Leadership, Shields, and Stories with Earl Breon

Responsible Leadership

In a recent episode of the Narativ Story Talks podcast, hosts Jerome Deroy and Julienne Ryan sat down for an interview with Earl Breon, CEO and Founder of The Leadership Phalanx. As a former active duty US Marine with over 25 years of coaching and leadership development experience, Earl combines his civilian and military experiences with his love of history to bring his clients what he calls “The 11 Shields of The Leadership Phalanx.”  His coaching services aim to help leaders of all kinds—especially those in business—unlock their potential by developing qualities that will help them to become responsible and respected leaders. 

In his interview with Jerome and Julienne, Earl told the story of how he made the shift from military to leadership coaching and also shared some of the experiences he’s had along the way. Together, they all discussed the tenets of responsible leadership, how stories can help to eliminate unconscious bias, and why Earl’s 11 Shields of The Leadership Phalanx are vital to being a respectable, effective, and ethical leader. 

“Never Met a Stranger in My Life”: Earl’s Story

After his military service ended, Earl joined the Civilian Federal Service and was surprised to find it was a stark contrast to the military in terms of effective leadership. To do something about this, he began developing his first training while also joining the organization’s mentoring program. His aptitude for leadership coaching caused one of his mentees to suggest that he should pursue it as an actual career. 

As it turns out, Earl’s talent for mentoring came from his own experience as a young boy. 

Earl shared a moving story about his grandparents who stepped in and raised him when his parents split. He attributed their influence—particularly that of his grandfather—to helping him avoid becoming a statistic, instead growing into someone who is able to lead with discipline and patience. 

Jerome pointed out Earl’s willingness to be emotionally vulnerable in sharing his story, and the way in which that kind of vulnerability engages and connects the audience. Jerome also hearkened back to the earlier discussion about assumptions and how the story demonstrated the ways in which listening to a person’s story will completely change assumptions about them. 

“Here’s another layer now that I had no idea about, but it completely changes the way I see you, and it sort of dimensionalized you,” said Jerome. 

The ability to not only share but also to listen and allow the stories of others to shape our view of them is fundamental to leadership—and it is also core to many of the concepts that Earl teaches in his coaching. 

In addition to coaching, Earl hosts a podcast called, The Responsible Leadership Podcast. As someone who already loved conversation and making personal connections with others, it only made sense to launch his podcast featuring discussions on leadership principles with people from all walks of life. 

Earl’s podcast, now called The Responsible Leadership Podcast, Today, Earl’s podcast has well-over 200 episodes and serves to lay the foundation for his coaching business, allowing him to continue building his leadership training program and eventually provide mentorship services to leaders of all types across a variety of industries. 

What is a Leadership Phalanx? 

The armies of ancient Greece employed a tactical formation known as the phalanx in which soldiers would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their shields close together in a defensive line several ranks deep—effectively forming an impenetrable wall of shields and pikes that could move as a unit to mow down any enemy in their path. The power and effectiveness of the phalanx is exactly why Earl chose it as the imagery to illustrate his leadership principles. 

Earl explained that while any of the principles he teaches can be helpful in developing good leadership skills they will all be much more effective if used together. He elaborated that if all 11 are put into practice, they will work together to provide an individual with a strong leadership foundation that values diversity and inclusion as fundamental to building strong, successful, and innovative teams.

“You can do any two of these things and you’re going to see improvement, but they’re designed to work together,” Earl said.

Why Do People Struggle to Lead? 

According to Earl, most leadership development programs out there start at too high of a level to be accessible to many people in leadership positions.

“There’s about a 10-year gap from the time someone is promoted into a leadership role and the time they get their first formal leadership training,” he explained. 

What happens in the meantime is that the newly promoted leader is simply expected to know how to lead with little guidance. Any leadership skills they are lacking won’t be addressed until long after it has become a problem for them and their team. 

The Leadership Phalanx serves to close the gap. It provides newer leaders with base-level leadership skills they are either lacking or have not yet been unlocked. Having this strong foundation in place then helps these leaders gain greater benefit from higher-level leadership development they’ll receive later on. 

Dispelling Bias by Listening to Stories

A large focus of Earl’s coaching is on helping leaders to root out unconscious bias in their approach to leadership to promote diversity and inclusion. 

At one point in the episode, he explained that bias is largely created from the stories we tell ourselves about other people before we get to know them. The discussion then highlighted how the solution to this lines up perfectly with Narativ’s vision—because in order to remove those biases, you have to be willing to listen to people tell their own stories and use that to build your image of who they are. 

Earl firmly believes that we should never assume we are a better storyteller than the person telling their own story because our story about them will almost always be false. 

If you would like to learn more about Earl’s coaching services or his podcast, you can find him here. For information on how Narativ can help you as you strengthen your own leadership phalanx, visit our website or contact Jerome Deroy directly to set up a consult.

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