nuanced understanding of how external business communications impact internal decision-making can further enhance your leadership toolkit.

'Earnings Calls Demystified: From Basics to Boardroom Strategies

It dives into the nuances of interpreting earnings calls, enhancing your emotional intelligence skills by learning to understand the broader implications of financial communications.


Embracing BYL's vision of employee advocacy and Purposeful Action represents a forward-thinking leadership style that aligns with the evolving expectations of the modern workforce. 

It’s a style that drives organizational success and builds a positive, sustainable, and engaging workplace culture. 

"Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them."

     - Sir Richard Branson

Leading by Example and Authenticity


In corporate America (and probably globally to a certain extent), there's a pressing need for leaders to embrace the principles of leading by example and authenticity. 

This need arises from a growing disconnect between leadership rhetoric and action, which can undermine trust and morale within organizations.

The Power of Leading by Example

Leading by example is a cornerstone of effective leadership. It involves demonstrating the behaviors, work ethic, and values that leaders expect from their team. 

This approach is not only about instructing but also about showing.

In my military experience, the principle of "do as I do, not just as I say" was fundamental. It built trust and respect and created a sense of shared purpose. 

In corporate settings, when leaders embody the qualities they promote — be it hard work, integrity, innovation, or teamwork — it inspires employees to follow suit and elevates the entire organizational culture.

Authenticity in Leadership

Authenticity is about being genuine in your leadership role, staying true to your values, and being transparent with your team. 

It involves admitting mistakes, being open about challenges, and showing your human side. Authentic leaders are seen as more relatable and trustworthy, which can significantly enhance team cohesion and loyalty.

Unfortunately, in many corporate environments, there's a tendency to maintain a façade of infallibility or to adopt a persona that fits a certain leadership stereotype, which can create a barrier between leaders and their teams.

The Impact of Inauthentic Leadership

The consequences of inauthentic leadership in the corporate world are far-reaching and multifaceted.

This issue resonates deeply with the Building Your Legend (BYL) principles, which advocate for genuine leadership, akin to the integrity seen in military leadership, albeit applied differently in a corporate context.

A poignant example of the perils of inauthentic leadership is the recent saga of Boeing.

Boeing was once known for safety and engineering. But critics say an emphasis on profits changed that | CNN Business - CNN Report, Updated 1:53 PM EST, Thu February 1, 2024

Once celebrated for its unmatched safety standards and engineering prowess, Boeing faced a stark deviation from its core values, with tragic outcomes. Criticism arose not just from the technical flaws leading to two fatal crashes but from a perceived shift in the company’s culture.

Experts and critics pinpoint this leadership failure as a shift towards prioritizing profits over the engineering excellence and safety that once defined Boeing’s brand.

This resulted in a loss of trust, a stifling of innovation due to fear and skepticism among employees, and a significant blow to the company's reputation and financial stability.

Erosion of Trust

  • Trust, the cornerstone of effective leadership, is severely compromised by inauthenticity.
  • When there’s a discrepancy between what leaders say and do, such as advocating work-life balance yet mandating excessive overtime, it not only creates skepticism but also erodes the foundational trust essential in any leader-team relationship.
  • This mirrors the military value mentioned above of 'leading by example,' where actions and words must be in complete alignment.

Stifling Innovation and Initiative

  • Inauthentic leadership can suppress the willingness of employees to take risks or suggest new ideas, similar to how lack of trust might affect a military unit's efficiency.
  • In a corporate setting, this fear stems from a belief that the unstated rules of success might differ from those communicated, leading to stagnation in creativity and growth.

Culture of Superficial Compliance

  • A culture where employees merely comply without genuine commitment is often a byproduct of inauthentic leadership.
  • This superficial compliance is contrary to the BYL Fundamental of Emotional Intelligence and Leadership, which emphasizes passionate and dedicated team development, driven by authentic and committed leadership.

Increased Employee Turnover

  • Talented individuals who value transparency and integrity often exit environments with inauthentic leadership. 
  • This not only depletes an organization's talent pool but also tarnishes its industry reputation, affecting its ability to attract top talent.

Genuine leadership is becoming increasingly rare in corporate America, embracing the qualities of authenticity and leading by example is crucial. 

Leaders who align their actions with their words, drawing on the integrity not only set a powerful example but also lay the foundation for a robust, trust-based organizational culture.

"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

     - Sheryl Sandberg

Emotional Intelligence: The Heart of Modern Leadership

Despite its recognized importance, emotional intelligence (EI) is an aspect of leadership that is often overlooked in practice in today's corporate world. 

EI is crucial in leadership, involving the ability to understand and manage one's own emotions and empathize with others. In an ideal world, leaders would excel in these areas, but the reality often falls short.

Understanding the Components of Emotional Intelligence

EI comprises key elements like self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. 

However, there's a noticeable gap in many corporate environments where leaders may excel in technical skills but lack in these emotional aspects. 

This imbalance can lead to a disconnect between leaders and their teams, impacting overall workplace morale and productivity.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Leaders can begin to bridge this gap through self-reflection and feedback. 

Tools like 360-Degree Evaluations are invaluable but underutilized in many organizations. Regular mindfulness practices can also enhance self-awareness and regulation.

The BYL Philosophy of building empathy, a component often sidelined in fast-paced business settings, involves more than listening; it requires an authentic attempt to understand and consider others' perspectives in decision-making.

Applying Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

The application of EI in leadership roles is crucial yet frequently underestimated. 

It involves fostering a work environment where emotional well-being is prioritized, which is unfortunately not the norm in many companies.

Effective conflict resolution, empathetic change management, and providing meaningful feedback are areas where the application of EI could be significantly improved in the corporate sector.

Leaders with developed EI can navigate organizational changes more effectively and create a more inclusive, positive work culture.

However, the challenge lies in shifting the corporate mindset to value these emotional competencies as much as business acumen.

While emotional intelligence is undoubtedly the heart of modern leadership, its presence in actual corporate practice is not as prevalent as it should be.

Developing and applying EI can lead to stronger teams, better decision-making, and a more successful organization.

"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus." 

     - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unveiling the Top 10 Leadership Essentials: A BYL Guide

The majority of modern corporate leadership defines the trajectory of businesses and the morale of teams, making mastering the art of effective leadership more vital than ever.

To encapsulate these transformative insights, BYL presents the "Top 10 Leadership Essentials: A BYL Guide."

This list is not just a set of guidelines; it's a roadmap to elevating your leadership journey. 

Each point encapsulates a fundamental aspect of what it means to lead in today's dynamic environment, blending time-tested wisdom with contemporary strategies. 

From fostering emotional intelligence to championing holistic success, these essentials are designed to help you unlock your full potential as a leader.

Each principle is a piece of a larger puzzle. When combined, they create a leadership style that is effective and also inspiring and sustainable.

Embrace these tenets, and embark on a journey to not just lead, but to build a legacy that resonates with authenticity, innovation, and excellence.

Explore BYL's Top 10 Leadership Essentials (available for download by clicking on the image below or in our Resource Hub) and transform the way you lead!

These Top 10 Leadership Essentials encapsulate the essence of BYL's Principles, Philosophies, and Fundamentals, providing a comprehensive guide for effective and transformative leadership.

BYL's 'Deeper Dive'

As we wrap up our exploration of applying leadership theories into actionable strategies, it's equally important to master the art of problem-solving in real-time leadership scenarios.

'Problem-Solving: Innovative Strategies for Aspiring Executives'

This article is a treasure trove of problem-solving techniques and leadership strategies that prepare you to tackle challenges head-on, complementing the actionable insights we've discussed.

Empowering Your Team: 5 Bonus Tips for Dynamic Leadership

While individual leadership skills are essential, the true mark of exceptional leadership is reflected in the strength and performance of your team. 

To complement our "Top 10 Leadership Essentials," we've compiled "5 Bonus Tips for Dynamic Leadership," specifically designed to enhance the effectiveness and cohesion of the team you lead.

These bonus tips dive into practical strategies that go beyond the individual leader, focusing on nurturing a thriving, collaborative, and motivated team environment. Each tip is designed to reinforce the foundations of a high-performing team.

As you implement these tips, observe how they transform the dynamics within your team, creating a more engaged, productive, and harmonious work environment. 

Remember, the success of a leader is intricately tied to the success of their team. 

5 Bonus Tips for Dynamic Leadership


Foster Open Communication

  • Encourage a culture where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and feedback (regular team meetings and open-door policies can facilitate this)
  • Implement regular team meetings for open discussion
  • Establish a clear and open communication channel

Recognize and Celebrate Team Achievements

  • Acknowledge both individual and team successes. Celebrating achievements boosts morale and motivates continued excellence.
  • Regularly recognize individual and team accomplishments
  • Create opportunities to celebrate successes, big or small

Build a Collaborative Environment

  • Encourage collaboration among team members. (this can involve team-building activities or collaborative projects that require joint effort and input)
  • Promote teamwork through collaborative projects
  • Organize team-building activities to strengthen relationships

Empower Team Members

  • Delegate responsibilities and empower team members with the autonomy to make decisions related to their work (this instills confidence and a sense of ownership)
  • Delegate tasks and decision-making appropriately
  • Provide opportunities for team members to lead initiatives

Support Professional Growth

  • Invest in the development of your team members which could be through training, workshops, or mentoring (supporting their growth shows that you value their contributions and are invested in their future)
  • Identify and provide relevant training and development opportunities
  • Offer mentorship and guidance for career advancement

These bonus tips are designed to strengthen team dynamics and enhance overall team performance, complementing the leadership principles outlined in the main checklist.

"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion." 

     - Alexander the Great

Conclusion: Charting a New Course in Leadership with BYL – A Call to Action

In corporate America today, there's a noticeable disconnect between the ideal leadership practices and what is commonly observed.

The transformative principles and strategies we've discussed, deeply rooted in BYL philosophy, are essential tools that are currently lacking but desperately needed in the corporate world.

This gap presents a unique opportunity for you, the reader, to lead the charge in redefining what effective, empathetic, and innovative leadership looks like.

The "Top 10 Leadership Essentials" and "5 Bonus Tips for Dynamic Leadership," drawn from real-world examples and aligned with BYL's tenets, provide a blueprint for success that transcends traditional metrics.

By adopting these principles, you can develop strategies that achieve business goals and also foster a positive, sustainable, and inclusive work environment.

Let's face it. this is not the norm in today’s corporate landscape, and therein lies your opportunity to stand out and lead differently.

This moment is a call to action for you. 

As we observe a leadership landscape often marred by short-term gains, lack of emotional intelligence, and a failure to genuinely advocate for team members, your commitment to these BYL principles can set you apart. 

You have the chance to be at the forefront of that change, to be a leader who inspires, transforms, and paves the way for a new era of corporate leadership.

Embrace these principles wholeheartedly.

  • Lead by example with authenticity 
  • Foster Emotional Intelligence 
  • Advocate for your Team 
  • Commit to Holistic Success

These actions will lift your leadership journey and create a ripple effect, influencing others and reshaping the corporate culture around you.

This is your chance to stand out, to be a leader who is successful, respected, and admired for your innovative and empathetic approach.

Now, take these principles...apply them...and watch as you transform challenges into opportunities... setting yourself and your organization ahead of the competition.

John Sundt - Contributing to Your Legend

Navigator of Success | Career Strategist | Business Mentor

 John is your trusted guide through the dynamic world of business. With over 30 distinguished years of combined experience, He has not only navigated the intricacies of the U.S. Army for over a decade but also risen through corporate ranks for 22 years.

As the authoritative voice behind 'Building Your Legend,' John shares the invaluable lessons learned from successes and the wisdom gained from overcoming challenges. He's not just a career strategist; he's your business mentor, providing a toolkit for success shaped by real-world experiences.

 Welcome to 'Building Your Legend'—where success is meticulously crafted, mistakes are turned into stepping-stones, and legends are born.

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