Interview with Paul LaRue: On lifting your leadership


The analogy you make in your book ‘’Leadership lift’’ with the flying process is interesting. What sparked your connecting the two?

I have two close friends who are professional pilots for private companies. In talking about their profession, the idea of preparing for a flight started to draw parallels to leadership, and the seed of the book was created.


The thrust though is one of leadership based on Character and principles, both of which one would argue are the staples of leadership. What are the new angles you espouse on these?

I believe we tend to over-complicate our approaches to improve our effectiveness. I wanted to make a book that was accessible to all levels of leadership, whether new managers or seasoned executives. The term “LIFT” was also deliberate in helping people get out of any stagnation in their influence; to “lift” them up and chart a new course. The book has a section at the end of each chapter for notes, key thoughts, and writing down any action steps. It’s designed to be a working resource that one can go back to over the years and still be a valuable tool.


One chapter in your book ‘’Clear the runway’’ is fascinating. What are some of the things to ‘’clear’’ and what’s the best way to do this?

Clearing the runway is an allegory to clearing your vision. If the runway is cluttered, or the windshield of the plane is filthy, our flight is in peril. Likewise, if we don’t have a daily big picture of our overall mission in our work and personal lives, we will get off track and end up somewhere that we did not intend to be. Keeping out runway, our vision clear, allows us to be that much more effective and successful.


‘’Check your systems’’ is another focus in the book. What are the systems and how does one validate the integrity of that process?

Systems vary from person to person, company to company. In an organizational sense, systems can be the operating procedures, business model, and daily tasks that govern work and drive results and shape what the company becomes. Personally, it may be exercise, reading, networking, and family time that governs the person we want to become. Systems may or may not help you achieve your goals, and need to be checked and fine tuned daily, just like the mechanics and instrumentation on a plane.


Leadership arguably is going through a bit of an identity crisis. Besides character, integrity what would you say are the non-negotiables fundamental to good leadership?

I love your term “non-negotiables” here, because that’s exactly what I believe leadership needs to embrace to resolve this integrity crisis. I think one of the more key non-negotiable leadership traits is authenticity. Popular thought leaders have promoted authentic leadership as one of being true to who you are. Unfortunately, this goes wide of the mark, as many leaders that have hidden agendas or are duplicitous in their dealings claim that they are being true to who they are to the detriment of many others.

Authentic leadership is being true to who you SAY you are, transparent, for everyone to see and help hold you accountable. That leads into accountability, which in its positive term helps leaders and those around them to be authentic and serving the common interests of others. Accountability is not a top-down initiative, it needs to be a two-way street and part of the culture to uplift each other and stay sharp.


One of the challenges in the leadership space is what is a bit of ‘’groupthink’’ on what a leader should do and what makes them great etc. How does one find direction off this beaten path and create their own experience?

Everyone has the intuitive ability to know what is the right and wrong way to lead and influence others. Whether we callous ourselves to that inner voice determines which path we choose. If we take self-awareness to heart, and choose what we know is the right course of action, and not what we feel is correct, we can discover how to be authentic and more credible. That said, we cannot discount the experience of others in helping us grow and learn. Think of leadership thought as a buffet – lots of food that each person can pick and choose what’s best for them from. While there is much false teaching in leadership, there is an enormous amount of great lessons that we can draw from and contribute to the leadership community as a whole.


The complex environments leaders work in means they have to be agile in terms of evolving and scaling their leadership as required. How does a leader step up to the next level as part of their own growth or when the situation demands?

In one word – willingness. The leader who is willing to serve, learn, and lead at a higher level, will be the one who is successful in transitioning to that next step. It means that a particular leader must have humility, know their role, and buy into an engaging vision of the goals and challenges ahead if they are to get others to participate in the mission as well. Without a deep willingness, most leaders will shrink in their new role.


In your own leadership, what’s been most challenging and what are some of the ‘’tools’’ you use to stay the course including how you encourage yourself?

The most challenging thing in my leadership is seeing people with great potential who will not realize what they have to offer, and squander their opportunities to succeed. Most of the time they allow skewed thinking of themselves, or of the organization, to detract from their potential. Trying to break through with these individuals is hard, but for those that you can get to see their own potential, it is extremely rewarding; it’s just sad to see so few of them that do.

As for “tools” I use to encourage myself, social media, reading, planning, and goal setting are some of the best “tools” I use. I am becoming more tech-savvy so seeing and being a (fairly) early adopter of new apps I find helps me to learn what the trends are out there for leadership tools.

But the best resources for encouraging me are the four F’s: faith, family, friends, and fun. An effective and well-rounded leader needs to balance out their personal life to encourage them to succeed in their professional life.


Leadership is obviously a journey, but what would you say are some of your proudest leadership moments and what made them so?

My proudest leadership moments are when people who’ve worked for me succeed in their own right. I am like a proud parent when they sprout wings and lift-off to their own flight path. The names that I remember most fondly – Neil, Amanda, Chris, Vladimir, Adrianne, Bonfilio and others – instill in me the desire to keep on what I do and help influence the next generation of leaders to be better and more effective in what they do.


Paul’s profile

Paul is author of Leadership LIFT: Take Your Leadership To New Heights, a book that presents a unique approach to raising your leadership and influence using the principles of flying. Starting his leadership career while still a teenager, Paul LaRue has grown up through the ranks of the hospitality, foodservice, and entertainment industries. He has been privileged to work with some great leadership mentors and with culturally diverse people throughout the world. Paul’s greatest pleasure is watching people grow and become leaders of character that impact others. In his senior leadership positions, he has developed hiring and training programmes that weave corporate values with people development to create dynamic and successful teams. Through his blog, The UPwards Leader, and Lead Change Group, Paul inspires others to use time-tested leadership principles to lift their leadership influence. More on


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