Mark Crowley – Author of Lead From The Heart

[quote style=”boxed”]If you truly believe in what you are doing, burn your escape route and trust all the pieces will inevitably fall into place.  The support you need will find you.[/quote]

Mark Crowley is a leadership consultant, professional speaker and the author of  Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership for the 21st Century.  His ambition is to fundamentally change how we lead people in the workplace.

We now know that 55% all U.S. workers hate their jobs and that this number has been increasing for 25 consecutive years, regardless of the state of the economy.  In Lead From The Heart, Mark proves that we have a serious leadership problem in America (not a worker problem) and presents compelling evidence that the solution leaders need to re-inspire and re-engage workers lies in the last place traditional business would seek to find it: the human heart.

A century ago, when traditional leadership theory was established, people essentially worked in exchange for pay.  But as meeting basic needs for food and shelter have grown increasingly easier, employees have greatly evolved in their needs. Pay as a motivator ranks no higher than fifth in importance to most people today, a fact that’s true across the world.  Twenty first century workers need to feel valued for the work they do.  They want to grow, to contribute to an organization they believe in, to feel cared for and feel respected by their bosses. Leadership, as the job satisfaction scores show, has not adequately responded.  Instead, it still seeks to squeeze people and to treat them like any other business input.

Over a 25 year career in the banking and financial services industry, Mark routinely excelled as a leader by implementing unusual practices.  Essentially, he nurtured his employees, thereby enabling them to thrive and perform. While writing his book, Mark had the epiphany that all along he had been affecting people’s hearts and that this is what had inspired great employee loyalty, engagement and productivity.  This insight stopped him in his tracks. He understood that we frown on heart in business.  We think it’s soft and sentimental and undermines productivity and profitability.  Knowing his practices yielded uncommon and sustainable performance, Mark took an extra year to research and validate his own experience.

Reaching out to cardiologists and world-famous heart researchers, he learned what science has only recently discovered: the heart has its own brain and intelligence that plays an enormous role in influencing human behavior.  Consequently, leadership gestures that positively affect the heart inspire people to perform. It’s the heart and not the mind that drives achievement.

Few people in society or business understand that bringing heart into management is exactly what’s needed to fix our employee engagement problem.  Therefore, Mark’s ambition is to be the pied piper for this specific idea.

Prior to writing Lead From The Heart, Mark was a senior vice president at Washington Mutual Investments, where he led sales across the firm’s 4,000 nationwide branches.  In 2008, he was named the organization’s Leader of the Year. He is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego and the Pacific Coast Banking School at the University of Washington.  He holds 5 investment securities licenses and is a licensed California Real Estate Broker.

What are you working on right now?

Now that my book is published, I’m devoting most of my time to promoting it via radio and TV interviews, blogging and participating in social media.  I was just the keynote speaker at a conference dedicated to improving employee engagement and senior executives from some of the world’s largest companies attended.  Based on the response I received, it is clear that business is no longer dismissing the heart.

Where did the idea for your book, Lead From The Heart, come from?

My original ambition in writing was to share four leadership practices my experience proved made people remarkably engaged and productive in the workplace.  I wanted to write about these practices specifically because I knew them to be extremely uncommon in business.  But as I began actual work, I had to ask myself why they were so effective?  I had an epiphany one day that what I’d been doing all along was positively affecting the hearts in people.  I didn’t take that as good news.  Business has long believed that managing with any degree of heart leads to disaster. Knowing my book would be dead-on-arrival unless I found supportive evidence for my thesis, I spent an extra year seeking it out. What I discovered was not only life changing, it’s made the book infinitely better and more compelling.  And, it turns out leading with heart is exactly what we should be doing in business!

What does your typical day look like?

When I began work on the book, I spent my days at the UCSD library.  Since then, my wife had a studio built in our backyard.  What made that idea so exciting was that she designed it to be completely hidden so I could work without anyone knowing I was there.  I generally work out early in the morning, eat breakfast and then walk 200 feet to my office.  Very rarely does the thought cross my mind that I’m working at home.  I do radio interviews, write articles and blogs and keep up with all my social media.  It’s generally a 10-hour day when I’m there.  After dinner, I read.  I’m always looking for inspiring ideas for my blogs.

How do you bring ideas to life?

There was an incredible synchronicity that occurred while I was researching my book.  How I found the people I did, got them to speak to me and then share needle-moving information was all quite stunning.  My conclusion was that I was meant to write this book–it is what I was put on Earth to do.  So, whenever I’m writing, speaking or being interviewed, I always believe that I’ll express the right ideas in the most persuasive way.  I just wrote an op-ed piece for Reuters that felt oppressive as hell to write.  But the trust I have that I am supported gave me the will to keep working on it until I knew it was what I had intended.  Those 1,000 words took me at least 15 hours to write.  It was a slog in the moment, but I never doubted it would all come together.  I believe that about just about everything in my life.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

In a very perverse way, the fact that employee satisfaction in the U.S. has been declining for over a generation is a very good thing for me.  Since I believe the traditional ways of inspiring human performance in the workplace have failed and that we need an entirely new leadership model, stats like this provide compelling evidence for people reluctant to change.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

In the preface of my book, I tell the story of how my father abused me psychologically during my childhood.  He was angry, volatile and entirely destructive.

After college, I went to work for a wonderful bank.  Sadly, 10 years later the organization failed.   It was during a recession and executive level jobs were scarce.  While I soon had 2 job offers to consider, both came at a price. One required a move to Los Angeles and the other required a change of industries. Because it allowed me to remain in San Diego, I accepted a position at a large parking company.   I remember thinking to myself, “how bad could it be?”  Really bad.  My boss was the company owner and turned out to be a carbon-copy of my father.   He screamed at me, routinely threatened to fire me and created such discomfort I had tears in my eyes heading into work most mornings.   I was stuck there for 2.5 years until the job market improved.

I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone, but it taught me a lot.  First, I came to see that my skills were entirely transferable and I grew confident that I could excel in any organization and in any industry. Next, I came to understand that how I approached leadership was unique and powerful.  Compared to virtually every other manager in the company, I was an outlier.  Even my boss, whose crazed and heartless leadership style everyone else adopted, came to see I got far better results.   And finally, it wasn’t lost on me that I had drawn my father’s energy back into my life in the form of my boss so that I could once and for all confront and heal the damage.  Years later, I fully forgave him, but the process really started then.

By the way, after I left, my boss called me from an airplane and offered me a $100,000 signing bonus to come back. I didn’t go, but I knew I’d left my mark.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

No looking back!  Honestly, too much has gone well for me that I just have to accept some bumps in the road.  My philosophy is to plan, plan, plan and then execute.  We can’t control all outcomes, but this process allows me to always feel I’ve done my homework.  No major mistakes so far.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Make everything your customers see ooze quality and match your intentions.  For example, my book publisher presented me with an unimaginative cover design that completely underwhelmed me.  At my own cost, I found a world-class designer who perfectly captured what I had in my mind’s eye.  Not only do I love what he created, but when people see it, they’re truly affected by it.  That’s exactly what I wanted.  I later had this designer collaborate with a web architect to build my website.  It’s a thing of beauty that conveys that I’m for real and here for the long haul.  There’s a power in legitimacy.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

I hired a talented local PR firm after they solidly convinced me that they loved the book and really believed in it.  That buy-in was crucial for me, but it made me overlook my need for national exposure.  I had to end my relationship with the firm because it was evident that they didn’t have the broad contacts I needed.  I moved swiftly, yet it was still disruptive.  My new team is getting the job done now, but I lost momentum.  I really liked the people in my first firm, but I made the right call.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Just an insight.  The timing for the success of your company, idea or product is not in your full control.  The universe has its own timing.  If you truly believe in what you are doing, burn your escape route and trust all the pieces will inevitably fall into place.  The support you need will find you.

If you could change on thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

This is an interesting question.  Do any of us really believe we can change anything in the world?  I’m of the opinion that we can and personally am seeking to be the guy who proves to business that leading from the heart is the single most effective thing you can do if you’re trying to attract, retain and inspire great people.  My serious ambition is to be the “lead from the heart” advocate.  If I soar too close to the sun, I know I can find work at the Dairy Queen.

Tell us a secret.

I’m apparently a descendant of royalty.  My mother’s family, the Prioleaus’ and the Fords, had a big hand in creating Charleston, SC.  I’ve never been there, but others in my family have visited.  The Southern tradition is to honor one’s heritage, so some of my relatives have gone there to take advantage.  Lots of free drinks and bowing comes your way when people think you’re a duke or a dauphant!  I don’t take it seriously.  My dad’s cousin was also 1 of the Four Horseman of Notre Dame.  Who cares?!

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  • Pandora because I love music so much and I’ve been able to create many different personalized stations.  I’ve figured out what works best when I’m writing and have an endless string of songs that keep me company.  But what I enjoy most is the station shuffle.  I can go from Bon Iver to George Harrison to Frank Sinatra to Elvis Costello in 4 songs.  Pandora also makes suggestions and intersperses them into the mix.  It’s scary how well Pandora has come to know what I like–better than my wife, I think!
  • Google Translator because I interact with people all over the world on Twitter and oftentimes I get messages in Arabic, French or some other language that I don’t speak.  Not only can I read and understand what people are saying to me, but I can write them back in their language.  It’s awesome.
  • Brainy Quotes because when I’m blogging or writing in general, I like to reinforce my ideas or thesis with quotations.   It’s amazing to me how many times I’ve discovered quotes that just bring my piece to life.  While I’m always discerning, my search typically takes just a few minutes.  I have no idea how this site makes money, but I’m indebted to it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I was an English-American literature major in college and remain a voracious reader.  So it might surprise you that my recommended book is Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  I stand by it.

During the time I was writing my book, I used the off hours to read.  I must have read at least 100 books in the 2 year period.  Over time, I began to notice that there was one idea that kept creeping up–a common denominator in an inordinate number of the books–both fiction and non-fiction.   This idea is that our lives are a manifestation of our thoughts.   In other words, our thoughts translate themselves into a physical equivalent thereby requiring us to be extremely vigilant in what beliefs we accept.

Working directly for Andrew Carnegie 75 years ago, Hill interviewed all the luminaries of his day: Ford, Rockefeller, Edison, Teddy Roosevelt and hundreds more.  The success formula he gleaned from his study revolved around the notion that the mind can produce anything it can conceive and believe. Hill’s book helped me to better understand why my approach to leadership had been successful. When you help others to overcome their own unsupportive thoughts by replacing them with ones of courage and confidence, their performance astounds you. The information in this book has been the most influential in my life and career.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

I can’t understand why anyone would want the job of U.S. President and so I am intrigued by tweets from @BarackObama. The tweets convey his personality, which makes me believe he has involvement in what’s written.  It’s often political, but I’m still hearing what the country’s leader is thinking about every day. Amazing when you think about it.

I’m on Twitter a lot as part of my social media efforts, so when I read other people’s tweets, I want good quality.  I love @SethMeyers for comedy.  As the head writer for SNL, his humor speaks to my sensibilities.  And for sheer genius, I follow @neiltyson. An astrophysicist, Neil Tyson reminds me that I’m not the center of anything and that our universe very likely has life forms we’ll one day meet.  Scary and intriguing!

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I love laughing and tend to see the humor in everything.  My motto is, “if it makes me laugh, it’s funny!”

I just read a story about a guy named Joe Pine. He was an intentionally confrontational talk-show host in the 1960’s and 1970’s who happened to be an amputee. One night, Pine’s first guest was rock and roll icon Frank Zappa. Right out of the gate, Pine said to Zappa, “that long hair you have must mean you’re a girl.”

Zappa didn’t hesitate a second before shouting back, “well then that wooden leg you have must make you a table!”

What makes me laugh most is when people are instinctively funny just like Zappa was.   To amuse myself, I use fake names when I make dinner reservations.  I love hearing them announced.  “Gatsby?”  “Donner Party?”  “Charlemagne?”  When I’m at Starbucks, I use “Hank.”  Makes me laugh, so it’s funny!

Who is your hero?

I’m not sure I have just one, so here are a few.  Winston Churchill altered the direction of the world by acting on his convictions when doubters and cynics were aplenty.  Many people are worn down by their critics; not this guy.  I have so much respect for that.  I also have great admiration for Paramahansa (Swami) Yogananda.  He wrote the Autobiography of a Yogi not far from where I live.  When I was working on my book, I’d go to his hermitage and to his desk to get inspired.  His teachings are unencumbered by dogma and explain spirituality in the most unique and informed way.  When it comes to music, which I play constantly, Van Morrison is my hero. His music is transcendent and is a source of tremendous pleasure for me and my family.  A long-time friend of mine and I travel somewhere every year to see him in concert.  Ironically, his best concert ever was last year in San Diego!

Do you really believe leading with more heart can work in every industry?

I do!  Just yesterday, I read a study on stockbrokers (perceived to be entirely money driven people) who were asked to rank their organization’s leadership.  Companies that ranked lowest were knocked for not having managers who cared for and authentically supported employees.  These people were saying that there’s more to work than just money.  People want significance in any job and our collective conscious knows money can’t buy that.

Where do you go on vacation?

Over the past several years, my wife and I have been traveling to national parks and to places of exquisite natural beauty.  We love Yosemite, Yellowstone Park and The Grand Canyon.  White Sands in New Mexico is surreal.  If I could go anywhere tomorrow, it would be Kauai.  Ask me in the fall and I’ll say Sedona.   Hiking in nature is our favorite thing to do.


Mark Crowley’s Website:
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Mark Crowley on Twitter: @markccrowley
Mark Crowley on LinkedIn: Mark C. Crowley