The 10th year of the Good Leadership Breakfast Series begins next Friday, February 15, with Stedman Graham as our speaker. He and I share a client relationship, and a passion for spreading goodness. I invited Stedman to be our speaker as a special treat to our guests. And yes…as my co-host Julie McDonough says…he is “that Stedman.”
Here’s what I mean: Google “images of Stedman Graham” and you will see him routinely photographed with the Who’s Who of the American humanitarian movement – including Michelle and Barack Obama, and Oprah. At first glance, Stedman looks comfortable – almost at home – at the top of society. But that’s not how his journey began.
I only wish we could double the size of Golden Valley Country Club – because we’re completely sold out for this event.
Discovering his own identity
Born March 6, 1951 in Whitesboro, New Jersey, he grew up with two disabled brothers in his family. He recalls: “I learned that I had to go the extra mile every day. It required patience to deal with the teasing, with race labels, and with dysfunctional family labels. In my early life, I always felt like a second-class citizen…but I know today, all of this helped me discover my true identity.”
Sports had a tremendous impact on his life – he left his family home to be a student athlete at Hardin-Simmons University, where he earned a degree in social work. His career began in public relations working on social causes, including distinguished clients like author Maya Angelou and South African activist Winnie Mandela. “My life changed forever when I learned there was a process for growing, developing, and building people,” he shared. Over then next 25 years, he wrote 11 books, and created a 9-step process to help people grow.
“What’s worked for me is being a contrarian – In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization is at the top. We teach kids and athletes to start with self-actualization at the beginning. When we start there, and get that right, everything changes – including hope, safety and security.”
Making his own mark
So, Stedman is making his mark on society as the founder of Athletes Against Drugs (AAD), a non-profit organization providing services to youth and arranging for sports figures to educate children about substance abuse to help them lead better lives. And as the co-founder of CAYS – Community Action for Youth Success, which began in a school district in Oceanside, California.
It’s all an extension of how he is living his personal passion: it’s the idea that you can’t lead anyone until you lead yourself. His latest book, Identity Leadership is a summary of 25 years of work teaching people how to develop themselves from the inside-out – that’s why he loves the framework of the Seven Fs: faith, family, finances, fitness, friends, fun, & future.
My excitement about introducing you to Stedman can be summarized in this sentence he shared with me: “The most important thing about leadership is the question: What are you building? If you are in the business of doing good…you have to live by the idea: Goodness pays. And leading yourself by the Seven Fs is at the center of that idea.”
Good leaders like Stedman Graham figure out their own leadership in how they engage others. And they live and work by the mantra goodness pays!
In the coming weeks, you can learn more about Stedman’s message here in this blog and on the Goodness Pays Leadership Podcast.