Leading From the Jumpseat: How to Create Extraordinary Opportunities by Handing Over Control – Interview with Peter Docker

When something really matters to us, it releases an energy that has us run towards any challenge. And yet, in business and in life, regardless of how committed we are to a cause, handing over the reins to others is inevitable. Everyone will eventually leave their team, retire from being the CEO, or see their kids leave home and lead their own lives. Leading from the Jumpseat enables us to embrace this inevitability and is a metaphor for how we can choose to lead. It’s about the journey we take so we can hand over control to others, who are then equipped to continue forward.

Jumpseat Leadership is a way of interacting with people that will enhance performance in any given situation – during normal business, times of crisis, and life in general.

Peter Docker

Peter Docker

Peter Docker is passionate about enabling people to unlock their natural talents. He teaches leadership that is focused on commitment and human connection. This approach harnesses the collective wisdom of teams to generate extraordinary outcomes. He illustrates his insights by drawing on examples from his previous industry, flying, and military careers to explain powerful concepts that can be applied in any business.

Peter worked with Simon Sinek for over 7 years and was one of the founding ‘Igniters’ on Simon’s team. He took his years of practical experience to co-author Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team, with Simon and David Mead. Published in September 2017, it has been translated into more than 25 languages and has sold over 420,000 copies. Leading from the Jumpseat

In December 2019, Peter stepped away from Simon’s team to focus on sharing his wider insights into how organisations thrive. His new book, Leading From The Jumpseat: How to Create Extraordinary Opportunities by Handing Over Control, will be published in October 2021.

A trained leadership consultant and executive coach, Peter’s commercial and industry experience has been at the most senior levels in sectors including oil & gas, construction, mining, pharmaceuticals, banking, television, film, media, print, hospitality, manufacturing and services – across 92 countries. His clients include Google, Four Seasons Hotels, Accenture, American Express, ASOS, EY, NBC Universal and over 100 more.

Peter served for 25 years as a Royal Air Force senior officer, has been a Force Commander during combat flying operations and has seen service across the globe. His career has spanned from professional pilot, to leading an aviation training and standards organisation, teaching postgraduates at the UK’s Defence College, to flying the British prime minister around the world. Peter has also led multibillion-dollar international procurement projects and served as a crisis manager and former international negotiator for the UK government. He has been married to his wife Claire for 33 years and has two grown-up children from whom he learns a great deal!

More about Peter Docker and his work at https://www.whynotunlimited.com


Read the Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, everyone. This is Hugh Ballou back for another episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. We have almost 300 episodes with amazing people telling amazing stuff. They think it’s just matter of fact because it’s what they do. It’s stuff we need to know. It’s the business of leading and operating a nonprofit organization. It is in fact a business that has a lot more rules than a for-profit business. It is a for-purpose enterprise.

I am sitting in Virginia today, and I have a new friend Peter Docker who is near Oxford, England. Peter, welcome. Tell people a little bit about who Peter Docker is and what your passion is.

Peter Docker: Thanks, Hugh, for having me on your podcast. It’s fabulous to be here and join across the ocean. I’m Peter. I started life in the Royal Air Force. I was an Air Force officer, a pilot for 25 years. I also did many other things as well. I was a negotiator for the British government when the Berlin Wall came down. I negotiated with Russia. I negotiated with your State Department on projects and export licensing. I have run multi-billion-dollar programs. I taught at the Defense Academy here in the UK. I’ve worked in consulting around the world. For the past seven or eight years, I have been sharing various messages on leadership around the world. I think I’ve visited 93 countries and worked with three digits of companies around the world.

Some people might recognize my name because I was co-author with Simon Sinek and David Mead on the book Find Your Why, which has sold about half a million copies. I stepped away from Simon about two years ago to focus on what’s next. Most recently, I put together all of my ideas and what I learned over the past 30+ years into a new book called Leading from the Jumpseat.

My passion at the moment is sharing those ideas with as many people as I can because the feedback I’ve got is it helps us lead regardless of whether we’re leading a nonprofit, a big industry around the world, or- Actually, one of the biggest leadership challenges I’ve found is bringing up kids as a parent. It applies to all of that. It’s a how-to book. That’s my passion: sharing what I’ve learned, mistakes and all, and helping other people to learn from it.

Hugh: I reclassify mistakes as learning opportunities. Sometimes people introduce me as an expert. I used to go, “Nah, I’m a student of leadership.” One day, I went, “Ballou, you’re 75. You’re old enough to have made those mistakes and learned from them. Go with it.” That’s where we get wisdom.

We do have a classroom watching us from the Dallas, Texas area. Bob Hopkins is influencing young leaders around the world. Our audience is all nonprofit leaders and clergy leading a tax-exempt initiative around a purpose with hopefully a clear mission (that may be one of the problems). Why is leadership important in this sector we are speaking to?

Peter: I think it’s important in any sector, but particularly in the nonprofit sector, where you have the opportunity to inspire people to contribute something way more than just money or profit. It is about helping other human beings.

For me, that is essentially what leadership is all about. Leading from the jumpseat is not about expanding or retaining your own power as a leader; it’s about creating the space and lifting others up so they can lead, so they can carry forward those things that you feel are really important to you. That’s an inevitability. Whether we’re running a nonprofit or even as a parent, at some stage, we step back. We retire as a CEO, we leave the team, or eventually our children grow up, leave home, and start to lead their own lives. My passion is all about intentionally leading in a way such that we prepare others so they can lead and carry forward the things we feel are really important to us when we step back.

Hugh: That is pretty profound. This jumpseat thing, leading from the jumpseat. I remember Winston Churchill said England and America are two countries separated by a common language. I see you smiling; you know where that was going. We have our own dialect in the South. We have our own pronunciation. My ears are tweaked. Regardless, the words mean a lot, and the words lead us to images. This jumpseat, what is the vision behind that, and why is it important?

Peter: It stems from my time as a pilot. I used to fly large passenger jets. I happened to be in the Royal Air Force, but same as the sort of jet that you might go on holiday or vacation on. Leading from the jumpseat comes from a story some years back now where I was just completing the training of a new captain.

This guy’s name is Callum. He had been the first officer or co-pilot for some years. He was graduating to become a captain. He had been through several months of training; we had prepared him for this. The final part of the transition is where I came in. As the very experienced guy, as his senior boss, I flew with him as he flew from London to Washington Dulles and on to San Francisco. San Fran is a very busy airport. We landed there, and Callum had done a great job. It was with huge pleasure that I was able to say to him, “Callum, fantastic job. I have signed you up. You are now fully certified as a captain. Tomorrow, when we fly back to Washington, I will be down in the back with the other 140 passengers. You will have a regular crew. Take us home.” That was a great moment if you might imagine.

The following morning, just before takeoff, Callum came to me and said, “Excuse me, sir.” He referred to me as “sir” because we were in the military, and that’s just how things are. He said, “It’s very busy out of rush hour in San Francisco here this morning. Can you come and sit on the jumpseat and act as an extra pair of eyes to watch out as we taxi out from this very congested airport to make sure we are going the right way?” I thought that was very courageous of him. He had just got me off his back after being checked for so long. He invited me onto the jumpseat. The jumpseat is a seat on the flight deck of most large aircraft that is usually empty, but a crew member like myself can jump there. You can reach and touch the captain and the first officer. You’re that close. That’s where I sat. Great view.

Callum taxied out to the runway. He had it covered. He was great. We got airborne. About 300 feet above the ground, we have an emergency. What I chose to do in the next two seconds would dictate whether I and everybody else on board survived or not. Here’s the thing, Hugh. I did absolutely nothing. I sat there with my hands in my lap quite calm and relaxed because I knew that Callum could handle this situation. In that moment, I didn’t need to show leadership in that way. I needed to become a great follower. I needed for Callum to feel that I had his back and to stay out of the way so he could do his job.

Big picture, I had no reason to intervene. I had qualified him, certified him to fly anywhere in the world with an aeroplane. Why would I intervene? We’d trained him. What I needed to do in that moment was to take a step back and let him get on and do his job.

That coined the phrase of “leading from the jumpseat.” It links back to what I said a moment ago. At some stage in life, we will take a step back from being the CEO or leading the team or being a parent. We take that step back. What we had done with Callum was trained him so he was able to take the lead in that critical moment. He had the appropriate confidence, the skillset. What I needed to do was take that step back. That is where leading from the jumpseat came from. Flying aeroplanes is a microcosm of leadership. It really is, because of what you face on occasion. Does that help clarify things for you, Hugh? Does that bridge the divide?

Hugh: It brings up a lot of ideas. By the way, the full title of the book is Leading from the Jumpseat: How to Create Extraordinary Opportunities by Handing Over Control. That’s a compelling story. I want to dig in more, but we will never get much accomplished if we stay on that. That is a real big issue, especially- I don’t think it’s any particular segment, business, nonprofit, government, education. Leaders tend to get their fingers in too many things. Murray Bowen, psychiatrist, has eight concepts of leadership. In his differentiation of self, it’s about us not micromanaging, not interfering with other people. It’s about us being clear. He calls it overfunctioning. That’s one of the biggest problems I see in leadership. Does that make sense?

Peter: I totally agree. I think it’s a systemic issue. We’re not to blame as such. It’s how we’re guided. When we go to school, when we go to college, university, we tend to specialize in things. We become good at those things. Then we are hired for a job because of a skillset we have honed. We’re hired on the basis of knowing the answer. Eventually, if we’re good, we get promoted. Suddenly, we find ourselves in this place of not being the one with the hands on the controls, the computer programmer or what have you. We are now taking care of the people who are doing that. That’s a big transition.

Here’s the thing: If we limit ourselves to being the one who always has to be the guy with the answer, as the team leader, then we become the constriction in the pipe. What I am talking about when I talk about leading from the jumpseat is not just about preparing other people for when you take a step back, retire, move on, etc. It’s actually a way of leading that accelerates your team because it’s about learning to be comfortable leading when you do not know the answer. And that is a big step up because most of us will-

Our experience and the pressures around us would suggest that we need to know the answer as the person in charge. Actually, when we become comfortable leading when we do not know the answer, and instead are focused on our mission, where are we going, what is the context of the work that we’re doing, rather than the detail, the content, what is the picture on the jigsaw puzzle box? When we focus on that, and become comfortable leading when we don’t know the answer, instead we create the space into which other people can step to help us figure it out. Then we are no longer the constriction in the pipe, and our team, our progress accelerates.

Hugh: The American writer 100 or so years ago Napoleon Hill interviewed the top most successful leaders in America and developed his theory of success. He published it in various formats. One of the common factors with those leaders is they had a clear vision, they had a positive attitude about doing it, but they also surrounded themselves with very capable people. Like Thomas Edison, he was the most prolific inventor we had in America. He knew he could invent the lightbulb. He said, “I found 9,999 things that didn’t work,” but he ultimately found it. But he did surround himself with other experts, and he was relentless. I would say surrounding yourself with capable people is a very strong leadership position. I think a lot of leaders think they have to have all the answers, and they don’t do that. What are some examples that people are in a misconception about and how they can get out of it?

Peter: Several examples come to mind. Let me give you an example that is accessible to everybody. It’s one of my favorite movies. The reason it’s such a favorite movie of mine is because it encapsulates a lot of what I talk and write about. That is the film Apollo 13, which came out in 1995.

Hugh, you and I will remember the Apollo program in NASA back in the ‘60s and ‘70s sending astronauts to the moon. Apollo 13 was launched in April 1970. At which stage, sending people to the moon had almost become commonplace, and public interest had waned. On April 13, 1970, that all changed when two thirds of the way to the moon, the spacecraft had an explosion. It blew out the side of the spacecraft, affecting their life support systems, propulsion, oxygen systems, electrical systems, and more. It was something that never should have happened, and it did.

The guy in charge at NASA at the time was a guy called Gene Kranz, and he was 32 years old. He was a Vietnam veteran, former Air Force pilot. He was faced with a completely unknown situation. He didn’t know the answer as to how to get those three astronauts back safely. On the face of it, they were lost because they were charging away from Earth, still heading toward the moon. They’d lost the vast majority of essential systems. He was faced with this seemingly impossible situation, and he alone did not have the answer. What he did was create what I call a warehouse of possibility. He framed what the mission was. The context changed from putting a couple of astronauts on the surface of the moon to we have to get them all back safely to Earth. That was the focus. He painted that picture very clearly.

What Gene Kranz did when he wanted to bring all those astronauts home safely was he created what I call a warehouse of possibility. It’s like a big empty warehouse with nothing in it. In the corner, there is an office with a guy in it. He is the guy who says, “It can’t be done.” While always irritating, he is very important because he will bring up all the reasons why it can’t be done. Then, the very experienced people on Gene Krantz’s team who are inspired by that possibility of bringing home the astronauts build their offices in this big empty warehouse. The first office would represent the solution for we figured out how to keep those astronauts alive. The second office would be the solution for we figured out how to turn that spacecraft around. The next office would be we figured out how to navigate them back to Earth, how to get them in orbit around the Earth. We figured out the reentry problem, the heat shield problem, the parachute problem. Eventually, there is no more room for the first guy who said it can’t be done. He is pushed out of that warehouse. It’s that moment that your possibility turns into reality.

Hugh: We’re recording this in the latter part of 2021. Peter, these are universal messages. I don’t care where you’re leading from. Author and speaker and priest Richard Rohr says, “How we do anything is how we do everything.” No matter where you are, even family, teachers, nonprofit leaders, it’s us showing up.

My perspective as a musical conductor is to have the road map. That’s the music. People don’t know where to go unless they have a place to plug in. That’s the overall strategy. I support transformational leadership as being about the vision and elevating people in the space to lead at a higher level. I find that there is a lot of early start-ups and young organizations where people have brilliant ideas. They want to help people and save the world, but they haven’t equipped themselves. You are going to fly a plane, and you have never taken lessons, so you will crash and hurt a lot of people. There is the fundamental digging in about learning. You’re right about the love and fear in leadership. For people finding their way as students of leadership, talk about that and the challenges and equipping ourselves.

Peter: I’m delighted you brought that up because I think it’s vital. Everything we do that is important to us in life is driven by one of two things. It’s either driven by fear or love. I’ll come back to love because when we mention that in a business context, sometimes people get a bit twitchy around that word.

Let’s look at fear first of all. Fear is good when it’s triggered. If we step out onto the road and there’s a car coming, fear is what has us jump back and save our lives. It can be useful, but fear also gets triggered on other occasions, too, where it’s less useful. It gets triggered when we sense that our livelihood, our status, or our reputation is under threat. When it’s one of those things that triggers fear, fear shows up as anger or a view of the world of scarcity. There can only be one winner, and it has to be me. Or it can show up as just thinking about myself. In fact, that’s the big one: ego, which is Greek for “I.” It is just about me. When that happens, particularly on a team, your future is not well laid out. It is not going to be generative or helpful.

The good news is we always have a choice. Always. That choice is to be driven by love. In the business context, what love can show up as is a worldview of opportunity and possibility rather than scarcity. We don’t describe the world we see; we see the world that we can describe. If we choose to see a world as a place of possibility and opportunity, that will be our experience of it. instead of focusing on ourselves, we are focusing on other people. How we can see them, how we can lift them up.

Importantly, instead of ego, we are being driven by something I refer to as humble confidence. Humble confidence is essential for leading when you don’t know the answer. It’s about the humility to listen to others, to get their input. Also, having the confidence in our own strengths and the resolute focus on where we’re going and being willing to take the decision when the decision needs to be taken.

When we are driven by love, we are guided by humble confidence instead of fear, which generally comes out as ego. The neat thing that joins these two together is courage. Courage cannot exist without fear, but courage can only be sustained through love. When we’re passionate about what it is we’re in search of, when we’re in service of other people, when we see the world as a place of opportunity, when we have the humble confidence to lead into the unknown, we are choosing love over fear. That is sustainable, and that is generative. That is how we move forward.

Hugh: You talk about drivers. When something is important enough, how do we tap into the power of drivers?

Peter: I thought a lot about this when I was writing. I wanted to differentiate drivers from values. Values sometimes aren’t as fixed as we might think they are. If you’ve ever had to get something in the mail before the post office shut, and there is only one space left in the parking lot when you arrive, and you see someone out of the corner of your eye who is also hunting for a parking space, but you grab the one that’s left. Now all of a sudden your value of thinking of others goes out the window because you’ve got to get your package into the mail. Values sometimes can be a little bit tricky, even more so at a company.

What I like to focus on first of all is the bedrock is what drives us. Drivers. An example of a driver is family. A couple years ago, I had a phone call from my wife, who had had a car accident just a couple of miles away from where I’m standing now. Nothing could have stopped me from going to her aid. I didn’t know what I was stepping into. I didn’t know what I would find. I didn’t know what challenges I would come across, but I was going. Nothing would have stopped me. It lights that fire inside of you to take on the unknown. I got to thinking, What if we could identify in ourselves other drivers which are deeply rooted to what we find really important to us? We can then harness our energy to overcome other challenges that we find. For me, drivers start to emerge when we look at the choices we make.

Almost 40 years ago, I went to university, and I chose to do a degree in computing and electronic engineering. I had no background in those subjects. But the reason I chose them was because my parents were both out of work, we didn’t have much money, and I thought, these were one of the best opportunities to go for to get a well-paid job afterwards. I didn’t want to be a financial burden on anybody. I wanted to support others.

Halfway through that university course, something else happened. The Falkland Islands were invaded; they are islands down in the South Atlantic. British territory. It was nothing to do with the politics for me. I became incensed that someone was opposing their will on others. What started to emerge was something deeply important to me: mutual respect, respect for one another. Mid-university course, I left university, and that’s what drove me to join the Royal Air Force. I felt I could be a part of that organization and help others in the future who couldn’t help themselves.

When we look at the choices that we make during our lives, they start to point to the things that are deeply important to us. Those things that will drive us. Even when we are stepping into the unknown, even when we don’t have the answers, these are our non-negotiables. They form part of our character. That’s what drivers mean to me. When we gather those drivers together, perhaps alternative values. The drivers are our bedrock.

Hugh: As you’re speaking of this, there is a big piece of leadership that is awareness. Unfortunately, it’s lacking in many places. Being aware of the world around you and what’s going on. There is a book called The Nature of Leadership. It’s paying attention to how things happen over and over again. You’re enforcing that piece of leadership. Keep your eyes open, and pay attention. There are times in my life looking back where I wish I had paid attention a little closer. Those were the learning opportunities I told you about

You mentioned ego. What do you mean when you refer to the antidote to ego? How does that relate to empowering the collective genius?

Peter: Ego is all about a focus on ourselves. Often, that comes from a place of fear, our status, our reputation, our livelihood being threatened. We focus on ourselves. When I talk about the antidote to ego, it’s when we flip from the focus of being driven by fear to instead, when we experience fear, we choose to interpret that as a warning flag. Instead, be driven by something from the love side of our experience.

In this case, I focus in on humble confidence. There is a section in the book because this is a practice. That is about having the confidence in your own strengths but the humility to listen to others. The reason that is so important is we must have humility in order to engage what I call the collective genius.

Just as Gene Kranz did with the Apollo 13 crisis, he didn’t have the answers, but he knew that his team collectively would have the answers. He had the humility to say in effect, “Look, I don’t know the answer to this problem that we’re facing, but let me tell you why we have to figure it out.” In the movie, it came out as, “We haven’t lost an American in space yet, and it’s not going to happen on my watch. Failure is not an option.” Gene Kranz never said that, but when he heard it from the screenwriters, he said, “Hmm, I like that” because it captures the essence of the culture there. He entitled his book with the same words later on.

Humble confidence is the antidote to ego. It’s so important because it’s only by having humble confidence that we can lift our people on our team up, and then they take responsibility to figure out the challenges we are facing and accelerate us forward through to the solutions that we need.

Hugh: It really clarifies that leaders have a clear focus on what they’re doing. Fear is what happens when we take our eyes off of our goals.

You mentioned teams. My background as a conductor, I know about building high-performance teams. Focusing on a team, why is it so important for leaders to nurture a sense of belonging in their team?  

Peter: Sense of belonging is one of the key themes in my book because if we take a step back from that, if the goal is to engage the collective genius, just using the backdrop that you have there, if the goal was to engage the collective genius of the musicians in your orchestra, you want to give them the space so they can express themselves musically but all in tune with the goal of the music and the experience you are giving to the audience.

When we create that space, and we want people to step up and lead in their own way, we need to have them feel that they belong. I give an example of one of the biggest leadership challenges that many of us face, certainly parents. How do you get your teenager to put their dirty laundry in the basket? You can use various carrot and stick methods. But chances are it won’t be sustainable. Let’s shift the context for a moment. Let’s say that the coming weekend, your teenager is going out with their friends, and they want their favorite outfit. Chances are they will put that outfit in the laundry basket. Hey, they might even wash it themselves. The reason for that is they want to belong to their group of friends. They want to have that sense of belonging. When we feel we belong, we are more likely to step up, take responsibility, and lead. If we are in a position of leadership ourselves, in charge of a group of people, taking care of them, then it’s one of our fundamental responsibilities, I believe, to nurture that sense of belonging.

I’ll give an example from my background. In 2003, I faced one of my biggest leadership challenges, which was leading 200 people during the Iraq War. We flew large aircraft that distributed fuel to other jets. We got airborne. We gave fuel to fighter jets. We were completely unarmed and undefended, and we flew around in circles, giving this fuel away. Quite often, people were shooting at us from the ground, which became a bit irritating after a while. It put you off a bit.

First of all, I gave people a very clear picture on the box of what are we doing this for? It had nothing to do with politics. Unless we gave the fuel away, completed our missions, our British, American, and Australian troops on the ground wouldn’t get the air cover they needed, and they would die. Period. That’s what I said to my people. Sometimes management is about having complexity, and leadership is about creating simplicity. I created in that moment a very simple, clear picture of where we’re heading and what we needed to do. People stepped up and helped me figure out how we were going to do that.

But the sense of belonging was so important. I spent the vast majority of my time checking in with my people, be it the aircraft maintainers or my pilots. The way you nurture a sense of belonging is by showing that you care. Showing that you care doesn’t actually need to take that long. Often, the most significant moments can be the most fleeting of moments. It can be fine at the time to see someone who is not looking quite right, put your hand on their shoulder, and check in with them, asking, “Are you okay?” I spent a lot of my time checking in with my folks deployed with me, how their families were back home. I sent three people back because their grandparents were about to pass away. It was so important to get them back. We moved heaven and Earth. It’s what we did. We showed that we care.

When we show that we care, we do that through true curiosity and interest in the person. That moment is fleeting. It’s like throwing a pebble in the pond, but the ripples can go out far and wide, further out than we can imagine or even know. When we do this, the performance follows. We were tasked with 479 missions in this 40-year-old airplane. We flew 479 missions.

But the most important thing, Hugh, for me is that all the people I took out to the Middle East, I brought home safely. What drove me was caring for my people. They could figure out how we needed to do the missions. They were trained; they could figure it out. I just needed to nurture that sense of belonging so they felt inspired to contribute. They knew the role they could play. They were very clear of the picture on the jigsaw puzzle box of where they were going, and they could figure out how to bring those puzzle pieces together.

Hugh: I like your sound bite: Leaders create simplicity. Very profound and succinct. We are going long today because it’s such a great topic, and you’re such a great storyteller. Vivid picture.

The last piece is the control piece. Leaders who overfunction want control. There Is the illusion that we’re in control. I have this little white stick and all these people playing. I can guide the process, but the illusion that I am in control, anything can happen. They could decide to go radical on me. There is nothing connected to that stick. I forget what it’s called in military: If your platoon doesn’t respect you, they are likely to shoot you in the back in combat. There is a lot of leaders in corporate America who get shot in the back every day and don’t know it. They want control, but really they can’t control. What does it look like to hand over control and do it at scale?

Peter: One of the examples that I currently share, and I’ve written about at book in the length, is a retail company called ASOS. It is a clothing retail company based in London. It’s an amazing company. They have been around for 21 years. For the past six, they have been led by a guy named Nick Beighton, who has just recently stepped back. They are an incredible company, and this is the reason why. They have something in the region of 450,000 products for sale, 850 brands available in every size you can imagine, and can be delivered to over 200 territories around the world. Each week, they add 5,000 new products to their website. It is phenomenal the scale of this.

I had the opportunity to go around the ASOS headquarters in London with Nick, and it was an amazing experience. You walk around. It’s a creative place. People are sat in groups on the floor doing creative sketches. You think it’s chaos, but it’s not. There is a military precision to the fact that every week, they put 5,000 new products on their website. That takes military precision.

Here is the kicker for me. The average age of the 4,000 people who work there is just 27. I was blown away that you could have such a creative environment and yet such discipline and organization. The reason for that is because ASOS practices inside its business what it stands for outside. That is they want everyone to feel they belong, to feel they can express who they are, to be their true selves, and to bring all of that passion and wonderful individuality to life. They just happen to sell clothes. But they employ that inside their organization, too. They create this culture where everybody cares for one another, and they feel like they belong. They feel they have their place. The result is that people step up, and they lead. Whatever their role, rank, or position is, they are given the opportunity to lead.

When Nick welcomed new people into the business, he would say, “Look, you’ve been hired for your skills, yes, but you’ve been hired for who you are. Bring the best version of yourself to work every day because that’s why we’ve chosen you to work here.” People know that they’re cared for. They know that they belong. The results follow. This works at scale, and it works in a business context, too.

Hugh: That’s phenomenal. Peter Docker, he’s in England, but it looks like you’re all over the place. His book is Leading from the Jumpseat. It ought to be mandatory for any leader. Even if you’re leading a small community nonprofit, the work you do is significant. What is a final thought or challenge you’d like to leave for nonprofit leaders and clergy today?

Peter: Leadership starts with the person in the mirror, doesn’t it? If we want to lead better, then it starts with learning to lead yourself. I’m still learning that. What I would say is that we are not perfect, none of us. This is not about avoiding making mistakes; it’s about accepting those mistakes, accepting when we trip up.

More importantly, it’s our intention and the trend that matters to me. Our intention, are we sorting ourselves from a place of fear, or are we choosing to sort ourselves from a place of love? That is the intention.

The trend is no matter the mistakes you make along the way or the wrong turns, if we are heading generally in the direction we want to be heading in, then that’s good. It all starts with the person in the mirror. We all have the opportunity to find the courage to leave fear behind and source from love.

Hugh: Peter Docker, we are privileged to have you tell these great stories on The Nonprofit Exchange. Thank you so much for being our guest today.

Peter: Thank you, Hugh. It’s been a pleasure.


Leave A Comment