Dr. Jason Carthen is President and CEO of Jason Carthen Enterprises. Known as The Leadership Linebacker™, he is also a former professional football player for the New England Patriots and a highly sought-after international speaker in the areas of leadership, motivation, and identifying your purpose in life. Recently, Jason sat down with us to tell us about emotional intelligence, follower influence, and other concepts that can help leaders motivate and serve others.
You call yourself the “Leadership Linebacker.” How does your football career influence the way you approach leadership training and coaching?
The opportunity to play football created a certain level of discipline in me that transcended the playing field to actually be a part of every facet of my life, especially leadership. When I provide training or have the honor of coaching someone on the topic of leadership, all the same positive characteristics of hope, optimism, hard work, etc. that I learned on the field I share with those individuals. The end result is a leadership philosophy that demonstrates and conveys strength interwoven with a high degree of relationship toward followers.
Furthermore, when you are an athlete, you learn the power of teamwork and the tremendous benefit of working together on an interdependent level, which encourages a tremendous amount of maturity in relationships. I communicate the value of identifying this interdependency and what it can mean for a company’s bottom line profits.
Because of your NFL background, some people might have some preconceived notions about your ideas of strong leadership resembling the prototypical football coach/team relationships. How true or false is this viewpoint?
A demonstration of leadership or a “leadership style” is all about the person and what they embrace relative to their own leadership philosophy when it comes to how they would interact with their followers (vocal leadership, rigidity, etc.), so I would have to say that is false. Now, I will say that the majority of player/coach relationships I have been exposed to have been more autocratic in nature due to the nature of the business of professional football.
You’re a very bold and dynamic public speaker. To what extent should an effective leader be bold and dynamic like you?
That is subjective depending on the leader and the organizational culture/environment in which they lead. For example, if you have someone who has to work with union representatives on a daily basis vs. an individual who is the chief librarian of a large metropolitan library, you will most likely need two different leadership styles to better predict leadership success. Why? Because followers have a lot to do with the type of leadership style you must embrace in order to be successful.
You’re a thought leader on leading with “emotional intelligence.” What does that mean?
Thought leaders are often deemed as individuals who step outside of the status quo or normative way of doing things while pursuing greater understanding around a belief or idea. For that reason, my embracing of emotional intelligence takes me somewhat outside of the norm and traditional schools of thought regarding leadership.
Emotional intelligence suggests that a leader will be self-aware, self-regulating, empathetic, and socially adept at positive relationships. Each of these characteristics points to a leader who places the needs of others before their own in order to move the organization forward. I seek to demonstrate a more relational style of leadership at all times, if possible and only modifying that philosophy as needed.
You also allude to the concept of “follower influence.” What exactly is that, and what can leaders do to achieve it?
Follower influence can have various meanings. When I refer to follower influence, I am conveying the idea that followers also have a voice and an ability to change the positive trajectory of an organization by showing allegiance to the vision and mission of the organization – or by withholding their loyalty through lack of effort and sabotage. The sabotage typically occurs when they do not feel like they are a part of the vision or if they do not believe they have a voice when it comes to their future.
How prevalent is your Christian faith in the leadership teaching and coaching concepts and techniques you offer?
My faith in God as a follower of Christianity is part of all that I am; consequently, I cannot separate it from what I do or my leadership philosophy. However, when I train and coach in business or on the topic of leadership, the subject of my faith is only broached if someone inquires about the origins of my philosophy or the rationale for my break from traditional mechanistic views of business and leadership.
Traditional views embrace more of a dictatorial or autocratic view of leading, and suggest that followers are only cogs in a wheel to be replaced at will rather than human beings that represent a legacy to be nurtured as such. It is during those times that I will inquire if they would like to know more about my leadership philosophy and its underpinnings.
What aspects of your message and presentations are corporate leaders most receptive to?
Quite honestly, most if not all of them. Not because I have all the answers, but because I care enough to do the work on the front side of the relationship to see what type of message or coaching relationship I can tailor to help them achieve their goals. If I only offered what I wanted to train, consult, and coach on, it would leave me with limited opportunities to stretch and add full value to my clients – all of whom are tackling some very unique challenges in the workplace. For that reason, my first coaching session serves as a strategy session and is always free. It has never failed to yield a lot of value for prospective clients.
What do you think today’s corporate leaders and public servants can do to be better leaders of their company stakeholders or constituents?
Be fully present and listen to their followers or those they serve. Once you have a better handle on what your followers or constituents need, be intentional in your delivery.
Leaders should be subject to review and outside inquiry as well. One to two designated followers should be on a blind panel that reviews the leader and offers feedback on their performance.
Keep the lines of communication open and try to involve them at each level of the organizational culture. In other words, partner with your people for sustainable results!