Positive Leadership

My journey as a leader (with Jean-Philippe Courtois)

July 19, 2023 Jean-Philippe Courtois Season 6 Episode 6
Positive Leadership
My journey as a leader (with Jean-Philippe Courtois)
Show Notes Transcript

JP has interviewed leaders from all over the world, all changemakers in their specialist areas, and all sharing the pivotal moments that have shaped their leadership philosophies.

Now, it’s time to turn the tables. For this special anniversary episode of the Positive Leadership podcast, JP invites friend and coach Michael Bungay Stanier, to ask questions about his personal leadership journey – listen now.

Subscribe now to JP's free monthly newsletter "Positive Leadership and You" on LinkedIn to transform your positive impact today: https://www.linkedin.com/newsletters/positive-leadership-you-6970390170017669121/

JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Hi, podcast listeners, Jean-Philippe Courtois here. You may not be aware, but you are now in Season 6 of the Positive Leadership Podcast. This is actually the 55th episode we have recorded. It has been two years since we started—yes, two years. And in that time, I’ve spoken to leaders from all over the world, Nigeria, India, Belgium, France, United States. CEOs, coaches, entrepreneurs, authors, changemakers, as well as specialists in positive psychology and neuroscience. They’ve been incredibly generous in sharing their success, the mistakes, and key pivotal moments that shaped their personal and professional past. 


For me, it’s been the most amazing learning experience. So I wanted to take this moment to reflect back on some of the authentic that have helped me navigate my own positive leadership journey. And so I wanted to tell you more about myself. We’ve never done a really deep dive into my leadership story and philosophy. So that’s what we’re going to do today in this special episode. We’ll be turning the tables. And to do so, I’ve invited my friend, my leadership coach, Michael Bungay Stanier, MBS, to interview me. 


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: JP, I’m so glad to be back in conversation with you. You were so kind enough to invite me to be a guest on your show early on. And congratulations, by the way, on Season 6 and 55 episodes, that’s amazing. But we go back beyond the podcast as well, which I know we’re going to talk about a little bit as well. But thank you, I’m excited to turn the tables on you. I’m rubbing my hands in glee here. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Michael is the author of The Coaching Habit, the best-selling coaching book of this century, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been personally coached by him in the past.


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: JP, I’m really interested in talking to you because, as you say, it’s two years since you started the podcast. It’s also two years since you stepped away from that really big role, Executive Vice President of Sales and President of Sales in Microsoft. I’m curious to know how your idea of positive leadership has changed and involved, how you’ve changed as you’ve moved to this next phase of how you show up and how you serve the world. I’m excited to dig into some of this.
MICHAEL: JP, let me ask you this though. What motivates you to keep going? It’s not like you’re not doing anything else. You’ve got your foundation, you’ve got other responsibilities. You’re a great champion for work across the world. And most podcasts get abandoned after about one or two or three episodes. You’re onto 55. Why keep going? Why didn’t you just wrap this up and go, look, I did my podcasting, my work here is done, I’m moving on? I’m standing up, so I can make a run for it.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I think a couple reasons, Michael, I found, number one, that, in a way I’ve created this new routine in my life, where I’m digesting, you know, books, but also conversation they had and trying to absorb completely their universe and who they are, etcetera. And I love those moments. I love those moments of getting to know someone who was unknown to me or maybe a big name, but not as a person, getting to have this—to create that intimacy and expose and surface some amazing moments of truth, of wisdom, and so on, makes me very humble, because I’m never sure when I start an episode that I’m going to get there. And then the more I study all those people and the incredible achievement they had in their lives, the books, everything they did, the more I understand how little I know about the world, so that’s humility. I mean, the second thing, obviously, I’m nourishing myself by their inspiration, and I think such conversations with some really wonderful people who propagated positivity despite the digital experience we have, because we are never—almost never in the same room physically. I take those vibes back to me, to my life, and to me, that’s inspiration. And the third thing is about growth, because, again, as I get to have this conversation, those conversations, I’m trying to sharpen a bit my pencil in terms of, oh, my own leadership kind of capabilities, what I do, and the way I love to evolve, so it’s about growing as well.


MICHAEL: What’s the relationship, in your mind, between humility and growth?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I mean, to me, that’s a starting point. A starting point, I mean, being humble, having humility in terms of knowing that you know so little about everything in the world. And then knowing as well, or I would say being humble enough to not take a failure as the end of the road, but being able to keep adding maybe some potential skills or attitudes in the way I behave personally as human body. That to me is the relationship of the humility and growth.


MICHAEL: Let me ask you another question around this. I mean, people talk about humility, and, in my experience, it becomes harder the older and the more senior you get. And you’re not old. You’re a delightfully young man.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Thank you, you are flattering.


MICHAEL: But you’ve certainly created—you’ve had senior positions, and you have status, and you have authority. I’m wondering what you’ve had to unlearn to allow greater access to humility.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I think, Michael, I got to learn a lot more of that through the work I’m doing with my foundation, to be honest, as well. As I started this foundation called Live for Good about seven years ago now in France, where the mission is to basically unleash the potential of views from all walks of life, through such entrepreneurship, I realized actually how much of a different posture, how much of a different kind of connection I was supposed and was able time after time to create with those young people. Coming from very different backgrounds and having a sense of humility to start with in terms I’m not here from my senior leadership position talking to you. I’m here to learn from you about your social entrepreneurship journey, your personal mission, and why and how hopefully I can help you grow in that journey. I think it’s been helping me a lot, honestly, to get there as well.


MICHAEL: So you’re talking about the diverse backgrounds of the young people who are part of your foundation, but you’ve also got a diverse background. You know, you were born in Algiers, your father was a doctor, you moved to Nice. I’m curious to know how that experience has shaped you.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Yeah, that has shaped me in a big way, Michael. I was born in Algeria, when Algeria was a part of the French territory, but the reality, I left Algeria when I was 18 months old, I was a baby. But my family roots were three generations back in Algeria, as you may know. I know Algeria become a French territory back in 1830, so in the 19th century. And for three generations, the Courtois have been in Algeria, and so what I learned through this family foundation, which is so core to who I am, is a couple of things. Number one, just seeing and living alongside my dad, as long as he was alive obviously, he was a young doctor. Actually, he first had to fight during the Second World War. He was just 18 years old. And he went to the front. And he was almost killed, actually, so it was like a miracle he recovered. And he came back to Algeria back in 1945, and then he basically did in four years what should have been six years of medical study to become a doctor, so he had an incredible hard work ethics and incredible sense of urgency as well, because he had a single mom. And he wanted to take care of his mom, and he wanted to become this doctor, so that she could become proud of him, but also that he could also take care of the people. I’ve also seen my mom, who has been an incredible I would say loving and caring person in the family, taking care of the three of us with my two sisters, and, as we fled, actually as we flew back to France overnight, what happened, just for people who understand the context at the time, Algeria became independent in July 1962, so just a few weeks before it became evident that the country’s going to be independent, like many families, more than a million French people had to fly back to France. And so we did that. We did that leaving everything behind us, the house and everything else. And basically my dad with her aging mom, with a wife and the three of us kids, we went to settle in Nice, where he basically had to fight literally to be able to open a medical office, because we are not welcome at all in France. It was interesting. But we were called the pieds-noirs, that’s the black feet, this is the naming of this community. And just seeing and living those moments, even though I was a baby and then I grew up, and seeing my dad and my mom fighting for us, taking care of us and doing that with an incredible resiliency has been I think shaping me in a big way since I was very young.


MICHAEL: How would you say that experience, both the role model that your father and your mother were for you, but also this experience of coming back and needing to—you know, being an outsider, needing to fight to reclaim a position, to reclaim authority. I’m curious what the—how that’s been a gift for you, but also how it’s been a burden for you.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I mean, in terms of the gift, it’s pretty obvious, Michael. I always consider, and it’s obviously more than the case today in my life, that family’s my core foundation, my family. The people that are part of that family, and of course and to me, that extends as well to a sense of community, belonging to a community of people. And, at the time, I could see when that community of pieds-noirs was back in France was not welcome, we were helping each other, very much, as they had nothing left, actually, to start feeding their families, to take care of themselves. And that really got me to understand the pearl of community, the pearl and the sense of belonging. So, to me, that has been a gift and also seeing the moral values of my parents that I talked about very much. Has it been a burden? Because you used that word. It’s a big word. Well, I could tell you, I was not welcome myself in the school when I was a kid, I remember that. Because when I was five, six years old, this is when I could remember my memories, again, the other kids from my school in Nice were looking at me as a foreigner, basically. It was pretty tough, and I remember actually one day where one of those kids in school told me get out of here, and I was both very sad, and I came back home, and my dad said, no, you should be very proud of where you come from. And you’ve got a lot to help them with to understand the richness of that kind of diversity coming from France, from outside, into the core fabrics of the country. So that was a pretty important moment as a kid.


MICHAEL: The people who’ve been on your podcast, you’ve had so many interesting guests show up. And I know that one of the things you’re as curious about with your guests is also kind of what their roots are and how that shaped them. I’m wondering if there’s any guests that come to mind in particular where you’re like this was a great story, you could really see where they, you know, the soil they were planted in, where they began, and how that has turned them into the person that they are today.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Yeah, I always love those stories, Michael, to try to capture, get them as well, understand the roots that people. I think one coming to my mind, which is a recent podcast I did with Mellody Hobson. Melody is the co-CEO of an investment firm called Ariel Investment today. She’s also she’s been actually for a long time the only chairwoman of an American company Starbucks. Okay, the only African American woman, I should say, African American woman, okay, so it’s a big deal. And Melody shared with me, you know, the child which she had. She was actually the latest kid of six siblings educated by a single mom, and a single mom who had literally of course to fight for survival to provide for the kids and the family. And Melody being the last kid of course in the family also had in a way to grow up much more rapidly, much more material, much more sensibly, and she also shared with me and listeners how much she internalized the power of the money, the power of taking care financially of your family and yourself.


MELLODY HOBSON: I had a lot of chaos in my life. We would get evicted. Our phone would get disconnected. Our lights would be turned off. Sometimes we’d live in an abandoned building. And so, as a result of that, I was desperate to understand money. I wanted to understand how it worked. It wasn’t about how much I would have. I wanted to live a comfortable, secure life, so financial services I tell people my calling and my purpose in life was born out of my circumstance.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: And so very early on, Melody got this sense of urgency on financial literacy, and, in a way, that’s been a crucible moment, and this is the reason why a few years after, and she graduated from Princeton University, she joined that firm, and she’s been working there for more than 30 years. And she’s helping out African American owners of businesses to drive their business in the US and globally. In 2020, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, I think in response to Jamie Dimon, a CEO of JP Morgan, you came up with a very special plan called the Project Black. Tell us more about where and how you shape the plan, where this idea came about the plan and what are you going to do with that investment.


MELLODY HOBSON: Yeah, so during the civil unrest that was occurring in our country the summer of the murder of George Floyd, the vicious murder, Jamie called me—I’m on the board of JP Morgan, and he said, you know, Melody, a lot of people want to help black business. And he was toying with some ideas of bringing together black investment firms like mine. And he said, you know, Ariel could be a part of this. And he started naming firms. And I kept saying, no, Jamie, that firm’s out of business, they’re gone. Nope, don’t exist. And it made the point of where we were as a society. So I said how do we create a world in which we can bring capital and customers together to scale change in our society around black and brown businesses, and therefore help narrow the wealth gap that exists in this country, in America specifically? Because 95% of minority businesses, that’s businesses run by black or Hispanic leaders, those businesses have less than $5 million in revenue, 95%. So I said what if we create an opportunity for these black and brown businesses to be scaled, to ben tier one suppliers, because the problem that we have is that if you have 95% of these businesses have less than $5 million in revenues, they’re not big enough to do business with the giants. So the idea would be that we would go and buy these businesses that may not be black or brown when we buy them, businesses between 100 million and a billion dollars in revenue where we install at the C suite level at least one black or brown leader whose CEO, CFO, COO. And, when at all possible, where there’s opportunity for growth of expansion of those businesses, to do so in disadvantaged minority communities. So, again, to bring the opportunity to communities, and, again, from that perspective, help narrow the wealth gap in this country.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I think you just crossed $1.4 billion, right?




JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: 1.45, so let’s be precise, sorry. Very sizable. I love the way you think about not just access to capital, but actually also to people leadership challenging the mindset and the types of leadership we have in companies and customers. At the end of the day, it’s about selling, driving also that supply chain, you know, I’m not sure how your scale.


MICHAEL: That’s amazing. You know, you talk about that drive for the importance of money and how that early experience can shape you, and we hear that story about Mellody. You know, one of the other core drivers, we either have it or we don’t have it, we’re hungry for it is around happiness and around love. I want to hear about whether there’s a guest that comes to mind who has an experience of kind of how their story has shaped their experience around thinking about happiness and love, but I want to ask you about that first. What’s the role of love in your life and also how you see it perhaps now through the lens of positive leadership?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Wow, that’s such a big, deep question, Michael. And I must tell you that podcast helped me understand that love goes far beyond the vision I used to have for love, okay. I used to have a guess or a definition that most of us have, such as, okay, think about loving my wife or my partner. I’m loving my kids, obviously, my core family. But actually what I found out, and I found it also in my life, you can love foreigners in the street. You can love people you didn’t get to know before, like some of the guests in my podcast. And you can have those moments of micro love, if I may call them this way, happening even in a matter of a few minutes of something happening to you or because of someone you are interacting with doing something with or supporting with, that really creates this moment of love. And this is something I’ve been enjoying a lot through my foundation particular, not only, of course. But even in a way, I’m provoking a lot more these days, meeting with a lot of people I never got to know before. So kind of broadening my circles of very different type personalities and people. And I would tell you in my podcast, because you also asked me about who maybe. I mean, many examples. A great one really was my last one, a French lady called Perla Servan-Schreiber. I’m sorry, because it’s in French, for many of you, you may not be able to catch the episode. But Perla is 80 years old today, and she’s the youngest positive leader I can ever see, have ever met with. She used to be the head of a very famous magazine in France, actually positive psychology by accident. And she’s been someone who had to endure some pretty tough tragedies, including the loss of her husband during COVID actually recently, a well-known person in France as well. And the way she’s talking about her moments of joy, the way she creates joy and happiness in her life doing cooking, doing some blogs today, yes, blogs, writing books, like you, Michael. She’s writing books every six months. It’s like incredible. And sharing your wisdom about the way you can nurture joy in your life at 80 years old and beyond was an amazing moment for me of gratitude in terms of learning from someone who’s gone and do so much, actually, in her life.


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: Fantastic. JP, you’ve shared a little bit about that experience growing up, but one of the things I think is extraordinary about you and unusual really is just how long of a career you’ve had at Microsoft. You started back in the eighties, right at the beginning of the PC industry. I don’t know how much revenue Microsoft was making back there, but it was like a buck 95, and it’s now a multi-trillion-dollar company. So you’ve really grown through the organization. As the organization has grown, you’ve grown and evolved and changed. What were you like when you first joined Microsoft? What were you like as a leader?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I joined Microsoft back in 1984. It was May the 2nd exactly. I kind of have that in my mind because May 1st is holidays in France. That’s the Labor Day, right?


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: That’s right. Of course it is, yeah.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: And so, my first day I show up in Les Ulis, a very small suburb in an industrial area of Paris. And you have to remember, I was coming from the Nice, so I was the guy coming in from the south to the big center of the country. So I was like “wow, okay.” We were less than 1,000 globally, so a really small company. And I loved that. I thought that in a startup company I could prove myself more than a very established company, where I would enter as a da-da-da and hopefully do something of my professional life. And actually at the time I was super charged for me as a young manager, meaning I was incredibly high intensity, highly demanding on people, but also highly accountable. I’ve always believed that, hey, I’m the one being accountable. And when I’m being asked to do something, I’m going to commit hard core to do the best and really delivering on expectations. So in many ways, high bar, asking people to do more what they could do all the time, and driving them super hard in the details of the business, micromanaging the business. Because, of course, I felt I was very smart and I could do all of that. 


So that was the young JP in a way. 39 years later, you could say fast forward, I realize of course that I’m here actually to get others to grow and flourish so that they can really deliver the best impact that our company would love to have in respect of the countries and the way were operating as a global company. And that got me to reflect and change a lot of my leadership attitudes or ways of dealing with people, and even the way I was spending my time on growing and developing people as opposed to findng the solution for all those people. The other thing has been also a lot about in a way having a much more direct connection to the impact that each one of the persons can have in their professional and personal lives. So in a way, connecting with the people the way the work they do is meaningful to them in their own development but also bring a positive impact in what we can achieve with our company organization. So really connecting the two, the company’s mission organization undertaking and a person’s own development right here right now. For me, that meant work on myself and dramatically changing the way I interacted with others in my team. Moving away from an inspection culture towards a culture of learning and coaching. 


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: That’s a pretty radical shift. And in fact you could look at Microsoft overall and it’s culture and kind of go, actually, it feels like the culture at Microsoft has undergone something of a radical shift like that because it had a reputation back in the day of being a pretty driven, pretty micromanager, get the results and make them harder. It sounds like part of your success was you embodied that culture. 




MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: And then over the last decade or so, there’s been the shift of culture from a know-it-all culture to a learn-it-all culture. It’s easy to talk about in theory but in practice it’s a big thing to unlearn and relearn as a leader in part because you’re learning how to give up control and status. 




MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: What was that journey like for you?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Well, the journey was both exciting and also uncomfortable, Michael. Both. It was really both, actually. Exciting because at the time it was back in 2015 when I was basically in charge of transforming the entire sales force in Microsoft to move from being one of the best, honestly, software sales force in the world, selling licensing contracts to a bunch of customers, which we love to do, as sellers. And transforming all those 35,000 people in becoming trusted advisors to every organization on the planet to become digital companies, digital organizations. Wow, that’s a gigantic shift in terms not just of hard skills but actually also in terms of soft skills. 


And so what I at the time, because starting with myself, I had to learn a bunch of new things in terms of technology, in terms of industry skills, business skills, but probably the place where I spent the most of my time was to undo the JP of the older days. And when I started that job, the first decision I took was to kill a legendary process in the company called media review. And for Microsoft guys, maybe some of them listening on the podcast, they know what I’m talking about. 


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: They’re weeping. They’re weeping in a corner somewhere. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: It was an incredible process where for two months in a row we are locked into rooms reviewing literally every single business, every single subsidiary in the world, every company in the world for Microsoft, and drilling down on thousands of numbers and managing the details like crazy and driving with intention a lot of performance management and more. It was incredible. A lot of learning; a lot of waste in the process in terms of people’s ability to do more by themselves. So I killed that process. It was my first decision. But then I said, “Well, it’s not enough. I also need to show up differently.” And that was part also of my own development as an apprentice coach, as you know well. And I picked of course the best coach in the world, MBS, this MBS I’m talking to. 


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: Oh gosh, thank you. You may be overselling me a little bit there, but I’ll take it. Thank you, JP. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Michael Bungay Stainer’s book The Coaching Habit was a huge influence on me at the time. In fact, I became something of an apprentice to Michael. A tipping point for me personally and for the sales force in Microsoft came when I found myself being coached by Michael live onstage in front of 3,000 sales managers at the Microsoft sales event, a moment we captured in Episode 11.


And you and I were on onstage on a very humbling coaching discussion.


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: I remember it well. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: And what happened at the time you basically did with me what I was trying to do with all the managers and all of our people across Microsoft is to show a new way of growing others by becoming a lot more curious, by becoming lazy and often. And of course people who want to understand all of that need to read your books and check your videos. But it was a wonderful moment where I was intimidated, I was worried, I was showing how much I was crumbling onstage. And at the end of that session I got so many notes from hundreds of people around the world saying, “JP, I’m in. I’m in the game. I want to become a coach myself and I want to transform the way I’m showing up and the way I’m going to help our customers and people across the world.” That was such a crucible in my professional and personal life, Michael. Thank you for that.


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: My pleasure. You know, you embodied a vulnerability, which is such a powerful act of leadership. I still remember the conversation. It kind of went from how do I get my people to do this stuff and it shifted to—these are my words not your words—but basically, how do I learn to give up some of this control and trust my people. And that statement, you could feel it ripple across the audience in the hall and then beyond the hall as well. It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it, JP. I was really honored to be part of that with you, so thank you. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: In the podcast and with positive leadership one of the recurring themes is a sense of purpose. After talking to so many articulate leaders and reading so many books on the subject, I know that my purpose is about having a positive impact on people and the planet. And to live this, I focused on growth and learning, learning from the people that have a vital desire to make a positive impact on the world. And contributing to people through coaching, from those youngest social entrepreneurs in my foundation to the largest enterprise in the world. 


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: Has there been a guest on the podcast that’s helped shape and help you stay connected to the sense of purpose?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: In a way, the discussion of course with my boss and manager, CEO, Chairman Satya Nadella. 


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: I’ve heard of him.


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Yeah, I’m sure you heard. We had an episode with Satya more than a year ago now. He was making a comment about the job that we have right here right in our lives, whoever we are. And he said, “Don’t wait for the next job to bring the very best of yourself.” And I strongly believe in that, which is in a way that job that you decide to pick, and I know that for some people they don’t necessarily to pick their job, so I have to put that restriction as well, but for all of us who can actually pick a job, wow, this has to be meaningful in our lives. It has to contribute to something bigger than ourselves and fulfil not just ourselves but others. 


I remember actually really well your very first speech as a CEO, when you said something that really stuck with me. You said, “I want us,” - to all of the employees, by the way, all the employees were listening, watching, or some of them in [INDISCERNIBLE 00:31:03] - “I want us to find meaning in our work.” And you articulated at the time on your mission as a company, succeeding of course through our founder’s mission. So why do you think it’s so important for companies to have a purpose beyond only making profit and money, which is expected from companies in the first place. Why is that so important?


SATYA NADELLA: Yeah, I mean, there are two threads, Jean-Philippe, for me in that entire piece. For the two of us, who have grown up, essentially, through our entire professional career at Microsoft, I felt that there was a reason why I stayed, you stayed. I felt that Microsoft represented in its essence something that caused me to commit. I wanted to invoke that at scale. It’s just not by accident that 25 years of my life had gone through and I was still at Microsoft, so I said, “Why is that?” And it is because of that sense of purpose and mission of the company that I identify with. We used to, at least when I joined, which was after you had joined, we used to talk about our mission as a PC in every home and every desk. And the reality is by even the end of the nineties, at least in the developed world, we had more or less achieved that mission. I left we kind of were a little lost and we went on this journey, “What is our mission, then?” And then as I reflected on it, the reality is it dawned on me that that was an audacious goal when it was first uttered, but it was not the mission, the sense of purpose. In fact, I go back all the way to the founding of the company. 


Because the idea behind Microsoft and saying, “Oh, we’ll create a basic interpreter for the Altair,” is about helping others, empowering others to build more technology. So I wanted to invoke that in whatever reinvention I knew will come, only if we invoke a sense of mission, purpose and pride, which got someone like me to stay in the company all those years. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: When Satya joined Microsoft many years ago, being a CEO was not even a foot in his long-term career plan. Instead, he was focused on exceling in the role he had at the time. One of the key takeaways from that episode was, reframe your job to be the most important thing you could be doing at any given time and get satisfaction out of it. Do your best work now.


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: So your foundation is called Live for Good. And I know that in many ways you’re taking 40-plus years of experience and wisdom and going, “Can I give this to young social entrepreneurs right from the start to try and accelerate them into wisdom and ambition and courage and impact and changing the world for good?” What are you trying to teach them?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: What I’m trying to teach them, Michael, is actually the potential of their positive leadership is inside them. My key area of focus Live for Good is really to unleash those hidden parallels of positive leadership. And as you know well, in those parallels are revolving around three ripples, we called that ripples in positive psychology, so that they can truly understand who they are. They can become self-aware, which is so hard. They can actually with the help of others understanding their strengths. Then we go and we unleash with them the power of positive communication because in those roles you have to convince tons of stakeholders, and you have no money to invest, like a large company would have. It will be the power of your words and the power of your inspiration. And then the third ripple is me, them, and the world, and the way they are building the change by building an impact startup company in the world. So that’s what we are trying to achieve, and it’s a nurturing journey, which I love to be along, not just during the problem itself, which is a nine months problem, but actually year after year, to see them growing, to see them sometimes failing, bouncing back. It’s amazing because some of them have been actually acknowledged as among the top positivity leaders in their countries. Just last year, I got five of them out of the top 15, which I found pretty amazing. And I’m so proud of them.


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: That is amazing. Congratulations. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I’m so proud of them to see the way they are leading, actually.

MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: I’m a podcaster myself, so I’m curious to know, what’s the experience been for you in terms of creating and hosting this new podcast?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: First of all, I decided to get into the podcast without knowing exactly what it takes to do podcasts. It’s actually hard work first, hard work to create that intimacy, that trust as well, with someone you don’t necessarily know, to give the best wisdom, nuggets of knowledge that she or he has developed along the years. 


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: How do you accelerate intimacy, trust, and vulnerability? Because that’s a useful gift to have as a podcast host. It’s a useful gift to have as a leader. So what have you learned around more quickly accelerating that kind of connection?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Coming up at the start of the session with some positive analogy so people see that I’m into it, to listen up, to really listen deeply as much as I can, and with the tone of my voice, hopefully, try to give them a sense of confidence that they are in good hands, they are in positive hands, I would say, in positive hands, someone who is really trying to bring the best about themselves and give the opportunity to have this conversation with me with a freeform discussion as much we can.


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: I love that. One of my mantras and lessons around leading and facilitating coaching is to be the strongest signal in the room because people respond to the strongest signal in the room, just mirror neurons in people’s brains. So I’m like, “How do I embody the experience and the energy I want me and them and the room to have?” If I’m trying to encourage vulnerability and intimacy, I’m like, “How do I soften my own heart and open my own eyes and space so that I can invite that in?”


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I decided to do this podcast as well, Michael, and I’ve found actually a lot of joy doing it, to apply the learning myself, hopefully. So I’m trying as well to capture in flight and after the flight some key nuggets of wisdom, some key foundations of what a positive leader is all about. And of course, it’s embodied by very different people, by definition, which I love the diversity of the people and the profiles. And then really picking a few of that and trying explicitly myself not to mirror what they did but to reflect on what they did and how could I do some of that myself in my own life. 


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: I love that. It’s an act of nourishment and discipline and learning and growth for you. I see that. 




MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER: JP, this has been such a rich conversation, hearing about your roots, understanding some of your leadership journey through Microsoft, understand how, embodied by this podcast but in general how you’ve wrestled with this idea of what does positive leadership mean and look like and how do I role model that. I’m wondering, in this conversation between you and me, what needs to be said that hasn’t yet been said?


JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I think, if I’m getting much clearer about my purpose today, if I’m getting much more intentional about where I want to spend my time and the way I want to have that positive impact, it is thanks to my son Gabriel. Gabriel passed away eight years ago, and basically he left me and my family with an incredible legacy. I’ve got this card that I’m still using in the foundation coming from Gabriel. By the way, the name Live for Good comes from Gabriel himself, he created a website to raise some money for humanitarian actions when he was 18 years old. And one day he sent me this message, “Dad I have this vital desire to positively change people’s lives.” And so, that has been the driving force, is my son. And the way it’s been clarifying for me, the things that most matter in my life.

 And we with my family, it’s not just me, it’s my two daughters and wife decided a few months after he left us to bring the family together towards this new horizon called Live For Good. In a way redefining some form of family identity on the core values that Gabriel left us with and with a desire to live some moments of joy together. At a moment…


MICHAEL BURGAY STAINER:  ..when it didn’t seem available.
 JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: No. Completely and so, creating that perspective, it was survival number one but it was also incredibly shaping in the way we could all of us think about the future in a positive way. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS:  If you’ve been enjoying Positive Leadership, please, don’t forget to like, comment, and share the podcast. It helps other people hear about it as well. And if you’d like more practical tips and advice on how to build your leadership practice, then head over to my LinkedIn page and sign up for free monthly newsletter, Positive Leadership & You. I’m Jean-Philippe Courtois. I’ll be back next week with another inspiring conversation with a purpose-led leader. Until then, thanks so much for listening and goodbye.