1844 – The Mission-Driven Approach to Leadership with Jon Kidwell

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Founder and CEO of Leadwell, Jon Kidwell.

Kidwell Wide

Leadwell specializes in training, coaching, and content tailored to mission-driven organizations. These are the companies that look beyond profit margins and strive to make a positive impact on the world. Jon Kidwell's passion for aligning teams, developing leaders, and building winning cultures is inspiring—it's a call to action for all of us in leadership roles.

Jon didn't mince words about the consequences of overlooking leadership development. He pointed out the stark reality we've witnessed in recent years: high turnover rates and widespread employee disengagement.

Jon stressed the critical need for clarity in an organization's mission, vision, values, and strategy. It's about ensuring that every leader, at every level, knows the key results and priorities that will drive the organization forward.

Jon shared a compelling success story from a not-for-profit that saw remarkable growth and retention after partnering with Leadwell. It's a testament to the power of focused training, group coaching, and executive team alignment. The results speak volumes: increased retention, productivity, and financial growth.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Introduction of Jon Kidwell and Lead Well
  • Focus of Lead Well on leadership development for mission-driven organizations
  • Importance of investing in leadership development and its impact on organizations
  • Operational concerns and leadership issues related to delegation and expectations
  • Importance of aligning organizational priorities, mission, vision, values, and strategy
  • Discussion on John Kidwell's book, “Redefine Your Servant Leadership

About Jon Kidwell:

Jon Kidwell is a leadership coach with a robust background in guiding mission-driven leaders and organizations. As the founder of Leadwell, he emphasizes aligning teams, developing leadership skills, and fostering winning cultures through executive coaching and custom development programs. 

His experience includes teaching at Concordia University Irvine's Townsend Institute and over two decades of service in various leadership roles. Jon is also a family man, married with three children, and has made Houston his home for fourteen years. His practical approach to leadership development has impacted over 1,500 leaders directly through his coaching and training events.

About Leadwell:

Leadwell is dedicated to enhancing the efficacy of mission-driven leaders and their organizations. They offer tailored solutions that blend purpose, people, and performance to achieve significant outcomes. 

Their approach is grounded in research and ethical principles, delivered by skilled facilitators and coaches with hands-on leadership experience. Leadwell aims to impart knowledge and instill enduring, transformative change, ensuring that the impact of their partnership is both significant and lasting.

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out  Leadwell website at

Check out Leadwell on LinkedIn at

Check out Leadwell on Facebook at

Check out Jon Kidwell on LinkedIn at

Check out Jon Kidwell on Instagram at

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Josh (00:00:05) - A thoughtful listener before we get going. Did you know that my company up my influence? Com has launched more than 200 business podcasts. The host of our shows are amazing leaders and collaborators. Folks I want to connect you with. Maybe you deserve your moment in the spotlight as a guest of one of these amazing shows. Just go to up my influence. Com where you can see more than 50 shows that are actively seeking business leader guests like you to celebrate right now in front of their high caliber audiences. Just click on the podcast tab and up my influence. Com where you'll see shows like Experience Focused Leaders Podcast. If you're seeking insights on transforming customer experiences, you can't miss the Experience Focused Leaders podcast with your host, Alex Kovalenko. Alex, the CEO and founder of relay two, brings his rich background from Stanford MBA, Wharton BSc and the University of Pennsylvania B.A.. He's a smart dude, along with his real world experiences of building organizations across global hubs to the forefront of this engaging podcast. Now, each episode is a deep dive into the world of customer centric strategies where Alex and his guests, seasoned business owners and industry veterans, share their invaluable insights.

Josh (00:01:32) - They discuss the latest trends, offer practical advice, and reveal the secrets behind exceptional customer experiences and business growth. Are you a business owner who values customer experience above all? Then this podcast is your go to resource. Better yet, if you've got unique insights and strategies that have helped you stand out in your industry, we'd love to have you as a guest on the show. Share your story with a community that's as passionate about customer experience excellence as you are. Tune in to the Experience Focused Leaders podcast for your weekly dose of inspiration and practical tips. Let's push the boundaries of customer experience together. With us right now it's Jon Kidwell. Jon, you were the founder and CEO of lead. Well, you are found on the web at lead. Welcome. I also want to point out that you are the host of the Lead Well podcast. So to our podcast listening friend,, just do a quick search right now for a lead. Well one word and you'll find your podcast. Jon, thank you so much for joining us.

Jon (00:02:39) - Thanks, Josh. Thanks for that wonderful introduction. That was wonderful I loved it.

Josh (00:02:42) - Well, thank you, thank you., give us an overview of what you do with lead. Well, who you work with and kind of the impact you have in the world.

Jon (00:02:49) - . That's awesome. So at lead, well, we're a leadership development company., we focus mainly on training and coaching, but we do content as well. And then the leaders in the organizations that we work with are mission driven. And so we say, and they say it as well, that they do business for something more than just the bottom line., they have a greater purpose, a mission that they are on to help people bring good into the world, whether they're a not for profit, a B Corp, a small business, a church, whatever that might be, we go in and we get to help them align their teams, develop leaders inside their organizations, and building cascade winning cultures.

Josh (00:03:25) - What are the consequences of not doing this work, of not investing in our leaders or not investing in ourselves and our leadership skills?

Jon (00:03:35) - I think we're seeing the repercussions of not doing that for two years.

Jon (00:03:41) - Well, honestly, not doing that for quite some time. But it got magnified in two years where leadership development training kind of pouring in to the next gen thinking about succession planning, whatever that might be, just went away,, earlier in this decade. And now we see the fallout of that with people switching jobs, with everybody kind of moving out of corporate and figuring out that they can go do something for themselves., that, folks, when they are with an organization,, some of the top reasons that they are they're are always, always, always do I have growth opportunity. And is this place willing to pour into me?, are they going to train me? And if those aren't true, if those aren't found either in the higher or while they are, they're with the organization. They're going to start looking elsewhere. And so I think all the all the stats that you and I could pull on retention, employee engagement, how hard it is to recruit folks, these are the byproducts of not focusing on it for some time.

Josh (00:04:41) - Yeah. Why is growth so important. So that's part one of the question one. Part two would be what would you say to upper level leaders who are skeptical of that, that they say, yeah, we don't really get that much feedback for that.

Jon (00:04:55) - So let's go to the second one first. I, I don't think that upper level leaders are skeptical. I engaged so many of them that there is a desire and that their stories are often about an individual or a place that did that for them. And where many of them find themselves is what do I do? I want it to happen, but I might not have the money to invest in it. So if I can't do the elite level, like what do I do? Just a little bit. And. I need it done in less time than it's going to take. And so they're really coming up against these constraints. I don't think it's a lack of desire or a skepticism. It's just can I get it done? And is it going to happen in the time that I would like it to and can I afford it? And so figuring those problems out with them, because what they know, what all of us know is like change is inevitable.

Jon (00:05:54) - Growth is. And we don't say optional. We say essential because if we're not growing, then we're going backwards. And there's so many different facets of how we could grow right inside a business. We often think about finances. We've got to grow up into the right. We've been trained up into the right and make that thing look like it's in the black. But there's growing in relationship, there's growing in depth and quality of our product. There are so many areas of growth. It's just completely essential if we're going to continue to stay in the game, to be able to serve people, to be able to keep our folks engaged and so connecting those leaders with solutions so that they can find ways to develop their folks and continue growing their people, continue growing their performance. All of those things are really key.

Josh (00:06:40) - Yeah. Well, thinking about operational concerns or,, you know, things that leaders may be frustrated with today, what are some of the problems that they may be reporting, that they may not connect the dots that.

Josh (00:06:56) - Yeah, you're concerned about that,, be it turned over disengagement, you know, that sort of thing. And they may not understand just how truly that is a leadership issue, not an fill in the blank issue. And anything come to mind?

Jon (00:07:13) - So we work with what we would say are midsize organizations. They usually have 3 to 5 levels of leadership. So there's an executive team. There's some key kind of mid-level leaders. They're usually between 50 and 150 million in gross revenue. That's like our sweet spot. And one of the things that is one of those operational concerns that isn't always apparent in the mirror, right? That's what I heard you say, isn't always like, hey, I might be part of this problem. It really comes down to what gets delegated and what gets held on to, and what are the expectations when it gets delegated. A lot of these leaders in this space, they have grown it. It being the organization, it being their business, it being whatever it is that they started and brought to this level or brought it from the previous CEO executive to now.

Jon (00:08:07) - And they did that by doing a lot of things. And the delegation, as the team has grown around them hasn't always happened. And if it has, sometimes it's what you and I probably experience in a whole lot of places is okay. Josh, you're wonderful here. This is now yours. Turn around and. Why aren't you doing that? Like I'm doing that. Why aren't you doing that? Like, I have an internal expectation in my head that I've never told you about. Well, like, how come you can't just read my mind and do that? That is one of the most kind of in the face concerning, because it's so challenging to always be doing and teaching, doing and teaching. Right. And so especially at that place in the organization where you're starting to put in more systems, more processes, the work has really now expanded outside of anything that any of us could know individually. That one is one of the key concerns and kind of operational. Why isn't this working? Comes back to delegation.

Josh (00:09:02) - You know, what is something that say a leader is listening to our conversation right now? What is a practice or exercise or some sort of like maybe internal, you know, audit investigation or maybe some really good probing questions that maybe we could ask as we think about our own organization or how we are showing up as a leader that might foster some really good conversation or activity in our role of effective leadership.

Jon (00:09:32) - . So that is a fantastic question. And one of the things we like to check in with the executive team. So if we're talking to an executive leader and we're checking in with them, what are your big picture priorities. You may have heard that phrase right. Like I want big picture thinkers. I want people who are focused on the big picture. And so we want to help folks clarify and align teams on their big picture priorities. So what are your big picture priorities? If we want our entire team going in that direction, then we need to know what they are and we need to be able to communicate them out.

Jon (00:10:07) - Oftentimes in what we would tell you is those are things like what is the mission of the organization, why do we do what we do, and what exactly do we do in this business? What's the vision for this organization? How do we act inside of this business? What are our values? Right. Those things. And then what's most important right now and what is our strategy to win if we can get those abundantly clear, almost like a big old light that shines through the fog. Then we just have to turn around and start talking to folks about those. And if I'm a mid-level leader in the organization and I'm sitting there thinking, great, but I don't get to determine these big picture priorities, but I need to figure out how to lead my team. Who's asking me for one thing while working with an executive? Who's asking me for another thing? Then what I would be looking at is what are the key results? What are the things that my leaders are looking for from me and my team? And if I can kind of oftentimes you got to read between the lines.

Jon (00:11:08) - You got to ask probing questions of your leader. You got to look at what are your leaders goals. But if I can figure out what are my key results and my key priorities, then regardless of all the noise that comes in an organization, I can align myself and I can align my team. And so really trying to figure out what's most important on either level, executive level, or in the middle of the organization, what's most important, and then what do I need to do, and how can I get everybody else working towards that same thing?

Josh (00:11:36) - Yeah., Jon does. Well, I wanted to mention this too, because I failed to bring this up., is you are the author of a book, the best selling book. It's called Redefine Your Servant Leadership. Yes, sir. Before I ask you about what lead well does and like how you work with your clients, how you produce, you know, greater outcomes within organizations. Can you tell me about, again the book redefine your Servant Leadership? Who is it for and what's the transformation that you would expect that someone would have when reading it?

Jon (00:12:06) - Yeah, well, it is for those individuals that see servant leadership as a path that they are on or that they even identify.

Jon (00:12:15) - Right. And that interview question, tell me about your leadership style, Josh. You would say, well, I'm a servant leader. And here's what this means. If you say that and you often feel as though that comes with additional pressure,, really kind of boxing in and saying, oh, no, you don't get to talk about the business performance stuff. As a servant leader, you're focused on the people., if you feel that and if you feel a little bit of the like, bless your heart, Pat on the head of, like, when you want to talk about real business, then come on. But right now, you're serving leadership. If any of that is where someone is, this book is really for them., it's it's a bit of the process that I went through for ten years doing this, and the transformation that they would receive through the book is a reorientation around servant leadership is really this combination of being mission driven, servant hearted and business minded. And what I found and what other people are telling me is that through that process, I gained the the confidence, the passion, the commitment to be able to lead and love people well enough to do things like stay on mission, tell people the kind truth, bring together my servant heart and my business mind.

Jon (00:13:31) - Kind of, we're going to get down and do everything that it takes to help people, but we're also going to be strategic about it. So that when you show up in your organization, you're able to bring together people and performance and deliver a tremendous impact,, creating kind of a more sustainable, holistic approach to doing well in life and at work.

Josh (00:13:52) - Yeah. By the way, to our friends are listening. If you hurry, you can get the special mop track edition. That's an insider joke.

Jon (00:14:02) - Yes., go on social and figure out mop trick. We were in wonderful company. There were 137 of us that decided,, we're going on the Mop Trek edition from us to a Kes Lewis book to,, baby's first tractor., all mop Trek editions.

Josh (00:14:18) - Follow Jon Kidwell on LinkedIn so you can see what we're talking about. This was back in beginning of February that you posted this. Hey, Jon., so getting to lead. Welcome. Tell me a bit about who you're working with and what that engagement looks like.

Jon (00:14:34) - Yeah. So we typically work with organizations that are somewhere between 50 and 450 employees. They have an executive team. They have leaders in the middle of the organization, usually a couple levels of those. And they are higher education institutes, credit unions, not for profits, churches, small businesses that have grown to be much more than small businesses. Those are the type of individuals that that we work with and what an engagement looks like. My team and I try to be a partner. We focus really, really closely on getting extremely close and intimate with our clients, with our customers coming alongside them. We work with the executive team to align on big picture priorities., kind of the meat of what we do is we train and we group coach leaders in the middle of the organization so that we can give them the skills that they need while also doing group coaching, building in peer support networks and collaboration inside of an organization. And then we help them. An entire organization cascade the culture, the training, the communication they want through big all team events.

Jon (00:15:42) - And so that's really what it looks like when we come along and work with our folks. And what our clients experience most often is increased retention. Increased productivity. And and many of them report back to us that they've had wonderful changes in their financial output., one so much as their industry usually grows 3 to 5%. And in 18 months,, they had 25% growth, which for them was millions of dollars, while also keeping more of their people than they had before. So it's just it's a wonderful it's a great story from,, not for profit up in Ohio.

Speaker 3 (00:16:19) - Yeah.

Josh (00:16:19) - Well, what's not to love about that?, Jon Kidwell, your website lead. Welcome to our friend that's been listening to us. I know you've got some really good resources on your website. Certainly they can get to the book in your podcast from your website. But,, what what would you recommend they do when they go to lead? Welcome.

Jon (00:16:38) - Yeah. I would encourage them to type into their search cue.

Jon (00:16:42) - Redefine your servant leadership, redefine your servant leadership. Com will take you in there. It'll give you more information on the book. That's a wonderful entry into what we do. There's some ebook resources that are there. But if you are like, no, I don't want a book, I actually want to talk to you about this organizational thing, or frankly, I just need a coach. There are two buttons on top,, one for developing leaders and one for getting coaching. And those are wonderful places to go on lead. Welcome.

Josh (00:17:08) - Jon Kidwell, founder CEO of lead. Well found on the web at Lead The book is Redefine Your Servant leadership and the podcast is the lead well podcast. And so you could just search for that in your podcast player Jon Kidwell, thank you so much for joining us.

Jon (00:17:27) - Thank you for this, Josh.

Josh (00:17:33) - Thanks for listening to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up my Influence comment.

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