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Focus on Career Advancement: Former Co-CEO of Primerica stresses the greatest ability is likeability

By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager 

John Addison’s portfolio would have you believe he was groomed from an early age for corporate business success and that he’d enjoyed climbing up a ladder adorned with garlands from only the best Ivy League schools. However, what makes his stellar career trajectory all the more interesting is the fact it starts with the humble attitudes and hard work ethic found in the south.

“I grew up in a very small town and went off to college at the University of Georgia,” the former Co-CEO of Primerica says. “I wasn’t  like those people who were born on third base and think they hit a triple.”

Addison furthers he didn’t even know what a CEO was when he was growing up in small town Georgia adding that going to college and getting a good job leading to mid-level management

John Addison

John Addison

was the highwater mark most of his contemporaries could hope for.

“Back there your life wasn’t your career, your life was your community.”

Those early homespun values created a foundation he brought with him to more lofty career heights later on but they also came with some other baggage that almost scuttled him when he first left his home to go to university.

After initially meeting people from more privileged backgrounds who seemed more suited to academia, Addison phoned home to tell his father he wanted to leave school. However, he was persuaded to stay and wound up outscoring at least one of those others on an early test. It turned out to be a decisive moment sparking a career that would soon have him answer an ad in an Atlanta newspaper to join Primerica in the early nineteen eighties. From there he would be instrumental in navigating the organization through the years after the acquisition by Citigroup.

Negative Personal Traits    

One of the big takeaways from his early college experience was the ability to overcome negative personal traits.

“If you’re not careful, the fear and inadequacies that you have programmed into you will hold you back in life,” he says adding that some of the most successful people he’s met in life are also the most insecure.

That realization and others helped him develop a passion and talent for motivating and inspiring others as a leadership and personal development expert. To that end, he has established several key tips and strategies including one that ties in with his personal story from his college years. 

How to turn your fear into fuel is the name for the process he advocates whereby you recognize the irrational fears that tell you real accomplishments based on hard work and talent are just luck and you don’t deserve them.

“You need to turn these fears into fuel. You need to turn them into the very things that drive you to prove to yourself and other people that you belong,” he says. “You’ve got to take control of those fears or they will take control of you.” 

Clear Distinction  

Once you have those fears corralleda natural progression according to Addison is the art of Leading without a title. He starts by making a clear distinction between the terms management and leadership.

“Management relates to a position—it gives you a title and puts you in a box. The reality is leadership is very different than that,” he says adding that influence could be used to define a trait some of the best leaders possess.

This characteristic is more about your personality and ability to be personable. “When I spoke to The University of Georgia Business School recently,I told them I thought the greatest ability was likeability,” Addison says.

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