Respect and admiration are earned. Give respect to gain respect. Have a vision for your company and set a mission to make that vision a reality. When everyone gets behind the cause, and you agree to with a common vision and include the fun-factor, everyone wins, including your customers, and most especially your team.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing John Pringle.

As a president, CEO, and 20+ year senior executive in IT and business development, John Pringle has helped companies from start-ups to Fortune 500 grow, scale, and turnaround revenue to become among the most profitable and desired companies of their industries. His visionary ideas have led companies to scale from 6 figures to 7 figures and from 7 figures to 8 and 9, and he does it by combining a strategic approach using leadership, metrics, full audience comprehension, and by adding in the fun factor that attracts clientele and keeps them coming back over and over again, even in seemingly dry and mundane industries.

Having grown his last company from $160,000 single service business to a $1.96MM diversified business, John Pringle sees business opportunities where most don’t, and he excels at creating relationships and joint ventures where both brands soar to new heights.

John currently serves as a board member and business consultant to companies looking for exponential growth and scalability to capture more market share and create a business that becomes a legacy.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

Well, I just sold my last company after growing it from a single service $160,000 business to a multifaceted business with a $2.1MM valuation. I’m now free from everyday work life and ready to help other entrepreneurs tackle their dreams of growing and selling their businesses, or taking them public, whichever is more interesting to them and right for the business.

I think it’s an exciting time to be in this field because private equity has trillions of dollars, and they need more qualified businesses to purchase. If I can help someone create generational wealth for their family by helping them grow, scale, and sell their business, everyone wins! To me, that’s what makes life exciting.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

While at an Aerospace company, the CIO, Don Pietro, developed a confidence in me that helped me grow my professional career. He provided the opportunity to manage a variety of departments that gave me the ability to test and grow my management skills and tackle new professional challenges.

Originally the manager of the emerging technologies organization, Don provided me the opportunity grow my responsibilities by taking on additional departments, including Quality Assurance, Application Development, and Administration. This gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my capabilities and stretch my skill levels to meet new and demanding challenges.

The organization was implementing a new technology with external governmental requirements needed to successfully implement a corner-stone shop-floor manufacturing system. By having the opportunity to run a wide variety of organizations (125 staff members, $9MM budget, working with external military auditing agencies) I was able to develop confidence in my skills at a young age along with the willingness to take on bigger challenges.

Couple of long-lasting traits were developed:

  1. Elevated communication skills. Don taught me the importance of effective, targeted communication among all levels within an organization, from the boardroom to employees to external stakeholders.
  2. Effective communication skills. The ability to communicate effectively has helped in numerous efforts throughout my career, especially in the recent sale of my business.
  3. Taking chances. To achieve the required goals, I needed to reach out and try different approaches. I learned, “You can’t grow if you continue to use the same playbook.” We were A/B testing before A/B testing was cool. I now use this strategy in nearly every aspect of business, among many other lessons.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

Probably the biggest learning opportunity I had over the course of my career was when I was the department manager responsible for the implementation of the MRP 11, shop floor control systems. The lesson I learned was the need to define the quality of a project or task and its readiness for implementation. The system was implemented before it was ready, and I personally witnessed the impact on the shop floor. This was for a major military aircraft. The implementation date was being driven by an executive MBO (management by objective), not by any system readiness quality metrics. The impact was significant.

The lesson learned: implement a quality methodology that provides empirical evidence (metrics) on the true status of any project or effort. That lesson has been the foundation for many success systems I’ve implemented since.

Another lesson was from the company I just sold. I was starting to have success with the launch of a fleet of rental pontoon boats and I wanted to build on our success to take it to the next level, do something unique and fun. I decided to design and build our own boat. We came up with the concept of designing a pontoon with a hot tub. We designed and built the boat that would hold six passengers with a full size hot-tub, cruising Newport Harbor. We engineered a method to quickly heat the water, provide power to maintain heat and circulation while under-way, and dispose of the water after each use. The concept was good, execution was difficult, regulations became unbearable, and utilization/revenue was not keeping up with expenses.

The lesson learned: sometimes being way out there may not be the best decision; however, ensuring that what you do, you do with quality, will pay dividends in the long run.

Having a quality-built platform provided the foundation to reinvent this vessel. We stopped, analyzed current market conditions, developed a plan for going forward, and executed the plan. Our new launch was a 12 passenger TIKI Bar, with Captain and First Mate to take passengers on a guided Tour of Newport Harbor with drinks in hand. This is now the second largest grossing boat in the Paradiso Charters’ fleet.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

Having worked in a variety of industries across the decades, I’ve seen great leaders and not so great leaders. Leadership as a role is constantly under the gun. It’s one thing to have a great mission and vision for your company, it’s another to rally a crew to make this vision a reality.

Successful leaders are continuously evolving to:

  1. Ensure their team relates to them and the vision.
  2. That the mission is compelling enough to get them excited about work every day.
  3. To keep their eye on the pulse and adapt to the changing market and changing dynamics of the day-to-day world, especially in the last three years since Covid-19, which has challenged the workplace as we know it like nothing in the past ever has.

Today’s leader has been forced to move away from autocratic and hierarchical approaches towards more inclusive and participative styles. Millennials started this change and Gen Z has solidified that workers today want to know their work has meaning and they are making an impact. The authoritative approach of barking orders and expecting compliance has been replaced by a leadership style that emphasizes collaboration and empowerment at every level of employee.

Today’s leaders must also demonstrate emotional stability, which includes self-awareness within their ability to manage their emotions, even when all hell breaks loose. Connecting with teams on an emotional level, motivating and inspiring them, and providing an emotionally stable environment are requirements for today’s workforce. Leaders can’t wear their emotions on their sleeves. Leaders need to include their workforce in conversations about emotional intelligence so that the team can address situations authentically and openly without judgement.

Leaders today also must learn to become adaptable and embrace lifelong learning. With the pace of change accelerating, leaders need to be agile when responding to new challenges. Embracing innovation and keeping up with evolving technologies have become essential for companies to thrive in today’s fast-changing, dynamic world.

There is also a growing emphasis on ethical leadership and sustainability. Today’s leaders will want to consider the long-term impact of their decisions on society, the environment, and future generations. Sustainable practices, social responsibility, and ethical decision-making are increasingly valued qualities within the foundation of companies and leaders focused on these areas will win against competition.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

On word: Micromanagement. I learned early on that trying to closely control and oversee every aspect of the team’s work actually stifles creativity, undermines trust, limits employee autonomy, and is one of the worst ways to manage people. When you micromanage, you’re essentially saying, “I don’t trust you to do a good job, so I’m going to do it with you.” No one likes to be micromanaged.

Empowering, hands-off leadership is the most effective style of leadership today, proven throughout my years in business. Once I started trusting my teams to take ownership of their work and make independent decisions, they flourished as employees, as a team, and each company I worked for grew exponentially. My employees have their perspective and I have mine. The synergy our intelligence creates together is unbeatable! By leveraging their expertise and experiences and empowering them to find their own solutions, I’ve turned teams around from unmotivated and unproductive to ones that foster a sense of ownership, belonging, respect, and accountability. A key element is, at the very beginning, communicate end state objectives effectively,.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

I strongly believe in and encourage continuous learning and development and I focus on fostering a culture of continuous process improvement. Businesses today must stay ahead of the curve to stay relevant. This requires a constant eye on the industry, understanding what’s going on in the world, and our ability to adapt to evolving circumstances. This requires the team remain current in their respective fields, acquiring new skills and keeping their finger on the pulse to provide guidance to management.

By focusing on continuous learning and by fostering a culture of continuous process improvement, leaders set an example for their teams and create an environment that encourages growth, both personally and professionally. I’ve always found that employees who feel supported in their personal and professional growth are more likely to become engaged at work, enjoy their jobs more, and thus contribute to the success of a project or the company mission much better.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

Develop a vision of what your new endeavor’s end-state should look like. The better you can visualize, the better you can build a detailed plan to get to your end goal.

Instead of abruptly abandoning past playbooks and patterns, create a transition plan that allows for gradual and incremental steps to reach your new vision. Identify which elements are still valuable, relevant, and reusable moving forward, while selectively letting go of those elements that no longer serve the new vision. This incremental approach reduces the fear of completely abandoning what has worked in the past while embracing new approaches to solve today’s unique business challenges.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

I have so much advice, I’m overflowing with what to share. Here are 8 tips every leader should consider:

  1. Build relationships by earning trust. Get to know your team members as individuals on a personal level. Relationships built on trust, respect, and empathy acknowledge the person within the employee. When your team trusts you, they are often more willing to follow your lead and collaborate effectively. You can’t mandate trust; you must earn it.
  2. Communicate openly and transparently. Establish clear lines of communication with each member of your team and encourage every leader at every level of your organization to do the same.

Communicate openly, authentically, transparently, and consistently. These are your team members, treat them accordingly. By clearly articulating your goals, objectives, and expectations, and encouraging consistent feedback throughout the course of a project, you create a safe space for open dialogue about issues that need to be addressed so the company and/or project can move forward.

3. Seek feedback. Recognize that you don’t have to have all the answers. Even if you think you do, gaining an outside perspective can broaden your view. When you encourage your team members to share their ideas, insights, and expertise, you’re telling them you value their contributions. This fosters a sense of ownership, engagement, and collaboration that can help your company grow fast and furious, and in ways you never imagined. How many times has a team member commented on something and you thought, “Wow! I never thought of that.”

4. Set clear expectations and provide support. When you clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations for your team members you’ll have a greater chance that they will understand their individual and the collective goals and buy into the process, as well as improvement of the process. Provide the necessary resources, training, and support to help them succeed.

No one likes to fight with one arm tied behind their back, so support your team. Check in on them regularly and offer constructive feedback, guidance, and expertise, but allow them to make the decisions on which way(s) to move forward. Failure within a team can offer big learning opportunities.

Don’t fear failure, think of it as feedback and an opportunity for growth. The key to a failed task is to fail early. The best way to ensure that is to have your expectations with supporting metrics in place and communicated to the team beforehand. You need to look at and “listen” to the metrics regularly and consistently and make corrections as necessary. Your team will thank you and innovation will come more easily because your team will feel supported.

5. Lead by example. “Do as I say, not as I do” leaders lose credibility and respect and create animosity. Your actions really do speak louder than words. When you serve as a role model for your team by demonstrating the behaviors and values you expect from them, it shows integrity, accountability, and professionalism on your part and your actions can inspire and motivate your team to follow suit.

6. Embrace continual learning. Recognize that leadership is a journey of continuous learning and growth. Seek out opportunities to develop your leadership skills. Read books, participate in workshops, find a mentor, and be open to receiving feedback from every person at every level. You don’t have to accept all feedback thrown at you, but you do want to listen. It’s someone’s perspective. Hear what they have to say and reflect without judgement. Be open to learning from your successes and your failures. Embracing a growth mindset can help you adapt and improve as a leader. The broader you define learning opportunities, the richer your life will become.

7. Foster a positive and inclusive culture. Create a positive work environment where individuals feel valued, respected, and included. Celebrate diversity of all kinds and create opportunities for collaboration and teamwork. There is much to learn and embrace through diverse thinking. A positive culture boosts morale, engagement, and productivity, and can help you relate to, serve, and market to your clientele in new and exciting ways.

8. Embrace feedback and adaptability. Be open to receiving feedback from your team members, colleagues, and mentors. Use this feedback as continuous opportunities for growth and improvement. If some feedback upsets you, don’t react. Simply say thank you. Then sit with it. You can react later. Being adaptable and willing to adjust your approach based on the needs and feedback of your team can help you adapt to new situations and challenges and can make you a more effective leader today and throughout the years.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?

The best leaders take risks, try new things, and push boundaries. They inspire their teams to think creatively and embrace new ideas, and they lead by example, consistently looking for ways to improve and grow.

Having managed teams of 10 to more than 600 in leadership roles scaling middle management to the C-suite, I have seen the value diverse thinking and diverse leadership can have on company growth.

Top traits effective leaders today should consider include swapping old ways of thinking for new, such as:

  1. Listening Skills. In today’s work world, everyone’s opinion is valid. Today’s leaders no longer believe they are the only ones with all the answers. Today’s leader is a facilitator of ideas and seeks input and counsel from various members of the team. To be a good listener you must be willing to listen.

I had an employee who wanted to touch base daily to solidify the next day’s schedule. Although I found this a bit excessive, I found my willingness to take the calls paid dividends in the long run. He would inform me of upcoming potential issues, which provided the time to deal with them as effectively as possible. The benefits outweighed the inconvenience of the daily call.

2. Employee Empowerment. When leaders empower others to take ownership of tasks, people grow, the business grows, and new methods of operation can be found that drive business efficiently and effectively.

For example, in one my roles as regional vice president, we had significant yearly growth demands. I was charged with starting an Oracle Practice. Rather than delving in on my own, we hired seasoned professionals and provided direction and support to become an Oracle Certified Partner. By second year, and with an acquisition, we became the number two partner, with revenues soaring over $9 Million. Let other’s expertise shine and yours will as well.

3. Collaborate. A leader needs to collaborate with outside stakeholders to accomplish a common objective. The more a leader can ensure alignment with external pressures, the better the team will shine, and the better the business will thrive with collaborative efforts, expertise, and buy-in.

While at my last company, Paradiso Charters, the City of Newport Beach, where our vessels and our business resided, needed to accomplish a significant dredging project. We had an 85’ Yacht that needed to be moved for the project, yet also needed to continuing operation throughout the term of the project. By collaborating with the city and leveraging their relationships, my team was able to find a solution that met everyone needs. Their finished their drudging and we continued to serve our clients’ needs with ease.

4. Respect. Respect and admiration are earned. Give respect to gain respect. Have a vision for your company and set a mission to make that vision a reality. When everyone gets behind the cause, and you agree to with a common vision and include the fun-factor, everyone wins, including your customers, and most especially your team.

Respecting the leader in a small business environment is critical. Employee tenue is a key metric every business should track. I fully believe that leaders should treat the employees of a small (15-person team) the same as a 600 person team by clearly communicating organization goals and objectives, demonstrating business ethics (this can really be a significant differentiator), and by being known as the best provider of goods or services in your sector. When your employees respect you, your growth will expedite because you are leveraging their tenure.

5. Change is the only constant: Business is about serving clientele. As their needs change so must your business adapt to their changing needs. Research, listen, engage with your clients, then create a plan to serve their needs. Make sure it’s measurable, so you can know where, when, and how to change.

COVID-19 taxed businesses and challenged work life as we know it like nothing before. We all had to change with COVID-19 quarantine. Some businesses were devastated, while others thrived; some due to luck, others to strategy. Fortunately for us, our business doubled. But it doubled because of our strategies, forethought, and quick action. We analyzed what we saw as emerging trends and took immediate action. We introduced an upgraded “smaller “package, focused on less number of people, and that service line grew by 400%. Once we noticed the movement towards “live streaming,” we invested in high-quality streaming capabilities that showed people having fun on our vessels, outside, on the water, where everyone wanted to be, but didn’t know they could be. Our customers sharing this live stream on their social media posts was free publicity that allowed us to grow and continue our operations while our competitors were shut down and nearly shut down from lack of customers. We focused on cost reduction while maintaining a strong marketing presence. We combined this client publicity with a strategic marketing focus on Google My Business, and our phones kept ringing and business soared.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

Have Fun…. Bring in fun and everything becomes more enjoyable with an increased focus on the task at hands. I started bringing in the fun years ago when my IT application development team was feeling the pressure of getting a project completed. Anyone could tell the team was getting less enthusiastic about the work the more the pressure mounted. But once we included the fun-factor into every department, each department’s productivity increased, and each employee became more engaged at work. They were more positive, said they felt more focused on the end deliverable, and understood they mattered to the success of the project and the company. Never underestimate the fun-factor at work. It can work miracles on any underproductive team.

Once you’ve instilled the fun factor, reflect and express gratitude. A great exercise to adopt into your culture is taking time at the end of each day to reflect on the day’s experiences, accomplishments, and learning lessons. Acknowledge your team’s and each individual’s achievements, big or small, and express gratitude for the opportunities, relationships, and lessons learned. Gratitude cultivates a positive mindset and fosters appreciation for the journey.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

To position every organization I work with to reach its full potential. My expertise is vast across nearly every department in an organization, and my history of success supports the creative and innovative thinking I’ve used to grow businesses exponentially: from 6-figure businesses to 7-figure businesses and from 7-figures to 8, 9 and more. Equipping the organization with new ways of thinking, new tools, and new methods for success is what gets me excited every day about business growth and positioning.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

Email me at [email protected] or connect with me on LinkedIn @JOPringle,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!