Bill Flynn

Author, Business Advisor / Coach

Catalyst Growth Advisors

BILL FLYNN has collaborated with Alan Mulally, pitched Steve Jobs, accomplished much, failed often, and learned many useful lessons from thirty years of studying the science of success.

Bill’s best-selling book – Further, Faster – The Vital Few Steps that Take the Guesswork out of Growth continues to garner a nearly 5-Star rating generating demand for virtual and in-person national and international speaking opportunities.

Away from his coaching, Bill is a father, learner, cultivator, entrepreneur, speaker, writer, athlete, brother, etiologist, iconoclast, Stoic, upstream thinker, builder, giver, “musician”, and friend. When he is not cheering on his collegiate-champion, musically-gifted daughter, Bill lives and works in greater Boston.

Bill Flynn

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Episode Transcript

Nowspeed: Hi, this is Dave Reske. And welcome to today’s edition of In the Now where we focus on uncovering myths and misunderstandings of marketing and leadership with some of the world’s most interesting people. And I have a really interesting guest today: Bill Flynn

Bill has an amazing background and biography and I’ll just tell you about that before we get started. So, he has worked for and advised hundreds of companies, including startups, spanning multiple industries. He’s been a VP of Sales eight times, twice a CMO, once the division president or the division GM of a $100-million IT services company before he pivoted to become a growth coach in 2016. He has had five successful outcomes, two IPOs, seven acquisitions, putting on a turnaround during the financial crisis. Bill, welcome to the show. Great to have you on. 

Bill Flynn: David, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it. I want to make sure that I’m not a founder. I’m a scale guy. So when you talk about those IPOs and acquisitions, they are not on me. I was part of it. I just want to make sure that was clear. 

Nowspeed: Yeah, no worries. I’m sure you have a lot to do with the success of those companies. But you know, just reading that biography makes me feel exhausted. So it must have been a huge amount of work and you’ve probably learned more than the average career guy does in four lifetimes. So it’s super exciting for you to share some of that expertise with us today. 

Bill Flynn: Sure. I’d love to, as I say, work with folks to hopefully help them make their own mistakes and not repeat mine. 

Nowspeed: And you’re also an author of the book, “Further, Faster: The Vital Few Steps to Take the Guesswork Out to Growth.”

Bill Flynn: Yes, accidental author. It’s really cool to have a book and I also contributed to another book called “The Freedom of Constraints” where I was one of 29 folks  in the 100 coaches organization that Marshall Goldsmith leads, and one of the guys wanted to write a book and so he asked for help and I presented something he thought it was good enough. So I’m in two books. So that’s kind of cool. 

Nowspeed: That’s awesome. Well, we’ll get to all that in our conversation. But first, I just want to start with a provocative question. I just want to ask you to help us smash a myth about leadership what is something people believe about leadership that’s not really the case. 

Bill Flynn: So I have a few, but the biggest one, and I guess the most productive is: Leadership isn’t a thing. And what I mean by that is that you can teach someone how to be a doctor or a professor or whatever. But there’s no formula for being a great leader. There’s not one thing that says, “This person is a great leader.” 

You know, you look at Steve Jobs; people say he was a great leader, and maybe he was, but he had a bunch of flaws. And some people didn’t think he was that great of a leader. You look at folks like Warren Buffett; they say he’s a great leader, but what makes him a great leader? He doesn’t have a lot of charisma. You have to be creative, you have to have a vision, you have to be charismatic. There are no attributes that I’ve seen that say, “If you do these things or create these things within yourself, you’re a great leader.”

What I have found is that there is a continuity across leaders; those people who are considered leaders are people who can figure out how to create followers. You can’t be a leader without a follower. You can’t say I’m in charge with no one to lead. It’s an act of volunteers, right? People say, I choose to follow you and other people make you a leader. You can’t make yourself a leader. 

Now, my favorite leader of all time is a guy named Alan Mulally. Are you familiar with him? I found Alan Mulally when he was the head of Boeing commercial aircraft in the middle of 9-11. And he was the head of Ford in the middle of the 2008 crisis. He led those folks through basically an existential crisis for that industry itself, and they were better leaving it than they were when they went in.

To listen to the entire interview, click here.