John Buford & Sean Georges: On Mission Leadership

We all know that when it comes to leadership and accomplishing a mission, the US Military is hard to beat. But we think we understand what that means – it’s actually not about cold commands or ranks and titles. If you want to become a more effective leader, then tune in! My guests, John Buford and Sean Georges, both former military leaders themselves, unpack the fundamentals of good leadership so you can be more effective.

Jonn and Sean view leadership as a real, human-centric responsibility, not a romanticized, mythical calling. Today we talk about what authentic leadership really means, why leadership doesn’t derive from power, and how to put people and a shared mission at the heart of your leadership model. They share how military leadership principles can lead to business success (and why some civilian leaders misunderstand what that means) and the important difference between leading and managing. We discuss the mistakes well-intentioned leaders make, and how to balance supporting your team and being human with strength, confidence, and excellence. Enjoy these practical and timeless leadership lessons.

Key Takeaways:

  • There is a responsibility of care and service that comes with real leadership. It’s not about demanding and ordering, it’s about serving with your team for the larger mission. 
  • The best leaders don’t need to remind you that they outrank you; they serve you. Leadership doesn’t work the way an org chart looks. 
  • Being a follower first will allow you to better understand and empathize with those you are later leading. 

“Real, authentic leadership is an upside-down world:  It’s you at the bottom, conceptually influencing from that place looking up at your teammates, in alignment with mission.” —  John Buford

About John Buford, Ph.D., Co-founder, On Mission

John Buford served as a Marine Corps officer for more than 20 years, conducting operations overseas and teaching at officer training schools. After retiring from the Marines, John earned a doctoral degree in education (training and performance improvement specialization) and became a certified wilderness medicine instructor, college professor, and outdoor educator. He is the co-founder of On Mission Leadership, a certified leadership coach, professional wilderness guide, whitewater kayak/canoe and sea kayak instructor, human performance consultant, and board member of several nonprofit organizations.

About Sean Georges, J.D., LL.M., Co-Founder, On Mission

Servant Leader, retired General Counsel and SVP of Human Resources for a publicly traded retailer with 5,000 employees in 400 stores; Naval Academy Graduate and Marine Corps Officer and Judge Advocate; Law degrees from the University of Illinois and The Judge Advocate General’s School of the Army at the University of Virginia.

References Mentioned:

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

The Empathy Edge podcast interview with Val Ries: How to Be the Leader Everyone Wants to Work For

Connect with John and Sean:


Book: On Mission: Your Journey to Authentic Leadership 

John Buford on LinkedIn: 

Sean Georges on LinkedIn: 

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