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How Great Leaders Avoid The Groupthink Bog

By Rob Starr, Content Manager

“The further up the ladder you go, the easier it is to get isolated and surround yourself with people that tell you what you want to hear. I’ve always believed you’re better off as a leader surrounded by people who disagree with you.”

This from John Addison, the President and CEO of Addison Leadership Group. One of the first things you’ll notice about him is he’s amicable and well spoken, both perfect personality traits for a world-class speaker and motivator. However, even the best southern orator needs to have some solid credentials to be heard in the business world, and Addison excels there too.


From 1999 until March 2015, he served as a Co-Chief Executive Officer of Primerica, Inc. and was previously president of that company from 1995 to 1999 after holding several different positions in Primerica’s ranks. caught up with him recently to get his input on the ingredients that go into great leadership.

He starts by elaborating on his quote saying good leaders surround themselves with people who challenge their thinking and provide a new perspective.

“Only through these diverse kinds of opinions do you have the ability to move an organization,” Addison says. “When you’re the leader, you don’t just say that you want people’s input, they have to know they can

John Addison

John Addison

hare their strong opinions with you.”

Team Members

He’s also quick to point out this doesn’t mean you can run a business like a democracy. There needs to be one person in change who can make the necessary decisions when the organization needs to move forward. These good leaders also look for team members with skills that complement the ones they have to make the team more efficient and cohesive.

Addison currently also serves as Non-Executive Chairman of Primerica Distribution and offers another piece of advice that might seem counterintuitive to people still clinging to more staid business models.

“Too many people spend their whole careers working on their weaknesses,” he says. “I’m not saying you don’t need to work on those, but you need to find the thing that you are specifically good at and work your but off and prepare. Then you’ve got a shot at being great at that skill.”

He believes great leaders and organizations put people in positions where their strengths shine. That requires diverse skill sets and the thinking to match.

“One of the great challenges for an organizations is when things fall prey to Groupthink where everybody thinks, acts and talks the same way.”

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