As a former high school teacher, Jason Womack has a passion for teaching leadership skills that makes him unique among many Agilists. He's bringing inspiration and lessons learned to The Path to Agility conference in less than two weeks as the closing keynote speaker.


Jason Womack: Learning Leadership
By Terreece Clarke, May 2nd, 2016

Leadership. It’s one of those timeless concepts that everyone seems to have an opinion about and if you’re wise, a skill you always seek to improve upon. But what about those who make teaching people how to lead their life’s work? For Jason Womack, founder of Get Momentum and Path to Agility closing keynote speaker, the leadership journey began in the classroom.

“I had a terrible high school teacher and knew I could do better,” Womack said. “I got my teaching degree, became a high school teacher and was able to watch kids learn over time. I got 180 days to watch 160 kids learn, that’s a leadership [opportunity].”

“Everyone has a vision, if they could give themselves to [the vision] the world would be better. I didn’t dream of being a leader, I did want to be a high school teacher. Now, [the scope] is different. I have about 50 mins seeing 1000 people to help and watch them learn,” he said.

Making of a Great Leader

With so many people asking, teaching and talking about leadership, it’s understandable that opinions vary on what makes a great leader. Womack points to two key skills. “The first thing is, you gotta know yourself,” he said. “I tell people ‘Let’s look in the mirror then we can look out the window.’ I am a proponent of practicing on the small things so that, when it’s time to perform, you’re ready. You have to know yourself in order to lead and work on changing the things you need to change within yourself.”

Number two, Womack said, is to determine your team’s motivation or motive for action.

“If I can find out what you’re interested in, I can then put you in the position where you are engaged. You have to know what engages your people,” he said.

"Leaders have to understand that people don’t leave jobs, they leave leaders. Be a better leader. You give them [talented individuals] the opportunity to shine.”"

Mistakes in Leadership

Womack points out that there are some common mistakes people make when thinking about leaders.

“...we have been brought up with [preconceived or stereotypical notion of] what a leader is supposed to look like -- they are supposed to be the CEO, the VP, department head, etc. The leader of the future is someone who doesn’t necessarily have a title - but they are still influential,” he said. “They are the person on the team who can’t shake what they see as being able to be fixed.”

Womack said leaders also misunderstand the reason why people leave their jobs or organizations.

“[A lot of leaders] only focus on hiring the best talent. One problem with hiring the highest talent is, if they have a bad day, they are on or LinkedIn that night. Leaders have to understand that people don’t leave jobs, they leave leaders. Be a better leader. You give them the opportunity to shine.”

“I ask every leader what is their investment in finding out what people are engaged in,” he said. “Not just networking/team building. It’s a red flag to me when they don’t take opportunities to really talk to their team individually.”

Getting “Unstuck” at Path to Agility

Womack’s keynote at Path to Agility focuses on Five Questions to Ask to Get Started as a part of his Get Momentum plan. But the question is, get started doing what?

“To start the project that’s stuck,” Womack said. “It’s a new app, or service, at work. At home it’s the back yard’s whatever is stuck in various parts of your life. Some [people] are stuck to the point of failure: the 3 year vet at a startup, who knows they want to move on but just needs to know how... I help people get momentum.”

Womack said that people looking to become “unstuck” should ask themselves, “What do I want to be known for?” They should ask themselves not just at work, but as parents, friends, etc., Womack said.

“Unless you answer the first question, you can’t get unstuck,” he said.

Womack also said attendees also have to answer this question: ‘What conditions will help me be the better version of myself?’

“Clear out the path to have those conditions,” he said. “Get rid of anything that compromises that. Most people approach the day hoping that it’s a good one - and they get thrown when something goes differently.”

“We’re talking about self care,” he said. “Something that doesn’t get talked about much in the American workplace. We need you at your best.”