Insider Influence: Episode 3 with Travis Holdman

Travis Holdman’s morning routine begins in the evening as he preps his automatic coffee pot to make his morning brew. “The smell of coffee helps jump start my day and gets me out of bed!” he says. After he wakes up, he pours his cup of joe and sits quietly as he gazes out the window for about ten minutes. This quiet time is important to Travis and he uses it as a time for self-reflection. Next, Travis begins checking his calendar and managing his email accounts – both political and business. His main goal for the morning is keeping his calendar and email manageable. After he has organized his day, he heads out for a breakfast meeting.

Hero, Idiot, or Coward? 

According to The Journal Gazette, Indiana State Senator “Travis Holdman is either a hero, an idiot or a coward.” This is referring to Travis’s unsuccessful attempt to fight for both religious liberty and gay rights.

Travis Holdman personifies leadership. As a Christian and a Republican in a historically red state, he fought to establish civil rights for gay, lesbian and transgender citizens. When I asked why he would be crazy enough to get involved in a nearly impossible battle, he responded by saying, “It was the right thing to do.”

This was the moment I realized Travis was more than a man I had a few conversations with. Travis was someone I aspired to be. Despite the odds, Travis acted boldly because he believed in something. He used his platform to pursue civil liberties for those who didn’t have the means to fight for themselves. This is pure leadership.

As I continued on my quest to learn about leadership, I knew I had to reach out to Travis Holdman. I met up with Travis at Starbucks and we began to catch up.

Travis-HoldmanGood Leaders are Charismatic

Throughout his life, Travis has been the Chief Executive Officer of a financial institution, a lawyer, and a state senator. He has learned from each of these opportunities, but he says his leadership style has been greatly impacted by an old friend who served as a pastor.

“He was very charismatic. Leaders have to have charisma so that people gravitate towards them,” Travis said.  

Leaders establish authority by showing their credibility.

As well as charisma, Travis notes that it is important for leaders to establish authority. “Leaders establish authority by showing their credibility. Keep up on current events, this allows people to see that you are well read which leads to credibility,” said Travis.

Authority vs. Power: What’s the Difference?

Before I could continue asking questions, Travis asked if I knew the difference between authority and power. I told him I did not know the difference because I assumed authority and power were one in the same.

Authority is the key to good leadership – Travis Holdman

Travis began to reference a chart that compares power and authority. I quickly had to look it up so I could follow what he was talking about. The chart below details the differences between these two traits.

authority-and-power-comparison-chart

While I was digesting the differences between authority and power, Travis began to share a metaphor that influences his leadership style. He referenced the leadership series Habitudes by Tim Elmore. Throughout the series, Elmore uses a comparison of rivers and floods. Both are bodies of water, but the difference between the two is focus.

“Many organizations begin very focused, like a river. The leaders possess an idea they want to implement. Soon, however, in their zeal to grow, they begin expanding far beyond the boundaries of their initial vision. If they are good at making widgets, they reason, why not make other products as well? Before long, in the name of meeting needs, generating revenue, or just plain growth—they become a flood instead of a river. They lose all focus and sprawl out in every direction. Like a flood, they end up damaging things. Floods can be shallow, unrestrained, muddy and harmful. ”  (Tim Elmore, Habitudes)

This is a metaphor I had encountered earlier in my life, but it didn’t mean much to me before. Now that I have been in multiple leadership roles and I am more seasoned, I realize the impact of this comparison. Travis challenged me to revisit the passage.

Multitasking doesn’t make you a good leader… prioritizing your time well and remaining focused makes a good leader.

The discussion of rivers and floods guided much of our hour-long meeting together. Travis noted that great leaders remain focused while poor leaders become complacent.

“Multitasking doesn’t make you a good leader, prioritizing your time well and remaining focused makes a good leader,” Travis said.

Continue to Sharpen Your Leadership Skills

Travis believes leadership isn’t necessarily born or developed, but instead, leadership depends on the situation.

Great leaders feel called in a time of stress to lead.

Situational leadership is the idea that leaders are most successful when they adapt to the situation around them. According to Travis, “Great leaders feel called in a time of stress to lead.”

Travis continues to grow in his leadership abilities by teaching a class at his church centering around leadership development. He does this not only to empower others but also to keep his leadership skills sharp.

Although he doesn’t intentionally teach while he serves for the state senate, I continue to learn from his actions and the way he represents his local Hoosier community.

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Bonus Insight: Travis Holdman recommends reading books by John Maxwell and Tim Elmore to sharpen your leadership skills. He also suggests finding a mentor to work with you and joining a leadership group within your community.