We all go through various experiences as we navigate life. These experiences may be good or bad, but one way or another, they can alter the course of our lives. We can choose to put them at the back of our minds, never to be touched again. But on the flip side, we can reexamine and use them to become better and competent leaders and impact other people’s lives.
In this episode, we talk to Alain Hunkins, a sought-after keynote speaker and leadership expert. Alain shares his experiences growing up and how they shaped his parenting style. These experiences also influenced how he leads.
Tune in and learn how to maximize your life experiences to be a better leader.
Alain Hunkins is a faculty member of Duke Corporate Education. He is also a keynote speaker, facilitator, coach, and leadership expert. Throughout his career, Alain has specialized in designing and facilitating seminars on numerous leadership topics. These include team building, conflict management, peak performance, communication, motivation, and change.
- Learn about Alain’s parenting style and how it translates to leadership.
- Discover the differences between American and European cultures from Alain’s perspective.
- How does empathy impact leadership?
[02:22] Alain’s Elevator Pitch
- Alain helps high-achieving people become high-achieving leaders.
- His technique marries the science of high performance with the performing art of leadership.
[04:15] Alain’s Family Life & Their Move to Europe
- Originally from America, Alain has been living with his family in Leiden, the Netherlands, since July 2018.
- His wife lived in Europe for six years before they met.
- They moved to Europe without initial plans on how their life is going to play out.
- The catalyst in their decision to move was wanting to do it with their kids while they’re still intact as a family.
- Being risk-averse, he realized that he needed to get comfortable enough with the uncertainty.
[07:17] Planning for their Transition
- They had plans, but a lot of things also shifted along the way.
- The work Alain ended up getting came from a place he was not expecting.
[08:52] Parenting Style & Leading Teenagers
- Parenting and leadership are great mirrors of each other.
- They made an agreement with their children that they will move back to the US.
- Many parents put a lot of expectations on their kids. His wife decided that she will not engage in that power struggle.
- Alain believes that parenting is about treating children with a baseline level of respect.
- Your parenting style depends on what works for you and your family system. For Alain and his family, it is more of “enlightened authoritarianism.”
[15:04] Energizing Negativity in the Family
- Do not major in minor things; this applies to both parenting and leadership.
- Many family systems have internalized and heightened negativity. That negativity affects the way you parent your kids in the future.
- Superhero myth in parenting and leadership: People see you as perfect and all-knowing.
- Parents should apologize when they are wrong.
[20:30] Lessons from Moving & Traveling
- When we get so hard-charging and driven, we can forget the people side of things.
- Practice empathy. It is essential to put relationships and people before tasks.
- For Alain, empathy is showing people that you understand them and care about how they feel.
- Alain’s leadership wisdom: Knowing when to go fast and when to go slow.
- We all have access to information, but not all of us translate that information into working insight.
[24:09] Cultural Differences Between North America & Europe
- North American culture is all about speed and adrenaline. Hence, America has an individualistic society that causes burnout.
- Meanwhile, Europeans are more relaxed than Americans because they earn a living wage enough to pay their necessities.
- Europe has better universal healthcare, affordable higher education, and excellent retirement benefits.
- Overall, you pay more taxes in Europe, but you also reap more benefits in the long run.
[30:34] Alain’s Thought Process on These Cultural Differences
- The Dutch culture prioritizes socialization. Meanwhile, the combination of the American strife with technology has heightened people’s anxiety.
- Alain makes sure to find the boundary between work and loved ones.
- At the end of your life, your relationships, memories, and legacy are what you’ll have left.
- The silver lining in this pandemic is that we all have a chance to press pause on our day-to-day business.
[34:47] Steering Away from the American Culture Hamster Wheel
- In Alain’s household, they have boundaries in gadget use.
- He is a huge believer in building a community. He checks in with his family and connects with his social circle virtually.
- Alain is also into yoga, running, and biking.
- He also plans to integrate Neil Pasricha’s two-minute morning practice into his routine.
[40:05] Cracking the Leadership Code
- Alain grew up with his grandmother, a holocaust survivor who has PTSD.
- The war was a traumatic experience for his mother and grandmother.
- Part of Alain’s interest in human psychology and behavior, people, and leadership stemmed from his home life experience.
- Someone who has been through trauma has to go through a process of reexamination.
- His mother and grandmother were his first role models of leadership. They helped him create his primary organizational culture.
[45:34] Pivoting from the Stronghold Paradigm That Parents Create
- If there exists a spark of love from your parents, that is a strong building block.
- Leaders should learn to love their people for them to follow.
- Leadership is a relationship; its foundation is empathy.
- Love has always been there for Alain, and that helped shape who he is today.
[49:14] Translating His Experiences into Books
- Growing up, Alain felt lost because everyone has this instruction manual, but he doesn’t. It became his main drive in writing books.
- He wants to provide other people with a practical roadmap of that instruction manual.
- Leaders need to be credible.
- His books offer tips and tools to bring to life the things people intuitively understand but never really packaged.
[52:53] Becoming Self-Aware
- Self-awareness is the willingness to hold up the mirror to yourself.
- Take an honest look at yourself and see what’s there.
- Feedback from other people is also part of self-awareness. It is an accelerator for development.
- Leadership is a managing perceptions business. Alain’s journey of self-awareness is to align how he sees himself with how other people see him.
- It’s about finding the people, support, clue, tools, and prompts that will assist you in this journey.
[57:57] Leadership as a One-on-One Relationship
- Alain’s mentors are James Kouzes and Barry Posner.
- There is a human desire to be seen, valued, and understood. Hence, leadership is a relationship built on connection.
- An immediate one-on-one relationship lays the foundation of what a leadership relationship is like.
- The two shadows around leadership are the projection shadow and formal leadership role.
[1:06:01] What Bothers Alain in the Leadership Field
- Egoistic and manipulative leaders bother Alain.
- Gen Y and Gen Z now make up 59% of the workforce, and they are refusing to play by the old rules and forcing change on so many levels.
- The leadership he is witnessing encourages and inspires Alain to continue his work.
[1:09:34] What’s Next For Alain
- Alain and his family are moving back to the United States.
- He is going to continue trying to make the world better as he can.
[1:10:30] Seek, Go, Create
- The word “Go” resonates with Alain because it signifies action. He believes action changes the world.
- “Go” means taking steps and doing something that you did not do before.
5 Powerful Quotes from This Episode
[11:16] On parenting: “It’s about treating them with a baseline level of respect—that they know they are being treated like humans who deserve respect from the earliest of ages.”
[22:45] “Information and email might travel the speed of light, but our human relationships take time. And showing empathy means showing patience.”
[26:05] “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” —W. Edwards Deming
[32:34] “At the end of your life, what are you going to have left? It’s probably going to be the relationships that you have nurtured and the memories you’ve created and the legacy that you left through the actions you’ve taken.”
[01:10:55] “When you go, you have now done something that you didn’t do before.”
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