A great leader is fearless, assertive, resourceful…a recovering addict? Meet Michael Brody-Waite: father, CEO, and author of Great Leaders Live Like Drug Addicts. When he was twenty-three, Michael suffered from drug addiction and his whole life revolved around finding ways to stay high. In his book, Michael breaks down the steps he took on his road to recovery and how any entrepreneur can apply what he learned to become a successful leader. In Michael’s words, this is the story of a man who didn’t just become successful in spite of his addiction. “Addiction is the entire reason for my success.”
Running Your Business Like a Drug Addict
It’s a common misconception that all drug addicts are products of terrible homes. While certain factors can increase the likeliness of addiction, substance abuse can affect anyone regardless of race, age, or gender. Michael Brody-Waite grew up in California with a caring family and big dreams of becoming a CEO. While most kids idolize superheroes, Michael looked up to entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Jason Fried. By the time he was eighteen, however, Michael had begun using drugs. After going off to college, his problem worsened and he was eventually kicked out of school. Suddenly finding himself homeless, Michael took it as a wake up call to seek help.
After entering a recovery program, slowly, his life began to turn around. Michael was taught to exercise three principles: practice rigorous authenticity, surrender the outcome, and do uncomfortable work. He learned to live by these rules as if his life depended on it and, according to him, that’s what makes addicts different from everyone else. Addicts can’t stop practicing these rules or else they have a chance of relapsing. To be successful, a leader has to live the same way every day. Otherwise, his or her organization will not survive.
Practicing Rigorous Authenticity
While staying at a halfway house, Michael was told he had five business days to find a job or he would be kicked out. He managed to get an interview at an entertainment retail store, but was terrified of revealing his past. When he asked his sponsor what he should say, his sponsor told him to stick to the principles and be honest. Only then would he be successful on his road to recovery. This was the first step.
Surrendering the Outcome
Though still terrified, Michael knew he had to stop worrying about circumstances he couldn’t control. Instead, he should focus on what he could control. He told the interviewer the truth about his past and, much to his surprise, was offered a job on the spot. This was the turning point in Michael’s journey to achieving his dream as an entrepreneur.
Doing Uncomfortable Work
After he landed the job, Michael had to work hard to overcome his addiction and present his authentic self to those around him. When he moved on to other jobs, Michael says he was always worried about revealing his background out of fear of judgment. He even recalls one time a coworker spread a rumor that he had begun using again in order to keep Michael from getting a promotion. Michael still makes every effort to get where he needs to be today and that includes doing uncomfortable work and opening up about his past.
Michael Brody-Waite Revolutionizes the Healthcare Industry
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Michael had many frustrating experiences at clinics. Often times, physicians could not see him at the time of his appointment and he was forced to reschedule. He realized the healthcare industry was in dramatic need of change and partnered with a software developer to make it happen. Together they created InQuicker, which was the first ever self-scheduling online platform for healthcare.
Upon launch, their company implemented five hospitals into their system. Just as they were about to expand to fifty, InQuicker’s software failed and negatively impacted one patient. Though no one had noticed, Michael felt obligated to remain transparent and authentic. He contacted their hospital partner and informed them of the problem, knowing he was at full risk of ruining their deal. Contrary to what he expected, their partner appreciated his honesty and placed full trust in their business relationship moving forward. Once again, Michael had witnessed the power of authenticity and soon expanded InQuicker’s reach to over a hundred hospitals nationwide.
After seeing that the healthcare industry was evolving, Michael sold InQuicker and was appointed CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. He became the first person who had been served by the non-profit business accelerator to ever hold that title. While connecting with and mentoring other startup founders, Michael realized there were many organizations that could benefit from what he learned by leading his companies as a recovering addict. Thus, he turned to public speaking.
In 2018, Michael gave a Ted Talk about his experiences which has now garnered over a million views. In his talk, he admits his story is not unique. “46% of adults say they have a friend or family member that’s addicted to alcohol or drugs.” However, Michael is the first person to take the three principles he learned about drug addiction and apply them to leadership. Those steps helped Michael get clean and live what he calls “mask-free”.
Though he is successful now, life is not always easy. Michael still works hard to keep clean every day and regularly attends meetings. He says that his biggest flaw is failing to celebrate his achievements and attributes this to focusing too much on impacting the future. In order to increase his mindfulness, Michael continually practices meditation and tries to remind himself to live in the present.
Michael is now using his virtual platforms to spread word about his #MaskFree movement. Currently, he is hosting free virtual meetups regularly for anyone who preorders his book due out May 26. Michael believes, especially now with everyone working from home and communicating through social media, that the world will be better off if people took off their masks and expressed who they truly are underneath. He encourages entrepreneurs and everyone else around the world to thrive by living openly and honestly. Remember, addiction can affect anyone, but taking leadership is totally in your control.
Has Michael Brody-Waite’s story changed your perspective on leadership? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.