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Exclusive Interview with Stedman Graham on Leadership

Exclusive Interview with Stedman Graham on Leadership

Stedman Graham

By: Philippe Matthews

Stedman Graham is chairman and CEO of S. Graham & Associates (SGA), a management and marketing consulting company that specializes in the corporate and educational markets. Clients have included Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Georgia Pacific, Pro-Line International, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Manpower, CNN, GlaxoSmithKline, Plains Capital Corporation, American College of Sports Medicine, YMCA, U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps, Credit-Suisse First Boston, Harvard and Wharton business schools and the U.S. Department of Education.

As a businessman, educator and speaker, he presents, consults and conducts training with corporations, organizations and nonprofits on the topics of maximizing leadership, achieving success, growing a business, embracing diversity, achieving optimal health, and personal and professional branding. His corporate seminars are driven by his proprietary Nine-Step Success Process™. In addition, Stedman Graham educates individuals and industries on using Success Circles™ a work-life balance tool he developed to make information and experience relevant to personal, professional and business growth.

Graham has authored ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers, You Can Make It Happen: A Nine-Step Plan for Success and Teens Can Make It Happen: Nine Steps to Success. Build Your Own Life Brand explores the concept of personal and professional branding. Move Without the Ball is a collection of principles that teaches students that sports are a part of life, not life itself. Who Are You? Building Your Life’s Foundation focuses on success through self-discovery. His latest release Diversity: Leaders not Labels includes his unique approach to eliminate barriers to success.

Actively involved in education, Stedman Graham is a former adjunct professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago where he taught a leadership course based on his Nine-Step Process. At the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, he taught a management strategy course entitled “The Dynamics of Leadership.” He also founded and directed George Washington University’s Forum for Sport and Event Management and Marketing – the first of its kind in the country.

Stedman Graham holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Hardin-Simmons University. He received a master’s degree in Education from Ball State University and an honorary doctorate in Humanities from Coker College, where he is also a distinguished visiting professor.

On the Philippe Matthews Show, Stedman talks about the many layers of leadership. While sharing a panel discussion at the Evening Black Management Association’s Designing the Blueprint for Entrepreneurial Success at the Kellogg School of Management, Stedman carved out time with me to discuss some of the principles showcased in his book, “Build Your Own Life Brand.”

Philippe Matthews
Talk to me about cultivating leadership qualities.

Stedman Graham
“Cultivating leadership qualities is really an investment in self. It’s about leading, managing and controlling yourself in such a way that other people see your example and aspire to where you’re going. Leadership is about a vision and being able to have a vision greater than yourself and the people who want to follow you. That can include your family, your friends, and co-workers. Particularly in corporate America, where people follow you because you are a visionary. They’re not there just because the money is good; they are there because of the vision that you have. They want to go in the same direction; so they follow you.”

Philippe Matthews
What do you think is one of the most important qualities of leadership?

On Leadership

Stedman Graham
“Vision, I think is the biggest quality; then trust, and then believing in yourself and having the confidence, so that you have the ability to communicate effectively where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. I also think it’s having the experience and people wanting to follow folks that understand what they’re doing and have been there before. Then, have the courage to keep going when times are tough.”

Philippe Matthews
Talk to me about vision and complacency.

Stedman Graham
“You have to have some unique qualities that will allow you to have exposure. You must have a vision of yourself that sets you apart from the average person and leaders are not average people – they don’t go along with the status quo – they step outside of the box, which is what makes them unique. Therefore, being able to have the experience, exposure and being in the mindset where you want to create even more value for yourself as a person. Most people are very comfortable with their lives and do the same things over and over again every single day, so they don’t really expand themselves. Leadership is really about expanding, experiencing and creating opportunity based on extending yourself and not putting yourself in a comfortable situation.”

Philippe Matthews
Where are you on manifesting and living up to your own personal mission?

Stedman Graham
“I’m still a work in progress. What I like is the experiences that I’ve had that have set the example of doing something that other people can benefit from. I try to work as much as I can in an area that will help other people and share information that will help other folks. My leadership is about empowering other people — that’s my mission. I would like to be exposed to as many people as possible that share the message and give them the right information so they have the ability to lead themselves.”

Philippe Matthews
Another quality of leadership is taking care of yourself so that you may take care of others. What do you do to take care of yourself?

Stedman Graham
“In the course of my day, I try to get up about 5:30 a.m. and be in the gym at 6:00 a.m. I remember hearing Mrs. [Coretta Scott] King in one of our leadership classes’ talk about how Dr. King had to be in shape. He had to watch what he ate and had to have enough energy based on the schedule that he had. A lot of times we forget about what it takes to be able to have such a grueling schedule like Dr. King had and she mentioned that you have to take care of your body. I think health is a big piece in determining how much you’re going to get done in leadership. The other thing I do is have a vision for myself. I understand where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. I’m able to put together a schedule months and years ahead that allows me to create projects that really support the overall vision of where I want to go.”

Philippe Matthews
Talk to me about your having low self-esteem at such an early age.

Stedman Graham
“I think that it has been very difficult for me because of the way I viewed myself and the way that I thought about myself. When you grow up trying to find yourself — having low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and you don’t understand the process, you don’t have the tools to be able to withstand the pressures of anything. However, when you begin getting the tools and understand clearly more of who you are, that becomes a confidence builder for yourself — you don’t give external things power like you use to.”

Philippe Matthews
What about the importance of self-discovery.

Stedman Graham
“[It’s really important to discover] who you are and what your passion is. That really is the foundational piece for development. Unless you have that foundation and identity, it’s very difficult to go to the next step, which is vision. It’s hard to develop a vision for yourself if you don’t understand who you are in terms of leadership. Conversely, if you can’t clarify who you are, where you’re going and how you are going to get there, it’s very difficult to lead because you don’t have clarification of who you are. How can you help me when you don’t have yourself together in terms of where you want to go?”

Philippe Matthews
How difficult is to overcome your fears and step outside of the box?

Stedman Graham
“Overcoming your fears is learned so when you go back and look at your family life — check your ID, see how you were programmed in life. What were you told to do, and reevaluate that programming if that’s applicable to the way you’re living today? Oftentimes, what you learned from your parent’s years ago is not even applicable to the world you currently live in. So, you have to constantly reevaluate the present based on the messages of the past. Continue to reassess your programming and take control of your life, and you will begin to develop your own program based on your own human potential, which is the greatest gift in the world.”

Philippe Matthews
You have a chapter called Win By Decision, what do you mean by that?

Build Your Own Life Brand

Stedman Graham
“Somebody spent a lot of money on research so they can get the right information to make the right decision, and oftentimes, we make decisions at the drop of a hat without really getting the right information. How many times have you made decisions based on somebody else’s information that may be wrong? So, Win By A Decision is about making good choices in your life and that determines what your life is going to be like.”

Philippe Matthews
One of the biggest problems I find that inhibits leadership is what I call ‘getting past go.’ What are thoughts on this?

Stedman Graham
“It takes a long time to try and figure out who you are – it’s a lifelong journey, but you have to start somewhere. I talk to people all over the country and too many people never even start. They never begin because they are so wrapped up in their schedule and being programmed to do the same things over and over again. They never really think about themselves and always think about what’s outside of them. If you never go inside to discover what you really want to do, you waste a lot of years giving everything away.”

Philippe Matthews
In the journey of self discovery, its all about making an internal investment in ones self to truly become a leader. Your thoughts…

Stedman Graham
“You have to look within yourself and develop an investment within yourself and the work you do on yourself is directly related to the relationships that you build outside of yourself. The idea is the better you are and the more internal capacity you can build for yourself, the better relationships you will have. The better relationships you have, the better opportunities you’ll have to share and learn. The more you learn, the more options you have. The more options you have, the more wealth you’ll have. And, the more you have, the more you have to give.”

Stedman Graham has shown a lifelong commitment to youth and community. In 1985, Graham founded AAD Education, Health and Sports, a nonprofit organization of athletes and other civic leaders committed to developing leadership in underserved youths. An organization with over 500 professional athletes, AAD has served over 15,000 students through education and scholarships. Graham serves on several boards to include the national board of Junior Achievement (JA) and the 7-Eleven Education Is Freedom Foundation, and he is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago.

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3 comments

  1. I enjoyed how this interview mixed Mr. Graham’s business and publishing experience with thoughts on self-discovery. I am always intrigued with how people find the courage to lead; how they start from within and then move outward.

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