The emerging role of leadership | Interview with effective leadership developer & transformation coach, Zachary Hoffman
Amidst the time of immense transformation and changing cultures, it’s of paramount importance to lead effectively, positively, and strategically.
In this interview, we spoke with Zachary Hoffman. He is widely known as a leadership developer, transformation coach, award-winning author, international relations enthusiast, and former professional American football player. His modern-day leadership approaches have navigated and shaped numerous leaders to bag success even in the most competitive industries.
The ever inspirational Hoffman has taken it upon himself to help others develop clear visions and leadership skills. A true go-getter, Zac himself thrived through multiple professional transitions and has shown strong leadership wherever his skills took him.
This rendezvous was somewhat an attempt by us to understand his professional approaches and the 'secrets' behind his successful leadership. Here's a glimpse of the interview.
1) Can you tell us a bit about your professional career and what led you to your journey of becoming a leading developer and transformation coach?
Well, during my time living and working abroad as a professional quarterback & youth coach in 6 different countries, I began to realize how important being interculturally competent was in terms of leading effectively. I began to see many very successful and decorated people failing in their ability to connect with their followers strictly because they refused to adapt to the culture that they were working in. This got me thinking…Effective leaders need to be like a Swiss Army knife. They need to be able to adapt to their surroundings and have the ability to use a multitude of tools (soft skills) to have success in a multicultural environment. This idea inspired me to develop the SWALeadership Concept which stands for (Sensible, Worldwide, Adaptable, Leaders). I also wrote an award-winning book that outlines this concept along with referencing a lot of real-life examples in which I used it effectively during my time across a multitude of international leadership roles.
In terms of becoming a transformation coach, I realized that a lot of athletes do not have a plan B after they either retire from their sport and/or do not make it to the highest level for whatever reason. I thought about my own experience as an athlete and I realized how much time and stress it would have saved me if I would have taken a proactive approach to my post-playing career plans. I came to realize that there are a lot of athletes who struggle with their identity and their worth after their time on the field ends. I just want athletes to identify with themselves for the potential they have outside of their sport rather than identifying themselves strictly with their sport. I am passionate about this topic because I lived through it myself and in the end realized that my sport was just a platform to help me reach my true potential as the person I am and the person I am becoming.
2) Today everyone strives to work with a 'leader' rather than a 'boss.' According to you, how can this be done and what's ONE tip that can help people become better leaders?
I would say that we need to take it a step further and be more specific. The word “leader” standing alone simply isn’t enough. We need to start defining leadership in terms of its effectiveness rather than its title. The bottom line is that there are a lot of people in leadership roles who are ineffective in terms of their ethics, adaptability, sensibility & care towards their followers, and overall ability to relate to and earn the respect of those that they are leading.
That begs the question, how does one lead effectively? Well, start with yourself and then branch out. Start with effectively leading yourself. Have a solid personal foundation built before you expand to help others. A lot of people take on leadership roles for the wrong reasons. That may be a raise, accolades, recognition, all reasons why a large number of people take on the title of “leader”. However, despite what they portray to the outside, they are struggling with themselves on the inside. Effective leadership is sacrifice. You have to be willing to let go of worldly pleasures to stabilize yourself and then lead genuinely. Let go of your egos and critique yourself before accepting any leadership role. Are you ready to give the best version of yourself? If not, then you have some work to do. Look within before expanding out.
3) You developed the SWALeadership during your time abroad. What can aspiring leaders expect from this book?
They can expect to hear an inspiring story about someone who took a chance on something more. I always knew that I wanted to leave a deeper impact on the world before I left it. Aside from the SWALeadership concept, I believe my book helps one understand the power of embracing adversity and realizing that your ultimate potential lies on the other side of pain and discomfort. The motto of my book is “Leave a Legacy.” I hope that this book helps others understand that the true meaning of life is about becoming the best version of yourself and then using that to leave the world in a better place after you are gone.
4) In your opinion, what is the future of leadership?
Not to self-promote, but the future of effective leadership is SWAL (Sensible, Worldwide, Adaptable, Leaders). Unfortunately, we as a society have not embraced each other for who we are for our differences. We live in a melting-pot, globalized world. Until we learn to accept, embrace and adapt to impact, we will never reach our full potential. While I am well aware that conflict will always exist, I believe that we as the effective leaders of today and tomorrow need to do a better job of embracing this idea rather than continuing to have animosity towards it.
5) Lastly, if you could change one prevailing myth about today's leadership role, what would that be? And, how are you planning to make that change happen?
The biggest myth is that people in a leadership role cannot show weakness or vulnerability. There are still “fake tough guys” in leadership roles today because they pretend to have a masculine, “nothing phases me” mindset that simply isn’t realistic. Humans are beings of emotion and emotion has no gender. Just because you are in a position of leadership, that doesn’t mean that you are expelled from emotion or being able to be vulnerable with your followers. A lot of people believe that vulnerability is weakness however, I believe it is one of the key factors in earning the respect of your followers and leading effectively. The best part about being vulnerable is that you are being real. When you put on a masculine facade, you are hiding behind a mask that is uncomfortable and exhausting