Be a Force for Change

violent leadership

Violent Leadership: Be a Force For Change


To achieve a goal, you need planning, action, risk and disruption. In Violent Leadership: Be a Force for Change, Wesley Middleton argues that leaders should be a force for change.

Wesley Middleton is the author of Violent Leadership: Be a Force for Change, co-founder and managing partner of Middleton Raines + Zapata LLP, a tax and accounting services firm.

I recently spoke to Wesley about his book.


“The word refers to a distinctive type of leadership that is passionate, innovative, and disruptive and above all takes things by force.” -Wesley Middleton


Wesley, I’ve studied every type of leadership you can imagine. I’ve attended every seminar and read literally thousands of books. But this is a first. Violent leadership. Tell us more about this and why and how you started writing about it.

As I grew in my business, I learned that my ideas and thoughts weren’t “normal” for my profession. At the time, I didn’t recognize it. I believed that everything I was saying and doing was what everyone thought. It was when I started hearing “no” a lot and other professionals began questioning my ideas that I realized I was not thinking like everyone else. Because of that I began to write my experiences in short blog fashion and began to capture my thoughts and ideas on paper. After writing several articles and blogs, I realized I had a theme that was rooted in my faith. I lived by Matthew 11:12.

Matthew 11:12 (KJV) reads, “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force.” The Modern English version says, “The kingdom of heaven is forcefully advanced, and the strong take it by force.” I was living by those incredible words: violence as force and as leadership.

Due to the obvious nature of the word violent, I kept it to myself. The phrase “Violent Leadership” is not something you would expect to see in the business world, yet it was what I lived by. The word refers to a distinctive type of leadership that is passionate, innovative, and disruptive and above all takes things by force. It does not refer to fighting, anger, or brutality. It is a positive and energetic pursuit of purpose and success. I decided to tell the world.

violent leadership book coverViolent Leadership has been my style of leadership from day one. It has evolved and grown, been tempered and threatened with termination, but it is still at the core of my belief that goals and success do not just happen. Achievement takes planning, action, risk, and disruption—it takes Violent Leadership.



“Be the thermostat that sets the tone and culture in your firm.” -Wesley Middleton


Have a Willingness to Fail

How to Survive Against Fierce Competition


Dealing With Competition

The Reum brothers, Courtney and Carter, are known for their roles on the television show Hatched. They are also behind many household brand names including big names such as Lyft, Pinterest, Warby Parker, and Shake Snack. Their new book, Shortcut Your Startup: Speed Up Success with Unconventional Advice from the Trenches is full of advice and shortcuts for those who want to take a start-up organization and scale it quickly.


In the Introduction of your book, you talk about both how it’s cheaper and easier than ever to start a business but also that the competition is more fierce than ever, too. What are the implications of these market forces?

The effects are twofold. On one hand, an abundance of resources has recently come into existence that—in a vacuum—would make life infinitely easier for any entrepreneur. Obvious examples are Kickstarter, social media marketing, Amazon’s e-commerce platform, data analytics—the list goes on. Obviously, these facilitate the arduous and historically expensive process of starting a business. Just look at the following graph showing the decrease in time needed to scale a brand.

Copyright Reum Brothers, Used by Permission.

The problem with these resources, however, is that everybody has access to them. Since these goods and services simplify business building, more and more people enter the landscape and competition increases. While the increased number of competitors certainly is an implication, a more important one is that it becomes significantly more difficult for the best business to separate itself from the crowd.


Use a Microscope and a Telescope

Another juxtaposition of ideas is from the old saying that you need to have a microscope on one eye and a telescope on another. You also use the speedboat versus sailboat analogy. Talk about this and how aspiring entrepreneurs need to understand the differences and their role.

Become the Brave Leader You Were Born to Be

brave leadership

Get the Results You Need

The most amazing leaders are those who dare to be their true selves. That’s the philosophy behind the new book Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Powerful, and Authentic Self to Get the Results You Need.

Author Kimberly Davis is an actress turned leadership expert turned author. Her message of personal accountability immediately drew my interest.

I spoke with her about how to become the brave leader you were born to be.


“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson


Unleash Your Most Confident Self

What type of leadership worked in the past but doesn’t work anymore?

While command and control worked well during the Industrial Age, today it can destroy a culture and suffocate your results.


“…you are the window through which you see the world.” -George Bernard Shaw


What leadership qualities are important to today’s workforce?

The best leaders—the men and women people want to follow, not have to follow—are confident, authentic (genuine, worthy of trust, reliance and belief), and intrinsically powerful, which means they’re connected to a purpose greater than themselves.


“It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny.” -Jean Nidetch


What stops most leaders from being that brave leader that they want to be? 

Flip the Leadership Mind Switch and Rethink How You Lead

Flip the Switch

I’m often giving keynote speeches about the rapid-fire pace of change. From artificial intelligence to the gig economy, the world of work is changing at a record pace.

The Leadership Mind Switch is a new book by authors Debra Benton and Kylie Wright-Ford that helps leaders position themselves for the future in the midst of these changes. To keep up and succeed, you want to understand how to navigate to drive growth well into the future.


Rethink How We Lead

Why is it important to rethink how we lead? 

While it is always important to grow and develop as leaders, we are experiencing an historical era where tech advances married with sweeping demographic changes, plus a shift in the power base from corporations to individuals, have upended the way the future looks for work, workplaces and workers.

The sharing economy, the low marginal cost of becoming an entrepreneur and the preferences of rising generations mean that leadership behaviors of the past will fail in a quest for relevancy in our physically and digitally fused world.  Yet leaders are still using biographies of their favorite leaders from the 80s and 90s as their guides for the future.

As a Chief Operating Officer meeting hundreds of the world’s best executives, I was struck by the slow pace of change in the way we interact in the workplace relative to the pace of change in the outside world, the changing complexion of our customer bases in business and the demands of the rising generations.  Legacy thinking and iterations on past methods won’t cut it in the new world of work, yet many leaders are “nibbling at the edges” of the changes they need to implement to attract and retain talent and, frankly, to remain relevant. Free food and subsidized health memberships are not enough anymore.  Dramatic shifts in the characteristics and behaviors we value are needed to thrive going forward.


The Importance of Trust

The dizzying pace of change often make us believe that everything is upended, but some things have not changed for leaders. What is something that remains unchanged and just as important in terms of leadership? 

The ideal of being trusted and trustworthy has not changed over time.  It is as important now as it ever was, especially in the eyes of those impacted by less than honest leaders, but what is different now is our ability to get transparency on and take action against leaders that lie, cheat and create subversive cultures.

The optimism of people and yearning for strong leadership, whether real or perceived, can often mask less than trustworthy behavior for a period of time.  However, we are entering an era where rising generations are seeking more from their leaders and their organizations.  Consumers, workers and competitors have more ability than ever to call out bad behaviors, share good behaviors and make choices.


“The optimism of people and yearning for strong leadership can often mask less than trustworthy behavior.”


I have unwavering belief in our ability as a society to sift through the noise of leaders who are untrustworthy and that we have an opportunity to set a new bar for leaders who create positive cultures, leave enduring legacies and inspire those coming behind and beside them.  We just aren’t there yet.


What behaviors do leaders need today that may not have been “musts” in the past? 

Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders

Tales from a Reluctant CEO

Maxine Harris and her partner Helen Bergman started a business and grew it to $35 million through trial and error and constant change. In her new book, Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders: Tales from a Reluctant CEO, Maxine shares lessons that can benefit all of us starting something new. She shares how they overcame obstacle after obstacle to succeed. I recently spoke with her about the lessons she shares in her new book.


When should a start-up start thinking about culture?

Culture is not really something that you think about when you first start a business. You might say, we want to be casual or formal, or we want to maintain an air of professionalism, but short of being doctrinaire, you can’t really control what organizational culture will become.  More than anything, culture evolves from the personalities of the founders. I happen to be very chatty and like to ask a lot of questions.  Some employees see that as friendly; others see it as intrusive.  When I push people to “think smart” and try to do things in better and more creative ways, some people see me as demanding and judgmental, others feel that I am encouraging and stimulating. In both cases, it is the employee who identifies culture based on how they interpret what is going on.

Culture is one of those things that exists in the eye of the beholder.  An employee, an outside consultant or a business colleague takes a step back and sees the unspoken rules and nuances of the organization.  Sometimes people are only aware of the organizational culture when they are asked what they like or don’t like about their jobs. When we asked people who were joining the organization what they were looking for in their selection of a job, we got a glimpse into the kind of culture in which they would feel most comfortable.  And while many said they were looking for an environment in which their opinions were valued and respected, others wanted a cultural milieu in which the boss would tell them what to do and they would have clear guidelines for performance.

Over the years, as Community Connections grew in size and diversified in its programs, culture changed. You could feel the difference. A business with three employees can’t help but be informal and casual.  But as we grew and increased our size to over 400 employees, it became impossible not to have some hierarchical structure. You can remember the names of three people, but when the size gets big, and leaders are rushing from one meeting to the next, it’s hard to be as friendly as you’d like to be.


“Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” –Thomas Wolfe


You wrote fairy tales for each chapter. That’s unusual in a business book. Why did you decide to do that?