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Dan McPherson, CEO, Leaders Must Lead

The Industry Leaders talks with Dan McPherson, CEO of Leaders Must Lead, about having a bad start in life and turning it around by helping others transform their lives with mentoring, personalised coaching and corporate training.

How did you end up sitting where you are today?

When I was a kid, I was hidden from my father for six years, and life only got crazier after that. By the age of 16, after dealing with poverty and abuse and living around drugs and violence, I'd had enough. After I survived my first suicide attempt, I began to gain perspective. I finally saw that our environment might exert influence, but it’s our choices that create change. I wanted to change. I also began to believe I could really help people. It took 25 years for me to figure out what that meant, but here I am.

What kind of work does your role involve?

My North Star is to inspire true generational change resulting in a 15 per cent reduction worldwide of society’s larger problems such as human trafficking, hunger, poverty, racism, and more, over the next 15 years. I believe the best path to this goal is to inspire and equip one million entrepreneurs and creatives with the foundations of success they need to achieve their dreams. I feel honoured to share this message through professional speaking, hosting the Dreams ARE Real podcast, and sharing the Foundations of Success Online Learning Platform we’ve created to support our dreamers.

What gets you excited about your industry?

I love that the personal development industry is finding maturity and that so many are recognising the value of their own growth. My company is named Leaders Must Lead because I believe leadership isn’t just a cornerstone of our success; it is the keystone. And, in my observation, the first pillar of leadership is personal growth. Why? Because the most challenging person to lead is us! It’s amazing how many struggles are resolved when we’re simply able to get out of our own way. That’s when things begin flowing to us rather than us having to fight through them.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

“Life is ten per cent what happens to you and 90 per cent how you choose to respond.” I spent much of my life blaming the world only to realise my response was often the source of my pain. Last year while on the operating table with my first heart attack, this message and its corollary (On our darkest day, in our darkest hour, 90 per cent of the things in our life are still good) rang like a clear bell of truth through my soul. In the midst of fear, I wasn’t angry or desperate, I was grateful. We all have struggles, but there is always light through the darkness.

How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?

I passionately believe leaders are learners and that we become the average of the five people we spend the most time around. I also believe that the most important skill is to become more curious. As a result, I foster relationships with coaches, speakers, and trainers around the world. In addition to directly coaching a number of coaches, I openly share thoughts and ideas in public forums where we’re able to learn from one another and also offer a variety of free and low-cost content that supports growth for those in our industry.

How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?

One habit I’m committed to each day is that of growth. I believe we’re either getting better or worse every day. To that end, I spend a minimum of 15 minutes ‘feeding in’ by reading, listening to an audiobook or podcast, or completing a training course, and writing down at least one thing I’ve learned in a private journal. Sincere networking is also key for me. I typically meet five to ten new people each week for a 60-minute intro call to share our stories and learn how we may support one another. This has been truly invaluable.

What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?

A couple of years into my business, I was completely overwhelmed. I was drowning and needed help but didn’t see a way to justify it with the revenue I’d achieved. I finally did the math and discovered I was right about the money, but there were also literally 3000 hours of unfinished work. I had the bright and long overdue idea to ask for help. I made a simple social post seeking those who were passionate about our mission and willing to work in an alternative arrangement or trade for services. The response was overwhelming, and we began to build our team.

You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

After recovering from first reactions: disbelief, leaping in the air like a crazy person, dancing with no rhythm but much joy, and sitting down to catch my breath, I would split the money into my give, save, and spend categories, get it to where it was needed, and get back to work. That’s not what I would have done five years ago, working in the corporate world, but I know my purpose in this world now, and it matters. Not that I’m opposed to a nice vacation...

How do you define failure?

Though I believe true failure is rare and often a self-imposed belief, broadly, I would define it as missing the mark we aim for. If that’s the standard, I’ve done it more than most. When asked how I’ve learned so much, my best response is that it’s because I’ve failed three times as much as the next person. The next part of the response is most critical, though. I don’t lay mourning my loss, but instead, bounce up and run to the next failure knowing it will eventually lead to a win. Resilience may be the most important characteristic of a successful entrepreneur, and that is where my focus lies.

If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

I wish that every single person would value personal growth and make an early commitment to finding mentors and coaches to accelerate their progress. I can only imagine the impact this may have had in my life if I had connected these dots ten or even twenty years earlier.

What book or podcast should everyone know about?

I have benefitted from so many books and podcasts, but the two I have gifted the most are Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink, and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. Jocko has a powerful perspective of leadership and shares it clearly and directly. Never Split the Difference is the best book on persuasion I’ve read in more than ten years. Read these, and listen to the eclectic but incredibly informative Tim Ferriss Podcast, and you’ll certainly be better for it.

How should people connect with you?


Find out more about Dan's take on leadership and his advice for anyone working with a bad boss in this video interview with us:

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