New York Times Bestselling Author Tommy Spaulding discusses his unlikely ascension to CEO of a multinational non-profit organization, along with his premature resignation and the life-changing wisdom and perspective he’s gained in the years that followed.
Tommy Spaulding is the Founder & President of Tommy Spaulding Companies, a leadership development, speaking, training, and executive coaching firm based in Denver, Colorado. A world-renowned speaker on leadership, Spaulding has spoken to hundreds of organizations, associations, educational institutions, and corporations around the globe.
His books, It’s Not Just Who You Know and The Heart-Led Leader have reached the top of the New York Times bestselling list.
Spaulding rose to become the youngest President & CEO of the world-renowned leadership organization, Up with People. In 2000, Tommy founded Leader’s Challenge, which grew to become the largest high school civic and leadership program in the state of Colorado. He is the Founder & President of the Global Youth Leadership Academy as well as the National Leadership Academy, a leading national non-profit high school leadership development organization.
“Leadership is a choice.”
“I don’t believe you can truly love and serve other people until you love and serve yourself.”
“The greatest servant leaders truly love themselves because they know who they are in Christ.”
1. You can be a self-serving leader or a servant leader.
2. Listen and learn from critics, but don’t run with them.
3. Leaders make tough decisions that reflect their values.
4. The greatest leaders bring their heart to work.
5. Jesus was no pushover. He demanded excellence. He had boundaries.
6. When you truly love someone and they’re in the wrong role, you find a way to get them in the right place.
7. Be careful of fear. Fear is a liar.
Ray: Well, hello everyone. This is Ray Hilbert and I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith. This is the program where we really focus on the intersection of faith, business, life and leadership in the market place. We get an opportunity on a weekly basis to interview some of the most amazing, Christ followers who are living out their faith on a daily basis in business and in leadership and who are impacting the market place for Christ.
I am so honored to welcome our friend, Tommy Spaulding to today’s program. Let me tell y’all just a little bit about Tommy. He is the founder and President of Tommy Spaulding Companies. He is a New York Times Best Selling Author. He speaks to companies and organizations globally. We’re going to learn about his passion and his heart for leadership development. Not only with CEOs and business owners and executives, but a special passion and calling that God has placed on his heart in equipping today’s youth who are tomorrows leaders. Tommy is one of our nations gems. A follower and lover of Jesus. Tommy, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
Tommy: How do you follow that, Ray? Thank you so much. I love it.
Ray: Well, Tommy, you and I had a chance to get acquainted a few months ago through a friend who introduced us. I remember that conversation vividly and I just remember hanging up the phone that day and saying I can’t wait to have Tommy on our program. Tommy, you really embody, you really are what we’re trying to bring about in terms of a focus here at Bottom Line Faith. As I said, you love Jesus, you’re living out your faith in the market place, but why don’t you tell us just a little bit about your work at Tommy Spaulding Companies, what you do and what you’re trying to accomplish there. Then we’ll get into the rest of the story.
Tommy: You bet, you bet. Well, I grew up in upstate New York and I really struggled in high school, Ray, with dyslexia. They didn’t really know how to diagnose me back then, so they put me in that room called the resource room really all through high school and middle school. I barely graduated high school. I mean, I literally graduated with a 2.0 GPA and watched my friends graduate high school Magna Cum Laude and Summa Cum Laude. I graduated high school thank God Almighty Cum Laude. Just wanted to graduate.
I wasn’t even going to be going to college because my grades were so bad. Then God just had this incredible plan and journey for me. This group called Up With People came to my high school, my Senior year of high school right before I was going to graduate. I had never been on an airplane before. I never really traveled outside of New York, where I was raised, because we didn’t have any money to travel internationally. They had this international leadership group come to my high school, Sutton High School, to perform. It was really a life changing day for me because I got to see 120 young people on stage from 23 different countries and all walks of life. The message just really hit my heart about serving others and changing the world.
I went back stage after the show and I interviewed and that was when my path kind of changed and I charted a different course and joined Up With People and kind of spent 20 years with that organization on and off from a 17 year old dyslexic kid to becoming the President and CEO of an organization 25 years later. It’s been a pretty humbling journey.
Ray: That’s incredible. I want to go back to that time in school. I know we’ve come a long way with understanding learning disabilities and some of the challenges that you faced, but maybe some of it wasn’t by name then or understanding. What do you remember about that season of your life about what it was that people were saying about you or how you felt about yourself? How did your faith eventually help you work through that?
Tommy: Yeah, I mean I’m 50 years old this year and looking back on my life and I think it’s the one pain, and I’ve had many pains, but the one that’s been constant my whole life is I just don’t want people to think I’m dumb. I just grew up not wanting people to think I was stupid because that’s how I felt. The grades and the standardized tests, you can’t get a lower SAT score than I got. I mean, I got like a 640 and I think that’s the bottom 90 percentile in the country. You just can’t get worse grades then I did.
I just felt like I wasn’t smart enough and I really wasn’t diagnosed until I was in college. But, you know, when we’re young grades are everything. It just really, really affected my self confidence and my self esteem and it really defined my life and who I am today, for sure.
Ray: At what point did your faith play a role in helping you work through that your identity was not in your GPA or your degree? Help us understand that aspect of your life just a bit.
Tommy: I have an interesting faith journey. I’d like to say right now, I’m a really proud and loyal and humble Catholic, but it wasn’t always that way. I was raised Catholic, altar boy, church the whole deal. I never really had a personal relationship with Jesus. I had a personal relationship with my priest. I left the Catholic church when I was in college. I left it for 15-20 years. I guess you can say I became reintroduced to the non-denominational Christian Church and became more of a Jesus follower and Christian the last 20 years. Then I hooked up with a guy named Matthew Kelly five years ago who is an Author, as well, and a Catholic. He guided me back to the Catholic church. I’ve kind of come full circle.
I’m a Catholic, but I have a deep, deep personal relationship with Jesus and I’m hoping to be part of a movement where more Catholics have more of a relationship with Christ versus their Priest. I know that’s kind of a long story but it’s kind of a beautiful one.
Ray: Precisely. As you’ve communicated, your faith is deep and it’s real and we’re going to dive into maybe some examples of how that helps you in leadership and in business. I want to understand, Tommy, why is this issue of developing leaders so critical and why is it so important to you?
Tommy: Yeah, you know, I work with high school kids and I work with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. A lot of people say, “How do you do that? I know there’s teachers and people that work with high school kids, and then there’s people that work with corporate people. I’ve never met a thought leader that works with both. How do they work together?” I say, “Well, if I do my job right with coaching and teaching high school kids what servant leadership is, then I wouldn’t need to have a job teaching CEOs what servant leadership is about because they would learn it in high school.”
But I’m just so passionate about teaching people that leadership is a choice and that if we choose to become a leader we’re going to have to choose to become either a servant leader or a self-serving leader. That’s really the biggest choice we make as a leader is which type are we going to be? There’s really only two types of leaders. A self-serving leader or a servant leader. Ray, no one raises their hand and says, “Man, I want to be a self-serving leader?” But the truth is, I don’t know, 80-85% in the entire workforce, leadership, management in the entire country is probably a self-serving leader. Those numbers may even be skewed. It might even be 90%.
It’s really, really hard to be a servant leader. That’s why I’ve just become so passionate about it. About 20 years ago I just decided I’m going to spend the rest of my life learning this stuff and teaching this stuff to anyone that will listen because I just think it’s so critical.
Ray: Well, there’s a lot of talk these days about this term, servant leadership, and I want to dive into this with you because our audience, by and large, these are faith based leaders, they’re running companies, running departments, running divisions and I think inherently they would think, I would think that well of course I’m a servant leader. I’m a faith-based person. But, maybe not.
Would you mind taking a couple of moments here and just walking is through maybe a handful of bullet points or some of the differences, I mean tangible, noticeable differences between a self-serving leader versus a servant-leader?
Tommy: Sure. Well, when I wrote my book The Heart-Led Leader which is on servant leadership, I wrote down about 100 servant leaders in the world that I knew personally that ran either Fortune 500 companies or large organizations. Leaders that really made a huge influence in the world and I felt that they were servant leaders. I called them all up and I asked them if I would be able to interview them for the book. You know what they all said when I told them that I think that they are a servant leader, they are a heart-led leader, they’re a humble leader and I want to interview them for the book? You know what everyone of them said? Not 99% of them, 100% of them said the same thing. It’s almost like they all had a conference call with each other and said, “Let’s tell Tommy the same thing.”
You know what they all said? “You got the wrong guy. You got the wrong gal. I appreciate the compliment, Tommy but I’m far from being a servant leader. I’m still working at it.” Have you met Jimmy Blanchard?
Ray: Only by name.
Tommy: He’s on the board of Chick-fil-a and he started Synova, it’s a multi billion dollar bank. You meet Jimmy Blanchard, he’s probably one of the greatest servant leaders in the world, that’s Ken Blanchard’s mentor and Ken Blanchard is the guru of servant leadership. You go, “Jimmy, I’d like to write about you.” He goes, “You got the wrong guy. I’m unworthy to be written about.”
What I’ve learned about servant leadership and heart-led leadership is that if you think you’re a heart-led leader you’re probably not. Servant leadership and heart-led leadership is a title that’s given to you, not that you aspire to be and then name yourself as. It’s given to you as a gift from your followers. I think that servant leadership is really a choice and we have to make that choice early on. It’s really, really hard to lead with humility and vulnerability and authenticity and generosity and a constant level all the time. When you do, it’s life changing.
The problem with servant leadership, Ray, where servant leadership has gotten a bad rap is when we’re talking about servant leadership in the work force corporate America wants ROI. They want results.
Ray: That’s right.
Tommy: If you look at all the books that are written about servant leadership in the world, none of them really tied bottom line results. I mean, your podcast is called Bottom Line Faith. The bottom line is important for organizations. I wrote the Heart-Led Leader with a twist. I connected what would servant leadership look like if connected to the bottom line?
I blood sugar researched organizations that had unprecedented results, unprecedented bottom line results. The reason why is because they had that servant leadership and it’s just a fact that if you build a culture of servant leadership in your organizations that you will have more bottom line results, period. You just have to have the faith of God that you can let go and build that kind of culture, which is really hard to do. Really hard to do.
Ray: It really is and it’s so, to your term, it’s so counter cultural, it’s counter intuitive. Maybe one example that comes to mind of a servant leadership either leader, principal or company and how you’ve seen it impact the bottom line. Can you, I’m sure you can come up with many. What’s one that comes to mind as an example?
Tommy: Just your time. That’s our most precious valuable resource is our time. Most people when they wake up in the morning their day is really all about them. They work out, take care of their body, they get a cup of coffee or whatever to rejuvenate them, they read the paper to educate themselves, and the go to work to provide for their family. Your day can be so consumed about just serving yourself. I think servant leaders wake up and they start their day with the Lord and they basically say, “What can I do today to change the world? Change my company? Change my family? My community? Who do I need to serve?” They go throughout the day looking at people not what can I get from them, but what can I do to help them and serve them?
Just little bits of time, phone calls to people. It’s someone’s birthday and instead of sending them a two second text you give them a call and leave a nice message. It’s just giving your time on a daily schedule to serve others is really a great start.
Ray: I love that. As I’m listening to what you’re sharing here, Tommy. Gosh, we’ve had some amazing conversations here. One of them that’s at the top of my mind right now is Cheryl Bachelder who is a former CEO at Popeye’s chicken. Now she’s currently the CEO at Pier 1 Imports. I remember in my conversation with her she said that she not only personally did this but taught her leaders to spend a full 30% of their work week in one-on-one coaching, servant leader meetings. Meaning, getting to know that person, like you were just talking about. Knowing when their birthday was, knowing what’s going on in their family. Once they knew they were loved and cared for, they’d walk through fire for you as a leader.
It’s not about what we’re getting, to your point, it’s what we’re giving. Is that what you’re talking about is really that kind of intentional just loving people well.
Tommy: Yeah, absolutely. What Cheryl did, I got to write about her in the Heart-Led Leader, no CEO has ever done that in the history of corporate America. She basically was running an S&P 500 company, Popeye’s, that was and failing. Stock dropped from like $57 a share to $15 a share. There was more lawsuits and no trust in the brand. I mean, it was just a dead brand.
She said the only way we’re going to turn around this company is we’ve got to start investing in each other. I’m going to start. I’m going to spend 33% of my time blessing, serving, coaching, loving, listening my direct reports. All I ask is that you do that for your direct reports. That went on for thousands of people throughout that organization. When you ask Cheryl how did you grow your stock 400% in eight years? One of the greatest corporate turnarounds ever for a franchise restaurant, how did you do it? She said, “I just invested in the people.”
It sounds so easy, Ray. Oh, it’s easy to invest in your people. To actually take the time every day to do that, that’s a whole other story. That’s the difference between being a self-serving leader and a servant leader. There’s only 10% of people in the world that are servant leaders, that are true servant leaders because it takes an enormous amount of time and strength to constantly lead the way.
Ray: Yeah, and in that case, you’ve got the fire breathing public on you, you’ve got the media on your, you’ve got your board of directors and they’re all screaming for results, results, results. She played the long game and gave them results by loving people well.
Tommy, I would be remiss if I went any further without asking you what’s the best way that our audience can learn about you, get in touch with you, contact you? What’s the best way?
Tommy: My website is tommyspaulding.com. I have the u in my last name, s as in Sam, p as in Paul, a-u-l-d-i-n-g. It’s tommy@ tommyspaulding.com.
Ray: That’s fantastic. Well Tommy, I’d like to now just kind of learn more about your journey and particularly how your faith has played such a role in your leadership over the years. As you look back over your career and your companies and the things that you’ve done, what would you say is the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make in business and what role did your faith play in that decision?
Tommy: I’ve made a lot of mistakes in business. I think all those mistakes that I’ve made have all brought me closer to the Lord. It’s also deeply humbled me. I think one of the toughest decisions I’ve made in my career is the organization that changed my life, Up With People, I can’t say enough amazing things about this non profit organization. I spent nearly 20 years on and off with them. It really taught me how to be really a global leader and to be a 17 year old kid that never had a passport to travel to 83 countries, live in Europe for a couple of years, live in Japan for a couple of years, live in Australia for a couple of years and become the CEO of this world wide organization at the age of 35 years old. It’s truly humbling.
When I got into the business and I started running Up With People I realized that there were some critics in the organization that didn’t like the way I was running the organization. I thought that I was the only leader in the world that had critics. When I realized that any time you lead and organization you’re always going to have 10% of people that are critics. I was too immature back then, Ray, to understand that. I had 90% of the people that were running with me that wanted to relaunch Up With People of the 21st century and take this incredible worldwide organization from the last 50 years to the next 50 years. Watch the incredible vision.
Well, there’s 10% of the people that just want you fired, want your head on the block. That you’re running a huge organization worldwide and lots of critics. What I realized is now is that there’s critics everywhere. I called them the critics and crazies. 10% of the world is just they’re critics and crazies. Like, 10% of the people in the world believe that the Holocaust never happened, that Hitler never killed all those Jews. There’s actually 10% of the people, and Jack Welch, Chairman of General Electric for years, knew this. He was the first CEO to really be outspoken saying, “We need to identify these 10% of the people in organizations and we need to fire them. We need to ask them gently to leave our organization and we need to focus on the 90%.”
That was a huge mistake I made as a CEO of a worldwide multi-national non-profit is I focused too much, Ray, on the negative. Too much of the 10% trying to please them and then I lost my way with the 90% that were really excited about following me. We have to listen to our critics and learn from them, but then we have to also be able to put them at bay and run with the 90% that really love us and want to change the world with us. That was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make is to figure out how to separate the 10% and the 90%. Ultimately I lost that battle that the 10% won and I resigned and got pushed out and if I had led that organization today I would have led it a whole different way than 15 years ago.
Ray: Well, that is a powerful principle. While we’re there I want to park for just a second, Tommy, because in today’s world of social media and everybody has a voice and everybody has an opportunity to be a loud voice. We see companies doing this all the time. They get a little bit of criticism and they knee jerk reaction and go way away from maybe some of their principles or foundations.
Let’s just for a moment pretend that somebody who’s listening to our program right now, they’re a CEO, they’re a business owner or what have you and they’ve been going down a certain course and they’ve been pretty confident that they’re following God’s prompting and God’s leading for their company and their direction, but yet there’s some voices chirping right now. There’s a small minority of you know, maybe they’re getting some criticism on social media, or maybe they’re getting phone calls and emails. Maybe even inside their company they’ve got a small little remnant who are complaining. What encouragement or advice would you have, based on what you’ve just shared with us about what you’ve learned. What would you say to them?
Tommy: Well, stay true to your values. Those that really stay firm in believe in who you are, it’ll pay off I spades. It makes me think of a great story from Bob Rowland, who would be a great person to have on your show. He’s the owner of the Omni Hotels and owns all the Gold’s Gyms and Bob’s Steakhouses. He’s one of the billionaires in our country. Incredible entrepreneur and an amazing follower of Christ. I’ve gotten to know him quite well and spoken at his organization a couple of times.
Years ago he was highly criticized in his company and throughout the industry as a hotel business that he was the first person to pull pornography out of his hotel rooms. He was staying at Omni one day and flipping through the channels and was just shocked at how much pornography is readily available in hotel rooms. Pornography is a multi billion dollar business in the hotel world. He was the first one that pulled them out and it just doesn’t exist. They lost a lot of money. I’m talking millions and millions of dollars a year and was criticized.
Years later, the CEO of CVS, when CVS was really expanding throughout North America they decided that they were going to be a healthcare company. CVS pharmacy, why are they selling cigarettes? They were making I’m talking hundreds of millions of dollars a year on cigarettes. They decided we can’t do both. Let’s cut it out. I mean, when you’re a leader you’ve got to make tough decisions that reflect your values and you’re going to get criticized sometimes even more than the 10%, but you stay true to your values. I’m sure Cheryl at Popeyes got criticized for spending 30% of her time investing reports.
Tommy: I mean who does that?
Tommy: But she did and she stayed true to it and she grew her stock 400% because she did. Stay true to your values and who you are and in the long run you win.
Ray: I appreciate that. You shared with us this hard decision that you went through and the tough time and the critics and so forth. What are some of the Biblical principles that today guide you as you work with organizations and companies, you coach CEOs, we’re going to talk about your youth initiatives in just a moment. What are maybe two or three primary Biblical principles, you just talked about principles, what are a couple that drive you?
Tommy: Yeah, I mean I’m going to give you three, but there’s really just one. I just center my whole life on John 13:34. It says, “So now I’m giving you a new commandment. Love each other just as I love you.” You should love each other. That’s the commandment. I mean, if you go through the Bible that’s the biggest commandment that he gives. Love your neighbor, love your enemies, love, love. We as Christians, we as humans fail at this. We just forget that love is not just for our wives, husbands and our children and people that are easy to love, but love is also for people that are hard to love. Love also belongs in the work place. Your whole podcast is faith, life, business and leadership.
For 200 years we were brainwashed. Bring your head to work and leave your heart home. I think the greatest leaders in the world are now bringing their hearts to work, bringing love to work and having that Biblical philosophy that we’re called to truly love our customers, our employees, our investors, our clients, we really are deeply called to love and serve them. I believe love does have a place in the work place and I believe we never have to say the word, love.
I just love, I heard this years ago, Jimmy Blanchard taught this to me, is he ran a billion dollar bank, one of the largest banks in the world and he did it leading like Jesus, like Dan Cathy does at Chick-fil-a. I said, “Well, do you talk about Jesus? How do you lead an organization? How do you lead like Jesus but you really can’t talk about it as much openly because I’m a public company? How do you do it?” He said, “You know, we should share the words, just use words when necessary.” You’ve heard that before, Ray.
A different way of saying that is spread the word of Jesus Christ and use words when necessary. That just changed my life. That called me to want to act like Jesus, lead like Jesus, love like Jesus, not talk about Jesus. The great servant leaders in the world, you know they’re Christian not by them telling you on their resume, you know they’re Christians by the way they act.
Ray: Tommy, in this regard because I talk in the market place with both believers and non believers and I have actually heard Christian business owners tell me they’ve been criticized when they’ve had to let go an under performing employee, for example. They’ve been told, “Well, aren’t you a Christian? How can you do something so mean and so cruel?” Talk to us a little bit about this, I don’t even know if I’d call it a fine line, but this tension point because sometimes to love someone means to make difficult decisions. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Tommy: Yeah, I’m chuckling because Jesus was no pushover.
Ray: That’s right.
Tommy: He was firm. He had boundaries. He demanded excellence and I just think that servant leadership has just got thrown under the bus for so many years as soft. Let me tell you, we can go back to Cheryl at Popeyes. You know Cheryl, you’ve met her.
Tommy: She’s nice, she’s warm, she’s a great, warm, genuine, Christian person. Ray, she’d eat you and I for lunch. She’s tough as nails. I know her well, she is tough as nails. She demands excellence. There’s nothing touchy, feely, soft about her at all. One of the top five greatest servant leaders in our country and she’s tough.
Servant leadership does not need to be soft. When you truly love someone and they’re in the wrong role of a company and they’re struggling and they’re floundering, if you truly love them you want to find a way to exit them out of the organization. You’ve got to make tough decisions to do so. When you hear those people that criticize people saying, “I thought you were a Christian.” Yeah, Christians got to make tough decisions.
Ray: Well, I’m writing this down. I’m listening. You know, when you truly love someone you may have to make a really tough decision. I’m not laughing because it’s funny, I’m laughing because sometimes we fail to recognize that truth as those who are making those decisions. Like eh, you know, they’ve got a mortgage and they’ve got issues and you know, we’re not serving them. We’re not serving them if we’re allowing them to continue in that role, would you agree with that?
Ray: Yeah, and so Tommy, gosh, I feel like we could go on for days in this because this is such fun stuff, but it’s important stuff. I do want to ask you about something that God has really placed in your heart. I alluded to it earlier. You have a real passion for the next generation of leaders. In fact, you’ve launched an amazing National Leadership Academy. You’ve got a Global Youth Leadership Academy. Would you take just a couple of moments, why is this so important to you, building next gen leaders? What are you doing in these academies? What’s happening with all of that? I’m fired up to hear about this.
Tommy: Sure. You know, Ray, we’re so blessed. This is our 20th year anniversary this year.
Tommy: Of our National Leadership Academy and Global Youth Leadership Academy. It was really born of a place where I really wanted to teach high school kids the four most important words of leadership, which is it’s not about you. Most high school kids they go through life thinking it’s all about them. If you can get a high school kid, a 15 year old kid, to understand that the world is not about them, it’s about serving others you’ve just changed their life. You know, Up With People that really changed my life.
I really struggled in school, I didn’t get self confidence in the classroom, I got it outside the classroom. I got it in the Boy Scouts, I got it in the Student Government being Class President, I got it becoming an Eagle Scout. I just had this dream of bringing all types of kids. By the way, even though I’m a Christian, the National Leadership Academy, we have Jews, Muslims, Atheists, we have all types of kids in our program. I truly believe that we have to teach kids to love and serve all people.
We bring high school kids from all over the country together and we bring them together for five days. It’s a pretty intense five day academy teaching kids about servant leadership. They do community service, they’re a speaker, they do team building, and it’s an incredible experience really mentoring a few hundred kids at a time to really learn about what servant leadership is all about. Then we take about 40 kids to Europe every summer and really dive in deep into servant leadership.
What I’m really trying to teach these high school kids, why I’m so passionate about it, Ray, is that I believe the breakdown of corporate America, the breakdown of leadership in any area, any sector is when a leader doesn’t truly have self confidence in who they are. First of all, who you are in Christ. Every issue in your entire life, personal or professionally, happens when one of the two people doesn’t truly love themselves. I don’t believe you can truly love and serve other people until you truly love and serve yourself. Most people, most leaders won’t have self confidence. When you don’t have self confidence you can’t put others first. You have to be a self-serving leader because you have to put your own needs first because you’re insecure.
The greatest servant leaders I know truly love themselves because they know who they are in Christ. I try to teach high school kids to know who you are, and to truly love who are whether you’re white, black, rich, poor, zits on your face, overweight, under weight, whoever you are, you’re special. God made you who you are. When you can teach them how to love themselves, then you can teach them how to love other people. That’s what’s missing in our education system. We’re teaching Math, Science and History, but we’re not teaching high school kids to truly love themselves. It’s a tough thing. I just believe so strongly to teach these kids to believe in who they are and to have a purpose. Once you do that then you can change the world by teaching them about how to love others. But you can’t teach them how to love others until they really love themselves.
Ray: Yeah, Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves, right? That’s got to be there. Tommy, if someone is listening to this and they’re saying hey, how do I get more information? Is that something they can learn about the National Leadership Academy and Global Youth Leadership Academy?
Tommy: Yes, oh yeah.
Ray: How would that happen?
Tommy: It’s Nationalleadershipacademy.org and Globalyouthleadershipacademy.com. Our academies are in June here in Denver and then we’re taking kids to Switzerland this July and there’s still room for both programs if they want to sign up.
Ray: Okay, I’m going to go there today. Nationalleadershipacademy.org. Globalyouthleadershipacademy.com.
Tommy: Yes, yes. Ray, you know what’s ironic and funny, more ironic than funny, is now that I coach, I coach Fortune 500 CEOs and speak to organizations on leadership, the same issues I’m teaching high school kids I’m teaching Fortune 500 CEOs. Most of the CEOs that are having problems in servant leadership they didn’t learn in high school how to love themselves. They don’t love themself. They don’t know who they are in Christ. They’re not centered, so they’re self serving. Their employees don’t love them, respect them, their clients aren’t giving them their business because they see that they’re self serving.
The same issues I’m teaching the high school kids are the same issues I’m teaching corporate America. You’ve got to love yourself before you love others.
Ray: Yeah, I remember, years ago I remember hearing Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-a say before he passed, he said, “If you probably build boys you don’t have mend men.”
Tommy: I love that. He wrote a book on that. What a great guy.
Ray: Yeah, incredible, incredible. Well, Tommy, you touched on earlier about this experience you had back 25 years ago when you resigned from the organization you were leading, you loved and so forth. If you could go back and give advice to the 20 year old Tommy Spaulding, what advice would you give to the 20 year old you?
Tommy: Be careful of fear. Fear is a liar, and we’re going to have lots of it in our lifetime. I’m so blessed, I’ve written two best selling books and been honored to be on the speaking circuit for 11 years. I got so much fear that my third book won’t be a number one best seller, that no company won’t want to have me speak again.
About five years ago I started thinking wow, how long is this incredible ride going to happen writing these best selling books and speaking all over the world? One day, I’m sure it’s going to end because fear is getting in my head. Maybe I should do something different. I spoke at Jersey Mike’s National Conference and I along with those guys, incredible sub sandwich. I said, “Maybe I should open some Jersey Mike’s Sandwich Shops in Denver and keep that as a side business just in case my speaking business slips. Just in case my books don’t do as well.”
Well, I don’t know anything about sub sandwiches and my heart wasn’t in it and I don’t know anything about the franchise business. I half-heartedly did it and guess what happened? I lost a half a million dollars in two years on one restaurant. It was a nightmare. I look back and said why did I get into Jersey Mike’s? I mean, it’s a great sandwich, great company, great people. I got into it because I was afraid. I had fear. I was afraid that my day job might end one day and I made a reaction to it.
See, we all make those decisions in our lives, sometimes. We let fear in our hearts and we make bad decisions because we’re afraid to follow the right one. That’s the advice I would give my 20 year old self. When fear comes in our lives run towards it, not away from it.
Ray: Yes, and I’m reminded of that scripture that says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” Another verse that says, “For God did not give us the spirit of fear, but of love and power and a sound mind.” Fear, and I wrote this down, you said it’s a liar. Hopefully someone is heeding that advice today as they’re listening to our conversation. One more time, Tommy Spaulding. Best place, best address, website, email, what’s the best way for our listeners to get in contact with you, my friend?
Tommy: Yeah, email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is tommyspaulding.com.
Ray: Well, Tommy, I’ve got one really big last question for you, my friend. Regular listeners here at Bottom Line Faith know that this is always the last question that I ask and it’s called my 423 question. It’s based out of Proverbs 4:23 where Solomon writes these words. He says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it determines the course of your life.”
Tommy, I would just like you to imagine for a moment you’re towards the tail end of your time this side of eternity, you have a chance to gather your family, your friends, your loved ones, your most precious associates on the face of planet earth and you have enough breath left in your lungs to pass along one final piece of advice or counsel. Would you just pass that piece of advice along to our audience today? Fill in the blank for us, my friend. Above all else …
Tommy: Love. That’s it. Love. My grandfather, when he died, actually on his death bed, he actually said those words. He said, “Don’t tell me you love me, show me you love me.” Those were his last words. I decided just to live his last words not to spend a life of just telling people that you love them, but spend a life showing them that you love them through your actions every day.
Ray: Beautiful, beautiful. Tommy Spaulding. President, Founder, Tommy Spaulding Companies, you have been an incredible encouragement today. As I said on the opening of the show. I have been looking forward to this conversation, my friend. You did not disappoint. You have blessed me and our audience. You’ve encouraged us, you’ve really reminded us of the importance of being a heart-led leader. I just can’t thank you enough for being a guest on today’s program.
Tommy: Thank you, Ray. My honor.
Ray: Well folks, another amazing conversation here at Bottom Line Faith. Tommy really walked us through today what it means, what it looks like to be that servant leader to wake up each day as he described, first and foremost spending time with the Lord, allowing the Lord to speak to us and asking him, “Lord, who can I serve today? Who can I love today?” How that’s manifested is not just by our words, but by our actions.
I want to thank you for listening today. The number one thing that you can do for the program here is pray that God would continue to bless and anoint our efforts here at Bottom Line Faith. The second best and most important thing you can do is go online, give a review to this conversation and pass it along. Let your friends know about it. Let your family, your business associates, your employees and coworkers hear this amazing conversation that we’ve had today. Until next time, I am your host, Ray Hilbert, at Bottom Line Faith encouraging you to live out your faith every day in the market place. God bless. We’ll see you next time.