Episode 189 John Gronski Iron-Sharpened Leadership
This transcript is from episode 189 with guest Retired Major General John Gronski.
Scott DeLuzio 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. Now let’s get on with the show. Hey, everyone, welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Retired Army Major General John Gronski, and since retiring from the military, he has become a leadership consultant, a speaker, and he’s also the author of the books, the right of our lives and iron sharpen leadership. I’m really excited to have him here today because we’re going to be talking about leadership and how it relates to the soldiers and the troops and the people in general that you might be in charge of in your own life if you’re a team leader or anywhere up the chain of command, they are people that you are in charge of. We want to talk about the leadership skills that are necessary to be able to help take care of those people that are under your command. Welcome to the show, sir. I’m glad to have you on,
John Gronski 00:01:13 Hey, Scott, I really appreciate you inviting me to be on your show and I’m looking forward to our conversation today.
Scott DeLuzio 00:01:19 Well, I am too, this is one of those conversations that when I got the opportunity to get in touch with you and I started really digging into your background and finding out all the things that you’ve accomplished throughout your long career, and just really impressive stuff that you’ve done. I’m really excited to have you on. I know I’ve done my homework, but for the listeners out there who may not be as familiar with you as maybe I am, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
John Gronski 00:01:54 I got my commission, in the army back in 1978, I never thought in 2019, I would still be wearing the uniform. A little over 40 years in uniform, both on active duty and in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Just some of the quick highlights. I had an opportunity to serve in Lithuania for a year back in 2000, which was a pretty exciting experience since it was only seven years after Lithuanians regained their independence from the Soviet Union. Now we see all that’s going on in that part of the world right now with the unfortunate war in Ukraine and the Lithuanians are right on the cusp of all that is happening being their geographic proximity.
John Gronski 00:02:48 The honor to command a brigade in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005 and 2006, and had the opportunity to lead 5,000 soldiers and Marines there. Just a great honor, in that struggle. and then again, just very fortunate the honor to command the 28th infantry division, 15,000 soldiers. Then the last three years of my career, I spent as one of the deputy commanding generals at US Army Europe, stationed in VBO in Germany, but traveled to well over 40 countries on business, many times over actually. I served there from 2016 until 2019, when I retired at that point and decided that, yeah, based on my 40 years of experience, many of the mistakes I made transferred into lessons, I learned about leadership. I started a leadership consulting company and leadership training company and had the opportunity to write two books to write of our lives based on a bicycle trip.
John Gronski 00:03:59 I took back in 1983, along with my wife and my 15-month-old son, Stephen, and we biked from pretty much from coast to coast, from Tacoma, Washington, to Northeastern Pennsylvania, all self-contained two-man backpacking, two sleeping bags, one burner stove to cook our chow with. That was, that really helped form some of my leadership philosophy. I wrote the book, Iron sharpen leadership, again a book that’s based on many of the lessons I learned due to primarily mistakes I made. I just wanted to share some of those lessons with, without other people in whatever leadership position they’re in. They could learn from some of the trials that I have had.
Scott DeLuzio 00:04:50 That bike ride that you mentioned. I’d say it’s a bike ride, going down to the store to pick up some groceries or something, that’s not a bike ride. That’s a journey. That’s something especially back at the end where people now might think, okay, well, you just pull up Google maps on your phone or something. You got the directions to show you where to go and the best road conditions and the weather and all that kinda stuff. You didn’t have any of that stuff back then. That was that you’re out there, you, your wife, your son, and the elements and whatever you can carry on your back or, and the bags on the side of your bike. That’s pretty much all you had, right?
John Gronski 00:05:28 We hit snow into the Cascade mountain range in Oregon. We hit 115-degree temperatures in Pueblo, Colorado. The winds of Kansas were probably the worst part of the whole trip, worse than wow. Any of the mountains that we climb. It was three months on the road over 4,500 miles. It taught me a lot about teamwork. It taught me a lot about being resilient, not giving up, and just caring we’re gonna be talking about caring for people you lead, caring for my wife, caring for, my young son. That’s what leadership is really all about.
Scott DeLuzio 00:06:08 I think it is a perfect segue into your leadership career, your professional career in the military area because you’re right. There’s so many things that you’ve had to learn through that journey. You may have known a lot of that stuff before being a parent, you have to take care of your children and all that kind of stuff. it’s different when it’s literally just you, your wife, and your son, there’s nobody else there. No grandparents to pick up the phone and call and have them come help out. There’s no neighbors or relatives that are nearby. There’s none of that stuff there. You really do need to focus on the overall well-being of everyone involved, including yourself. That’s part of it too. If you can’t take care of yourself, then you’re not gonna be very much used to the people who are around you.
John Gronski 00:06:59 I talk about leaders, taking care of their followers, the other part of care, and I’ve written about this, is that leaders also need to take care of themself. Not at the expense of the people they lead, but leaders do need to do self-care, make sure you’re getting to sleep, the exercise, the nutrition. If a leader isn’t taking care of themself, it’s pretty hard for them to take care of others in their charge. Self-care is extremely important.
Scott DeLuzio 00:07:31 I’ve used this example before too, but when you get on an airplane and they tell you to put the oxygen mask on first, before helping out others so that you don’t pass out and then become useless to the person who’s sitting next to you. It’s not selfish that you’re taking care of yourself, but you’re also doing that so that you can help other people.
John Gronski 00:07:52 You have to keep that in perspective. It’s absolutely essential for a leader or self-care, but with that said, I always say that one of the tenets of leadership is putting the welfare of those you lead before your own welfare. We learn in the army and you learn in the Marines leaders eat last we have to make sure our soldiers are taken care of before we take care of ourselves. That’s why not everybody wants to be a leader. Leadership comes with risk. As you go up the chain, it’s not about, now, I’m moving up from like a team leader in the army to a squad leader, to a platoon Sergeant. It’s not about, oh, now I have more people to take care of me, or now I have more people to serve me. It’s not, it’s like, no, now I have more people that I need to serve. That’s what it’s about. It’s important that leaders don’t, don’t get that turned around.
Scott DeLuzio 00:09:00 An important perspective too, because you’re not just taking all of their skills and theirs, and using it for yourself for, for, to advance your own career, your own position and stuff like that. You’re there as their leader. they’re looking up to you for guidance, for, support, and all that kind of stuff. That falls on you as, as that leader, you need to be able to be there for those troops,
John Gronski 00:09:27 I was thinking about this earlier today there’s certain dirty words, when it comes to leadership, we don’t wanna exhibit cronyism. We don’t wanna exhibit favoritism. we don’t wanna exhibit racism, all those citizens we don’t want to exhibit, but ambition really shouldn’t be a dirty word. I’m talking about ambition as it relates to leadership, it’s not about a leader’s ambition for their own career. It’s about the leader’s ambition for the organization, which they lead. It’s about the leader’s ambition for the people that they lead. It’s doing your best to take care of your people and making sure they get the training they need and just to care for the leader that they need in order for those followers to become the best that they could be. That’s certainly an important responsibility, I believe in a leader.
Scott DeLuzio 00:10:30 There’s certain characteristics that a leader just needs to have certain things. You’ve talked about this in your book, the Iron Sharpen Leadership. What are some of those characteristics that you feel that are just the foundation for a good leader?
John Gronski 00:10:50 Absolutely. The foundation is strong character and values such as Intel. Leaders cannot mortgage their values in order to get ahead because whenever leaders do that, they only get behind, you’ve gotta stay true to your principles. You’ve gotta stay true to yourself, to your values. That’s foundational. I mean the values that we learn in the Marines and the army, all of those things. Then along with organizational values we also have to spend time being introspective enough to really reflect on what are our own personal core values, which could be a little bit different than our organizational values. But I found that if a person doesn’t spend the time to reflect on what their personal core values are, and if we believe that when we’re making personal decisions, it’s important to factor our values into the personal decisions we make.
John Gronski 00:12:05 How are you gonna do that if you don’t even know what your values are. It’s extremely important to go through that you could be on a six-month journey. It could be a year’s journey to really reflect on, Hey, what’s important to me when my backs are against a wall, what are those values that I’m really gonna stand for? You have to go through that introspective journey. I believe it will help people that it’s a spirit. I talk about spiritual fitness, that’s part of spiritual fitness to reflect on those values. Then when you’re going through a challenge, you could really use those values as a foundation to stay, stay, stay a course and stay self-disciplined and see things through, even if the things are challenging.
Scott DeLuzio 00:12:55 That’s kind of like having a roadmap, going back to your bike ride. If you didn’t have a roadmap. Some sort of direction for where you’re going and where you’re headed and knowing what you need to do to get to your final destination. You’d be lost. You wouldn’t know what to do. The same thing with these values. They help set you in that right direction.
John Gronski 00:13:23 I know we wanna talk about the importance of people staying resilient and being able to overcome challenges in adversity. One of the big things there is you have to be clear on what your life purpose is. If You understand what your purpose is you could put up with almost any challenge or challenge in your life. Niche had said that the great philosopher, again, purpose is a powerful thing. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you the truth. When I got out of the army in 2019, I was rudderless for a while and was kind of floundering a little bit. It was not until I really felt long and hard about, Hey, what is my life purpose? What is my purpose now that I was able to get back on track and feel productive again, and just do all the things I know one has to do in order to stay healthy? The purpose is extremely powerful and will help people overcome adversity and challenges.
Scott DeLuzio 00:14:33 That sense of purpose is what I found from talking through all these, I don’t know, probably 180, 190, some odd episodes at this point. Talking to all these people, having a sense of purpose is what makes the difference when you get out of the military because when you’re in the military, it’s easy to say, I, I have a sense of purpose. You’re serving your country. You’re serving something much bigger than yourself. But when you get out now, it’s you against the world, what is your purpose? What is it that you need to do to set yourself up for success to go after that purpose?
John Gronski 00:15:17 That’s exactly right. I think for anyone who’s listening to the podcast who is transitioning out of the military, or maybe making a transition from a civilian career to maybe into retirement or whatever the case might be, that sense of purpose is extremely important. But the other thing I found is extremely important when we’re working for a civilian organization or in the military or law enforcement or whatever that field might be, we’ve got folks around us, we’ve got our buddy teams around us. Then when we transit all of a sudden that support system that was automatically there all the time isn’t there. Really what I set out to do was find people in my life outside of my family, who I could kind of count on as a quasi board of directors, if you will, just people that, I could count on I know I could dial ’em up anytime, ask ’em for a little bit of advice. Or even if I’m feeling a little bit down, or I think I’m going a little bit off, I could call them and just kind of check-in and get them to help me gather my thoughts and keep me on the right path.
John Gronski 00:16:32 I think it’s important to find those people in your life, of course, family members, but then also people outside of your family that you could kind of form around yourself because it’s just not ready-made when you transition out in the military like it is when you’re in the military.
Scott DeLuzio 00:16:51 You need to basically create that support structure for yourself, whether it’s family members, or friends, or coworkers, or whoever it is you have to create that. That brings me to the title of your book, the Iron Sharpen Leadership, which is in reference to the Proverbs, 27 17, right. That as iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another. We need those people in our lives, we need to have those connections so that we can help each other out. You may go fast on your own, but you’re not gonna go too far on your own.
John Gronski 00:17:32 Then it’s trying to, this whole notion of iron sharp and iron, this is what it means to me. This is why it resonates with me so much. It means finding people who are a little bit more talented than you are finding people that are a little bit more stronger than you are, there’s this saying, if you’re the strongest person in the gym, find another gym, if you’re the smartest person in the room, find another room, you always wanna try to associate with people who are just, have a little bit more talent or a little bit more strength. I use strength, not only physically, but could be emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Surround yourself with people who could make you a little bit stronger just by being in their presence, but at the same time, now you’ve gotta give back. You’ve gotta reach down to other people who maybe aren’t quite as strong as you are, and now coach and mentor and help them along the way too. I think isn’t that great, it’s almost like a chain. If you’re reaching up for stronger people to help you, and you’re getting stronger now, you’re reaching down to somebody who might be a little bit weaker and you’re helping them get stronger. It’s just a great thing.
Scott DeLuzio 00:18:50 Actually, as you were saying that I had this vision in me, my mind came up of people climbing up a mountain and just basically forming a chain with their arms, trying to help pull each other up. It takes that person who’s at the very top to be able to help that next person down. Then the next all the way down to the person who’s still at base camp at the bottom of the mountain. Helping each other, pull up. That to some people, when you talk about leadership, some people look at that as well. If I help this person, who’s below me, they’re going to now advance ahead of me. Then that’s gonna leave me in the dust.
Scott DeLuzio 00:19:34 I’m not gonna get that next promotion. If you think about it that way, you’re not looking at getting into that room where you’re not the smartest person anymore. You’re not looking to advance yourself as well. Even to this day, you always need to be improving yourself and learning new things and everything like that. You can be that better leader who can help continue to bring up those people who are, are under you.
John Gronski 00:20:06 Scott, this is the other thing. People who have that attitude, that if I help this person along, it’s probably going to push me back. I don’t think anything could be farther from the truth. I think when you focus on advancing yourself, rather than helping somebody else to advance your heart remains empty, the only way to fill your heart is by trying to help other people. Maybe you’ll advance if you don’t help somebody out and you actually know if you push somebody down, maybe you’ll advance, but I will tell you you’ll be advancing with an empty heart and you will not have joy in your life. The only way to get joy in your life, I believe, is by filling your heart with joy. I think the only way to do that is by helping other people. It’s kind of counterintuitive. You do not get ahead if you try to push other people back. You do not get ahead. If you don’t try to help other people advance, it’s a counterintuitive thing, but if you want to join your heart, and if you want to just have that feeling of righteousness, you’ve got to be willing to help others.
Scott DeLuzio 00:21:23 I had that same thought pop in my head where that mountain was, right. Where, where people before were, were working as a chain working together to help each other all up the mountain. But then as you were talking about that, I, I had the vision of, of this one link in the chain who instead of pulling up, was now stepping on the head of the guy, under him, trying to work his way up. He’s not gonna get too far. There’s not gonna be too many people who I wanna help that person out. If he’s gonna just be stomping on their heads, pushing them down as he’s trying to work his way up. That vision is just to me, it’s just very powerful in thinking about how you can move in advance by helping other people as well.
John Gronski 00:22:05 that whole picture, you just painted of somebody stepping on somebody else’s head and pushing ’em down. I think that’s the definition of toxic leadership. There’s been a lot written and talked about toxic leaders, people who are poisonous to an organization, people who are caustic. you will not be labeled as a toxic leader. If you simply treat the people you lead with dignity and respect, over in Iraq, we talked a lot about treating the Iraqi civilians with dignity and respect leaders need to do with the people they lead. Some people ask me, well, wait a minute, don’t toxic leaders get ahead. Sometimes toxic leaders don’t become successful and I’ll say, yeah, toxic leaders could be successful, but it’s usually for a very short-lived time, if you want to have long-term success, that’s what servant leadership is all about.
John Gronski 00:23:14 If you don’t mind telling just a quick little story here. I have a friend who wrote a book about how important strong character is. In the course of writing the book, he actually interviewed CROs, coach TRS, Coach K from Duke. He was talking to coach K and coach K was talking a lot about values and character. The interviewer said, well, coach, he goes, what does character have to do with winning a basketball game? Coach K looked at him and said, character has absolutely nothing at all to do with winning a basketball game. Nothing, but it has everything to do with winning a championship. A toxic leader could win a game now,, but if you wanna be a champion, you’ve gotta be a servant leader.
Scott DeLuzio 00:24:06 That is a perfect way to think of it too, because that character is what’s gonna take you further. That character is not in the short run. Maybe a toxic leader is going to win. Even a blind squirrel finds a knot. You can get the win, even if you’re not doing things the right way, but eventually, it’s not gonna take you as far as you could go. That’s a great way to think of it.
John Gronski 00:24:41 I was just gonna say, Scott, a real-world example is what’s going on in Ukraine right now? I mean, Putin being a toxic leader, because he’s been so toxic, people around him were afraid to bring him information that he needed to know to make better decisions. because he’s corrupt. Everything around him was corrupt and he didn’t have the military that he thought he had. I’m sure a lot of that money that he thought was being spent on military equipment was lining the pockets of oligarchs. It comes to disaster in the long run if you’re toxic.
Scott DeLuzio 00:25:19 That’s why we’re seeing the resistance that the Ukrainian people are putting up right now. They’re able to hold back the Russian military, fairly well, given the resources and everything that they have had available to them. I know they’re over time, they’ve gotten more resources and everything, but they, they stood their ground pretty well. I think given what they had available to them. I heard on another podcast that you did about, an EOD I think it was a Marine in Ramadi who was going through and he was injured while he was performing his duties. I’d like to hear in your words, how his reaction to that injury basically exemplified you to take care of your troops.
John Gronski 00:26:11 You’re talking about, Gunnery Sergeant Iron Mike Burghardt,
Scott DeLuzio 00:26:17 I love that name too.
John Gronski 00:26:19 A friend of mine, we still stay in touch. This happened on September 19th, 2005, Ramadi Iraq. We had a patrol out that day, a mounted patrol for up-armored Humvees led by Lieutenant Dooley from the Vermont national guard. As he was leading his patrol, they began to get small arms fire from an insurgent position or railroad bed. And Lieutenant Duley began to maneuver his platoon toward that insurgent position. And as he was maneuvering in his vehicle, a subsurface IED, unfortunately, that made it below his vehicle and instantly killed Lieutenant Duley and the other two soldiers in his vehicle, Sergeant Egan and Specialist Fernandez, they were all three killed in action immediately. Whenever we would have a tax like this occur. We would try to send down an E O D team, uh, explosive ordnance disposal team to do what we call a post-blast analysis that determines the tactics techniques, and procedures that surgeons we’re using.
John Gronski 00:27:25 We can try to keep these attacks from happening again in the future. Burghardt gets down, and there are two young Marines with them. It’s a chaotic scene to add to the chaos. There was an IED reporting team from the Omaha World-Herald down there while all this was going on. Burghardt gets to the air, sees the destroyed up-armored HUMVEE. He sees a crater near the up-armored HUMVEE about a couple of feet deep, about four feet in diameter. He made a quick assessment. That’s probably where the roadside bomb that destroyed that up. Armored HUMVEE had been placed. He jumps down in the crater, takes a closer look, sees a live roadside bomb directly in front of them buried in that crater, red det cord running into the nose of two artillery shells takes his Kbar knife cuts the red det cord neutralizes that particular, IED but he didn’t see a third artillery shell in the crater behind him. An insurgent off in the distance.
John Gronski 00:28:22 Wireless detonation device clicks the button, detonates knocks Gunny Burghardt about 15 feet into the air. His unconscious pants soaked with blood. Our soldiers immediately go to him thinking he proudly was dead, but as they get to him, he’s breathing. They call in a medivac helicopter cuz they believe those wounds were very severe, cut off his pants, and begin working on him. A few minutes later, Burghardt regains consciousness and has no feeling from the legs down asking if he had his legs, the soldier sat and said, yeah, Gunny you got both of your legs. A couple of minutes later gets a tingling sensation in his legs. He tells the soldiers he wants to try to stand up. They couldn’t believe it. Just got him blown up minutes earlier. He struggles to his feet. The soldiers are around him, and a medevac helicopter lands on the ground behind them.
John Gronski 00:29:16 The soldiers tell gunny, Hey gunny hop by laying on the stretcher. We gotta carry you to the chopper. He looks at the soldiers and he says, I’m not gonna have you carrying me to that chopper on the stretch. I’m gonna walk there under my own power because I don’t want the insurgents to have the pleasure of seeing me being carried to the choppers. He says that raises his hand into the air and gives the insurgents a hand in arm signal. One finger salute if you will. The reporter from the Omaha world hero takes that picture at the exact same moment. finger raise into the air, no pants on drawing protector from his IBA covering the necessary parts there. That picture has become an iconic picture from our tour in Iraq. Anybody could find it if they Google Gunny Burghardt.
John Gronski 00:30:04 But this is the leadership point of that story. Gunny told me this himself. He said the reason he didn’t wanna be carried to the chopper, the reason he wanted to walk there under his own power, which had nothing at all to do with what he thought then insurgents were. Think the reason he wanted to walk to that helicopter is because of those two young Marines. He was out there with them that day. He knew those two young Marines were going to be out there later on that day. How they neutralizing other roadside bombs and he didn’t wanna shatter their confidence. The point of a leadership point is even minutes after getting blown up, his main concern wasn’t with his own wounds. His main concern was with those two young Marines who he was leading that day. I like to say, isn’t that really? What leadership is all about, caring more for those you lead than you care for yourself. Another thing about gunny, just to show what kind of leader he was, he never evacuated Baghdad in Germany and the United States. He recovered from those wounds on our operating base. Four weeks later, he was out there again, neutralizing roadside bombs. Just an incredible man. I’m very proud to call him a friend.
Scott DeLuzio 00:31:22 You mentioned Lieutenant Dooley with the Vermont Army National Guard. My brother also was in the Vermont Army National Guard. He was in Vermont at the same time not at the time that Lieutenant Dooley and the other soldiers were killed, but he came in I think at the end of 2005, or early 2006 that timeframe kind of as just pulsing up the numbers, I think. One of the stories and some of the pictures and stuff that he would show us after he got back home and talking about were just mind-blowing to think that people actually have to all this stuff there that was just a very tough time to be in Iraq or really to be anywhere, to live through that kind of stuff. My brother was also under your chain of command as well.
Scott DeLuzio 00:32:25 It’s leaders all the way up and down the chain of command that make people like Gunny, like you were talking about, like him being able to say, I wanna put these men first. I wanna think about them before my own situation because I don’t care who you are. It’s gonna be a heck of a lot easier to be carried off in a stretcher than it is to be walking to the helicopter with blood dripping out of God knows where, and your pants off, everything like that showing your business to the whole world. Especially with reporters there, with cameras and everything. It’s gonna be a heck of a lot easier to be carried off. That’s not what he wanted, that he didn’t want that for his soldiers. I truly believe that it’s the leaders up and down the chain of chain command that made it so that he had the confidence and the ability to do that type of work and be that type of leader. It wasn’t a one-man job that did that, not taking anything away from what he did and the type of character that he has. He learned that from somewhere and I really believe that that came from the leadership going into there.
John Gronski 00:33:47 That’s why being a servant leader, being a character-based leader is so powerful because you could have generational impacts. I think about the soldiers on the ground that day who saw how gunny Burghardt carried himself. How he was more concerned with those two young Marines than he was with his own wounds. I am sure, really formed and shaped the leadership characteristics of many of the soldiers who were out there watching him that day. They’ll act that way. 20 years from now, people they’re leading right now will also act that way. I mean, it’s generational. The impact is astounding. Just getting back to basic leadership, a Sergeant in the army, a team leader, he’s leading four other people in his fire team.
John Gronski 00:34:49 I used to tell sergeants this all the time and the same could apply to a foreman in a factory, not a foreman, but maybe a team leader in a factory so maybe it’s a 22-year-old Sergeant. But to those 18-year-old privates that are serving with that Sergeant look to that 22-year-old Sergeant as a God, as far as they’re concerned, wow, you’re a non-commissioned officer he’s been around, he’s been around the block. He’s got this experience. I tell these sergeants, you could change somebody’s life just by the way you decide to lead. It’s a very powerful position to be in. No matter how many people you lead or no matter what your experience level as a leader is, you have to really understand that people are watching you, people respect you and people are going to mold their leadership behavior off of the leadership behavior. They see you demonstrate
Scott DeLuzio 00:36:00 that could be good or bad. If you are one of those toxic leaders who is a bad leader, you will have that same impact on those soldiers. You put crap in, you’re gonna get crap out. You put good stuff in, you’re gonna get good stuff out. So it’s really up to the leaders to determine what type of soldiers or, or workers in a factory or whatever the case may be, what type of people that you’re gonna end up leading.
John Gronski 00:36:32 that’s why it’s important for leaders who are a little bit higher up the chain to get around and circulate, and just talk to the basic soldier, the basic worker out there, because one thing about toxic leaders, I found in my 40 years of serving in the army other leadership experiences, is that toxic leaders have a way of hide their toxicity from their boss. Have you ever noticed that? Toxic leaders are kind like chickens. I use that fancy word, so I don’t have to use the word. That’s a little bit more vulgar than kissing somebody’s butt. Toxic leaders have a way of hiding their toxicity from their boss. Unless the boss gets around and circulates and just talks to the common worker or soldier out there, and then they can kinda start to pick up some cues of, Hey, is this a good leader, or is this a toxic leader? That’s one of the reasons a leader has to circulate down to various levels.
Scott DeLuzio 00:37:44 I think it’s really important like you’ve said, for the leaders to get down to the various levels to see what’s going on from, in, on their own, with their own eyes. Because just like you were saying before with Russia and Putin, he kept having the yes. Men coming to him and saying, oh yeah, everything’s fine. The money’s going where it’s supposed to be going with all the training happening. We have this world-class elite military and everything is okay. I’m sure in different words, obviously without Putin, going out to the actual troops and actually seeing with his own eyes, how could he know for sure one way or the other if this was gonna be what he was expecting it to be.
John Gronski 00:38:45 Then the other important thing for leaders, especially young leaders are aspiring leaders to realize, like when you’re out there circulating. What does that mean? What are you supposed to be doing? Really, what you need to do is keep an eye on what your folks do. What obstacles are in the way of the people you’re leading, that’s preventing them from doing their job as well as they could be doing it? You have to keep an eye out for that, or what resources do they need, they could do their job a little bit better. Those are the things a leader needs to be looking for besides, just talking to the troops and really getting to know the troops. That’s, that’s important. But once you identify what obstacles are in their way, you might be in a position of authority where you could remove that obstacle.
John Gronski 00:39:33 Maybe the actual soldier on the ground worker on the ground didn’t have the authority to remove the obstacle, or if you don’t have the authority, now you have to show the personal courage to go to your boss and try to get your boss to remove that obstacle. Or now you could provide a resource to your people. If you see that they need a particular resource that they don’t have, or again, go to your boss and fight for that resource. So those are the things leaders need to be doing when they’re circulated. They’re just not out there. You’re out there. You’re trying to get to know your people, but it’s just not about being out there. You get all you want, but at the end of the day, what your people really want is, Hey, remove these obstacles that are just, just killing us and gimme this resource I need, cuz everybody wants to do a good job. It’s that leader’s responsibility to keep an eye out for those things.
Scott DeLuzio 00:40:35 I think in the lower leadership levels, the people who are dealing directly with the team leaders are dealing directly with their team or the squad leaders or platoon sergeants even when they’re dealing with their individual soldiers. I think it’s important for them to also sort of talk about this before, but leading by example and showing that with regards to things like mental health. Showing that it’s okay to go and talk to somebody to go get treatment, be vulnerable in that sense. As a leader, a lot of times, especially, I know when I was in, it was kind of one of those things where you didn’t show that vulnerability, you kind of just were a that’s okay too. To be strong and to be a strong leader, but also letting people know that it’s okay to take care of things that need to be taken care of as well.
John Gronski 00:41:29 Scott, I’m so happy you mentioned vulnerability. So, how do leaders help the people they lead become more resilient, first of all, really getting to know your people. So if a person’s personality is off, or if their emotions are off, you’ll be able to detect that, and you’ll be able to ask them, Hey, is everything okay what’s going on with you? Maybe get them to somebody who’s a little bit more, , in the profession of helping them deal with, with, with some issues. so that’s one thing right there. Then also allow yourself to be vulnerable by sharing stories about yourself, about how some struggles you’ve had in the past, and how you were able to overcome those struggles and let people know, Hey, I had to reach out, I had to get help.
John Gronski 00:42:29 It’s okay to ask for help. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to share those stories, because a lot of times people look at a leader and they think, oh, that person’s a leader. They probably never made a mistake. They probably never had a bad day. They never prove they probably never struggled with emotional behavior issues or anything, but that we all know that’s bull crap. We all know as leaders, we struggle emotionally. We struggle with family issues. We struggled with guilt issues we served over in combat and we came back and some of our buddies didn’t, I mean, we struggled with all those issues ourselves, and the only way we’ve been able to get through it is by asking for help. And it’s okay to let the people you lead know that it’s okay to ask for help. Those are such important things for leaders to do on a day-to-day basis. You could help your people become more resilient and overcome these emotional and mental challenges that many of the people face out there.
Scott DeLuzio 00:43:44 That goes back to what we were talking about before, by leading by example, and talking about putting in the effort that you want to see coming out of people that you’re leaving. Talking about the things that you’ve done, that you’ve experienced, talking about your own personal experiences, help to just show that, it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to have these normal reactions to abnormal situ that most people never experience in their lifetime, but, but here you are, you experienced it. Now you’re having this normal reaction to it. How do you deal with it? Well, this is how I dealt with it.
John Gronski 00:44:28 I think it’s particularly hard for people in the military profession or in law enforcement because we join those professions because we wanna be a protector. We wanna protect others. When you see yourself as a protector, a lot of times you don’t realize that, Hey, sometimes you need protection too. And your role is to be a protector. You wanna kind of steal yourself and be tough and pretend you don’t need anybody’s help. I could, I could handle this, but man, everybody needs some help and leaders need to go around and get that message out, to your followers that, Hey, it’s okay to ask for help that, Hey, if you’re in a gym and you wanna get stronger, don’t you ask for somebody to spot you on the weight bench. So that’s asking for some help and again, if we wanna get stronger emotionally or mentally, a lot of times we have somebody to help us a little bit, Hey, could you spot me? I’m having a bad day today. I need somebody to talk to no different than how you would get a spotter in a weight room spotting you if you’re benching.
Scott DeLuzio 00:45:44 You’re gonna hit a cap of how much you can do on your own without having that support. you don’t wanna be putting up way more weight than you’re, you’re physically capable of doing, at this point, without that guidance there. Because otherwise you’re gonna be missing a few teeth on the way down.
Scott DeLuzio 00:46:05 A lot of the stuff that we’re talking about in terms of helping other people, but this podcast and I talked about this earlier with you. Before we started recording, it started after several soldiers I served with came back home, took their own lives. I didn’t want to sit around waiting for another phone call telling me that another friend that lost their battle with PTSD or whatever they were dealing with. I also realized that this was a problem that stretched far beyond the people that I served with. The statistic that gets torn around 22 veterans a day takes their lives. I’m sure that fluctuates over the course of time, but, but the way I’ve always thought about it is to imagine being the 23rd person in a room with 22 other people, knowing that by the end of the day, you’re gonna be the last man standing.
Scott DeLuzio 00:46:50 Now, just think about that. They’re all going to take their lives at some point during the day. would you just hang around and just do nothing all day and just go about your business and forget about all those people or would you help other people in the room? I think most of us, especially the people who aspire to be good leaders, would try to do something to help the other people in the room. That’s basically where this podcast came from. I don’t want to be standing in the corner of this room, just watching these people fall every day. I may not be able to save everybody who’s in the room. I can do my best to try to help as many as I can.
Scott DeLuzio 00:47:27 I think the more people that we have in these rooms, these rooms that I’m drawn to, the more help we can offer. If we have 44 people in the room, we get a one-on-one basis. Now we’re able to help each individual working through their own situation. The more lives ultimately, I think we’ll be able to save. That’s why I think it’s important to even take this outside of the military itself, where you have, your team leaders, your squad leaders, all the way up the chain of command, you start looking at veteran organizations like the VFW with the American Legion. I’m just picking on those two right now, but there’s plenty of other organizations that are out there like that. These organizations help people who are transitioning out of the military service and deal with their PTSD and the other issues that they might be going through from, a leadership perspective?
John Gronski 00:48:29 I think the big thing is that they just need to let the people who are transitioning say, Hey, we are here for you. We’re not gonna judge you. we’re here to listen. I think networking is a big thing. I think the more networking that they could provide, so people with those shared experiences could come together. If you’re dealing with a situation it’s much easier to talk to someone who has also dealt with a similar situation, you feel more comfortable talking to people like that. To try to form those communities of people who are, are, are willing to provide some lessons from the transition that they went through and just try to pass down a little bit are extremely helpful. But I think the biggest thing that could come out of it is the networking aspect of you because now, again, people with shared experiences are talking to other people with similar experiences and it’s much easier to open up to people like that.
Scott DeLuzio 00:49:41 That networking is huge. It goes back to what you were saying before about having that group of people in your life. That you may get out of the military and not really, maybe you don’t have a family life, maybe you’re not married. You don’t have much, relatives around your area, whatever you don’t have people to fall back on. But when you start building this network and I think I mentioned earlier you actually have to work at this and you have to build this network of people to have in your life. Organizations like this have those other like-minded people, people who have gone through similar experiences. That’s a perfect place to start is going into these organizations and just saying, I’d like to get involved, get, get to know some more people.. I think from the organization standpoint, they need to get out into that military community and let people know, Hey, we’re here for you. We’re here to help support you, in whatever way we can.
John Gronski 00:50:44 I do wanna mention, that I love living in south-central Pennsylvania about an hour we’re 45 minutes from Philadelphia. There’s a great veterans organization in the Philadelphia region, the Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network. If there’s anybody from any other part of the country listening, who is trying to form a type of group re you could Google the greater Philadelphia veterans network, and reach out to some people there. They do a tremendous job helping veterans who are transitioning out find a path, find a way whether you wanna be an entrepreneur or whether you wanna work, a company, a civilian company after transitioning out, great association. I recommend anybody who’s listening, to reach out to them. They could help you. Really a big shout out to the greater Philadelphia Veterans network, because I know they do a tremendous amount of work to help veterans who are transitioning. Another organization is Four Block. Four Block is a really great organization to help veterans who are transitioning. There’s many organizations like that out there. Those are two that I’m involved with. Two that come to my mind that I’ve just wanted to share with people.
Scott DeLuzio 00:52:10 The other nice thing about having a podcast like this is I get to talk to people like yourself who are involved with these organizations who are out there doing things for veterans and all that stuff is great. But if people don’t know that they exist, then for those people, anyways, it’s not really very beneficial. Being able to talk about these organizations is great. Gives just one more tool in the toolbox that people can use. Maybe not for everyone, but they’re out there for somebody and hopefully we can reach the right people and get them the help that they need through the services that these organizations offer. I think to me, that’s really the name of the game, just pointing people in the right direction and letting the people who do the work best, do the work and help the people as best as they can.
John Gronski 00:53:09 They’ve got the expertise they’ve been dealing with veterans now for many years and, you might as well try to go with organizations who have been, have a good track record, a track record, helping transitioning veterans.
Scott DeLuzio 00:53:26 I know we’re kind of closing in on the hour mark here on this episode and time has just literally flown by. I could probably sit here and talk with you all day, but I know you’re a busy man. I want to give you the opportunity to talk about your consulting and the services that you offer and as well as your books and where people can find those as well to help support you and get your message out there to more people.
John Gronski 00:53:57 Thanks for asking about that. I do have a pretty cool website. It’s John gronsky.com and people go to that website. There’s a lot of free leadership development material on that website. There’s a leadership blog that I write they have access to. You could access my YouTube channel, where I have short leadership videos. Leadership EPA and flip that people could download for free that cover some of the things we talked about in terms of character competence and resilience. There’s a free periodic leadership email that I send out, it’s called leadership sharpeners, so people can register and you’ll receive that every few weeks. So again, just some cool leadership resources. If you wanna purchase my book, go to my website. There’s a link to my e-commerce site where you could purchase a signed copy of either, iron sharpened leadership or the right to life.
John Gronski 00:55:00 Then when people read my books if they wanna reconnect with me, ask me a question about the book or just something that they read that they maybe don’t quite understand so that they wanna get a little bit more information. I’m always glad just to be available to people, to provide any more insight that they might be after. I just did a two-day leader leadership workshop for law enforcement officers and for leaders from other civilian sectors this past Thursday and Friday conducted that leadership seminar two-day leadership and resiliency workshop in Somerset county, New Jersey, I’ll be doing another similar workshop in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area in September, and then another workshop like that in Northern New Jersey in November. I do two-day leadership workshops that are very well received.
John Gronski 00:55:56 I do a lot of keynote speaking for organizations. I do a lot of leadership seminars for, colleges and again, other civilian organizations, and also, for the military. Anytime I do anything for the military, it’s usually always pro bono, always glad to help. Those are some of the things I do. Again, it’s my life purpose. I talked earlier about life’s purpose. I determined that my life purpose is trying to share some of the hard leadership lessons that I’ve learned with leaders, seasoned leaders, and aspiring leaders to help them become stronger leaders and maybe not make some of the same mistakes that I made in the past
Scott DeLuzio 00:56:41 As far as I’m concerned, and that picture that I painted with the people helping each other up the mountain. I think you’re towards the top of the mountain and you’re definitely helping pull up as many people as you can. It seems to me the leadership qualities that you’ve learned over your career and what you’re passing on now, how to the next generation of leaders is just incredible. I’m really glad that you are continuing this mission and continuing to give back to the military, to the first responders to organizations of all sorts, to help them, create better leaders within their own ranks. Like you said, it will have a multiply exponential effect where those leaders will now impact other people who will become leaders as well. That’s just going to help out years and years down the line. I’m really glad that there are people like you out there who are helping pull people up the mountain.
John Gronski 00:57:45 Yeah. Hey, Scott, I appreciate you saying that. You too are helping pull people up the mountain with this podcast to do with the positive messages and important messages that you get out. The concept of the Drive on Podcast and thank you for taking the time and the energy to do what you do. Cause I know it’s helpful to many people.
Scott DeLuzio 00:58:08 Well, thank you again. I really appreciate having you on, and it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today.
John Gronski 00:58:14 Thank you. Appreciate it.
Scott DeLuzio 00:58:16 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.
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