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How to Redefine Leadership and Empower Employees

Why Leadership is Overrated and The Power of an Ego-Free Workplace

Shep Hyken interviews Chris Mefford, CEO of Culture Force and co-author of Leadership Is Overrated: How the Navy SEALs (and Successful Businesses) Create Self-Leading Teams That Win. He discusses creating a safe space for teams to feel engaged and empowered to work at their best. 

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Top Takeaways:

  • There is a gap between how leaders perceive employee engagement and how employees actually feel. According to Gallup research, 70% of employees are disengaged at work. However, only 30% of leaders feel that way. In the same way, a significant gap often exists between what executives believe about their customer service and what customers actually experience. 
  • Despite the high investment of $300 billion annually worldwide on leadership development, surveys consistently show that employees still feel disengaged. Most of the time, people don’t leave because of the company. They leave their managers. 
  • Leaders should give authority to their teams, not just responsibility. Often, leaders think they are empowering their team by giving them more work. Empower teams by listening to their ideas and enabling them to make decisions based on what they believe is best.  
  • In special forces like the Navy SEALs, the leader of a mission is not necessarily the highest-ranking officer but someone with the most relevant experience. The Navy SEALs practice “killing the leader,” where they train by removing a leader or two to help the team understand that they are empowered to make decisions.  
  • Acknowledgment is the top motivator for workers, even more than pay. Giving credit and acknowledging the team’s efforts along the way, not just when a project is completed, boosts engagement. Boston Consulting surveyed 200,000 workers across the globe to find what motivates them the most. An attractive fixed salary is number eight, while the number one factor is “Appreciation for your work.” 
  • When leaders let their egos get in the way, it hinders collaboration and prevents teams from coming together to create amazing results. Great leadership requires humility and putting the team’s needs above personal ego. 
  • Plus, Shep and Chris discuss what happens when egos are removed from the leadership with examples from Aretha Franklin to book retailers. Tune in!


“Empathy is a billion-dollar industry. When companies are not intentional about making their employees feel engaged and empowered, the financial cost is tremendous.” 

“When you let leaders get their egos involved, you prevent your team from creating magic and coming together to create world-class stuff.” 

“You have a culture, whether you are intentional about it or not. Whether you do anything or not, your culture gets developed. It is a question of what type of culture you are willing to fight for.” 

“Your team is desperate for acknowledgment. When you pour into your team and invest in them, they will pour into your customers and clients.” 


Chris Mefford is the CEO of Culture Force and co-author of Leadership Is Overrated: How the Navy SEALs (and Successful Businesses) Create Self-Leading Teams That Win. He helped the Dave Ramsey Organization win the “Best Place to Work” award for eight straight years. 

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning keynote speaker, and host of Amazing Business Radio.   

This episode of Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken answers the following questions and more:   

  1. What are the top motivators for workers, apart from pay? 
  2. Why do employees feel disengaged? 
  3. What are the benefits of investing in team development? 
  4. What role does acknowledgment play in team motivation and productivity? 
  5. How do you develop a sustainable company culture?

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