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Featured Interview – Leo Bottary, Author of What Anyone Can Do

Recently I had the chance to connect with Leo Bottary author of What Anyone Can Do. Leo is an international keynote speaker, author, workshop facilitator, adjunct professor, and thought leader on the topic of peer advantage. 

What is the back story behind What Anyone Can Do? And how did you come up with the concept of “What anyone can do?”

In 2016, I coauthored a book with Leon Shapiro, titled The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success. in it, we examined how and why formal peer groups (or mastermind groups) for CEOs and business leaders are so effective.  Following the release of that book, I hosted a podcast called The Year of the Peer, where I interviewed 50 high profile people from business, media, and academia.  Over the course of the year, the conversation evolved from a conversation about our peers in organized groups to the broader circle of people who surround us in our everyday lives (parents, kids, teachers, mentors, mentees, etc.) and the importance of engaging them effectively to achieve what we want out of life – whatever that may be.  I wrote What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself With the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity & Personal Growth, based largely from what I learned from my podcast guests.  The title actually comes from a book called The Long Run Solution (1976), written by former Runner’s World editor Joe Henderson.  In describing successful runners (and people in general), Joe stated that they are not successful because they are capable of superhuman feats, often times, they just do the things anyone can do that most of us never will.  In my view anyone can surround themselves with the right people in life, and when they do, they’re more likely to do the things anyone can do far more often. 

What books had the most impact on you and your development?

There many books that have had an impact on me over the years.  Two that come to mind in the context of this interview are The Customer Comes Second by Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters, and The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.  I am currently reading Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal and The Curiosity Code by Dr. Diane Hamilton.

Questions about the book:

Is there one short story from “What anyone Can Do” you would like to share?

More than fifteen years ago, my teenage daughters asked me if we could climb Mount Baldy in Crested Butte, Colorado. Of course, standing on the peak is one thing, getting there is quite another. I talked to them about what it would take to prepare for the climb, and a few weeks later we embarked on our vertical journey.

As we began the climb, the girls were quite enthusiastic. Now, if you have ever climbed a mountain, you know that in addition to the physical challenge, there is a psychological one. Because of the tendency to fix your eyes on the peak, it is easy to climb for twenty or thirty minutes and feel as if you are not making any progress. Fixating on any goal, especially in the early stages, that continues to look unattainable can be very discouraging. So after about ninety minutes, the girls were ready to turn back.

But before we did, I suggested that rather than stare at the summit, they take note of where we were, climb for fifteen more minutes, and reassess. If they wanted to quit then, they could. They reluctantly agreed. After fifteen minutes, the summit did not look any closer, but when I asked them to locate the bush we used to mark our star position, they could not believe how far away it was. They were astonished at their progress. So much so, that they felt a surge in their mental and physical energy. After eventually reaching the summit (12,805 ft.), they realized that there is nothing quite like the view from the top.  To this day, my daughters continue to draw upon this experience. Whenever they are faced with a tough challenge, they remember what they did that day.

Other than your book, are there any books you would recommend be added to the Military reading list?

I have a few favorites, including Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath, The Hero Factor by Jeffrey Hayzlett (just published), and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I would also add the two books I am reading now.    

Pop Culture states that you become the average of the “Five people you surround your self with” Do you care to elaborate or amplify this statement? Are there specific areas where this holds true or areas where this becomes false?

I agree with the sentiment, but I would say the number is far bigger than 5, and the idea that you’re the average of that group should not be taken literally, so much as we should take note of the people with whom we surround ourselves in every aspect of our life.  As Jim Rohn suggested, they have a big impact – they can either lift us up, drag us down, or hold us at bay.  As you consider the people you choose to associate with, I invite you to think about Sekou Andrews’ quote: “There is an incredible power that comes from surrounding yourself with communities in which you feel small among them, and they look at you like a giant.”

Where can people reach out to you? Are there any LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter/ links you would like me to add?

Please visit leobottary.com and look for me on LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook


About the Author

Leo Bottary is an international keynote speaker, author, workshop facilitator, adjunct professor, and thought leader on the topic of peer advantage.  Peer influence is something you’ve experienced for your entire life, often without a great deal of thought or effort.  Peer advantage is what can be realized when you engage your peers in a manner that’s more selective, strategic, and structured.  

During his tenure at Vistage Worldwide, Leo directed a thought leadership initiative on the power of peers in business, which resulted in a book he coauthored with Leon Shapiro titled:  The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success. It essentially provides a look into how and why formal peer groups are so powerful.

Leo’s most recent book is titled: What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself with the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growth. This narrative steps outside the formal peer group arena to examine all the important relationships we have in our lives (parents, teachers, spouses, mentors, children, mentees, etc.) and how if we enlisted their support more frequently and pointedly, we would all do the things anyone can do far more often.

In addition to his work as a speaker and thought leader on peer advantage, Leo also serves as an instructor for Rutgers University.  Prior to that, he was an adjunct professor for two of Seton Hall University’s graduate programs, where he led online learning teams and on campus residencies.  In April 2015, he was named adjunct teacher of the year for its College of Communication and the Arts.  This is Leo’s 6th year as a mentor in the CHAMP program.

Before joining Vistage in 2010, Leo enjoyed a 25-year career counseling leaders in strategic communication. During that time, he served as a Senior Vice President (Corporate Practice) and Director of Client Service for the US at Hill & Knowlton. He also founded an award-winning public relations agency, which he sold in 2000.

Leo earned a BA from Jacksonville University, an MA in Strategic Communication and Leadership from Seton Hall University, and has completed his doctoral coursework (organizational leadership concentration) at Northeastern University.


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