Dr. Dave Miles: Welcome to “Conversations on Leadership with Dr. Dave.” I am pleased today to have a special guest and friend of mine, affectionately known to me as AZ or Dr. AZ. I guess it should be more specific. I’m proud to have him on the show, and I’m excited for you guys to hear all about his expertise and thoughts on leadership. So, AZ, give us a more formal introduction to yourself and let our listeners and guests know more about you.

Dr. AZ: Thank you very much, Dave, for inviting me here. It’s great to be here. To give a little background about who I am, as you can tell from my accent, I’m not originally from the United States. I came to the US in 2005. I’m originally from Ethiopia in East Africa. Before I came here, I was a researcher working for an international organization conducting research in rural Ethiopia, trying to understand a disease with a transboundary impact on the economic well-being of farmers in the Horn of Africa.

I came here to do my master’s in computer science and used to be a software engineer. But finally, based on my passion for empowering leaders, I made a shift and did my doctoral degree in strategic leadership. I have been writing, mentoring, coaching, and empowering leaders for more than 10 years. In short, that’s my background. I also have a show like you. Today, I’m in the hot seat being interviewed by you, but I usually interview guests on my show, “Pick Yourself Up.”

Dr. Dave Miles: Nice. Out of curiosity, where can they check out your show?

Dr. AZ: They can go to

Dr. Dave Miles: Fantastic. We’ll circle back to that at the very end. Also, you promised to be on my show, so I look forward to our interview, where you’ll be in my place.

Dr. AZ: Correct. Correct. So, I’ll have to be very nice to you today.

Dr. Dave Miles: Very nice to me, yes. Mutual respect, that is for sure. If you haven’t checked it out, AZ has several books on Amazon, including a brand new book. Tell us a little about your new book with some pretty heavy-hitting endorsements.

Dr. AZ: The book is called “Overcoming First-Timer Syndrome.” It’s mainly written for emerging leaders, such as team leaders, supervisors, and project managers who have just been promoted or have been in their leadership positions for a while. It helps them not only make a successful transition but also thrive by going beyond first-time leadership pitfalls. The book has been endorsed by some of our common mentors and colleagues, like Marshall Goldsmith, Eddie Turner, and Dave Burkus. It has been an Amazon number one bestseller.

Dr. Dave Miles: Having an Amazon number one bestseller is not bad at all. Having folks like Dave Burkus and Marshall Goldsmith endorse the book is a huge plus. Congratulations on that. Let’s get started with a fundamental question. What does leadership mean to you, and what does good leadership look like?

Dr. AZ: Thank you. This is a very important foundational question. Leadership means different things to different people. When I began my journey as a leadership expert, I tried to define leadership in my first book, “Redefining Leadership,” published in 2011. I defined it as knowing who you are and pursuing your passion until it is fulfilled. I made it about oneself because almost all leadership experts agree that leadership begins with self. If someone is successful in leading themselves, they can be effective in leading others. My definition is about knowing yourself and pursuing your passion, inspiring others in the process.

Dr. Dave Miles: Nice. Nice. What does good leadership look like in an operational aspect?

Dr. AZ: Good leadership is also like beauty; you know it when you see it. It’s difficult to say leadership is this or that, as it depends on the stage of leadership, the people being led, the environment, and the season. But at the end of the day, good leaders empower others and make people better than they found them. Good leaders are those who empower, transform, and lead by example.

Dr. Dave Miles: I absolutely agree. One of the things I’ve always been a big fan of is John Maxwell’s work. He talks about leadership being influence. When I ask about what good leadership looks like, it’s because someone can be influential but not necessarily a good leader. Effective leadership is about more than just influence; it’s about character and integrity.

Dr. AZ: Definitely. If you want to follow a leader and be influenced by them to make a transformation in your life, you need to know them as a person. Do they live what they talk about? Do they have integrity? These are character issues. You can’t influence people without the right character.

Dr. Dave Miles: You hit on something very important about authenticity. It’s not as much about what the leader says as what the leader does. It’s like being a parent. You can tell your kids not to smoke, but if you’re chain-smoking, it doesn’t fly. In an organization, if what you see day-to-day is different from the values on the wall, people stop listening.

Dr. AZ: Exactly. Becoming a great leader is a process. Eleanor Roosevelt said that character begins with birth and ends with death. It means we need to keep working on our character until the end. Leadership is about working on ourselves daily, becoming better, and leading by example.

Dr. Dave Miles: It’s a long journey, but everyone has the potential to become great leaders. I laugh because people often debate whether leaders are born or made. I heard someone say they’ve never seen an unborn leader, so yes, leaders are born. But they are also made. People have different talents, and everyone can work hard to develop leadership skills. Leaders are made in a crockpot, not a microwave. It takes time to develop.

Dr. AZ: Absolutely. In the 21st century, successful leaders are those who make others better leaders. They empower others and raise successors. One-man shows don’t work anymore. Leaders need to create a culture of leadership.

Dr. Dave Miles: Especially now, with flatter organizational structures and closer communities, successful leaders are those who empower others and create a competitive advantage through culture.

Dr. AZ: Exactly. Successful leaders leave behind a culture that allows their people to shine. They give credit to their leaders and take the blame when things go wrong. They create an environment that encourages creativity and innovation.

Dr. Dave Miles: It’s crucial to allow people to express their disagreements in an organized way. Creating a culture where people can disagree and still work together is vital.

Dr. AZ: Yes, you need to bring people who complement your weaknesses. You need to create a culture that encourages organized disagreement. You can allocate time in meetings for people to express their disagreements. It fosters creativity and innovation.

Dr. Dave Miles: We’ll be back in just a moment with more conversations on leadership with Dr. Dave.

Dr. Dave Miles: We are back with conversations on leadership with Dr. Dave. Our special guest today is Dr. AZZ, leadership expert and number one bestseller on Amazon. AZ, what is one of the biggest leadership challenges you have faced?

Dr. AZ: I’ve had many challenges. When I was young, I struggled with my ego, thinking leadership was about being confident and telling others what to do. I also struggled with listening, as I was a talking head. Recently, my biggest challenge has been becoming vulnerable. Culturally, I was taught to man up and not show vulnerability. But I’ve learned that being vulnerable is essential for effective leadership.

Dr. Dave Miles: What do you see as one of the biggest mistakes leaders make today?

Dr. AZ: Leaders often think leadership is about attitude, mindset, and competencies, neglecting the most important part—personality and character. In times of crisis, people only listen to leaders they trust. Trust cannot be built overnight. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is neglecting to work on their trustworthiness. Earning trust takes time, and leaders need to be proactive about it.

Dr. Dave Miles: What would help leaders build the mindset to invest in trust?

Dr. AZ: Leaders need to be convinced that trust is the foundation of leadership. They should audit themselves to figure out what might be sabotaging their trust. Trust is a two-way street, so they need to start trusting their people. Being vulnerable and admitting mistakes publicly is also crucial. People don’t expect leaders to be perfect, but they do expect them to take responsibility.

Dr. Dave Miles: We will be back for our last segment with more questions for Dr. AZZ on conversations on leadership with Dr. Dave.

Dr. Dave Miles: Welcome back to “Conversations on Leadership with Dr. Dave.” We are here with leadership expert and Amazon number one bestselling author Dr. AZZ. AZ, what do you think is the best way for leaders to improve their leadership skills?

Dr. AZ: In short, go out and practice. Leadership is about habits. Successful leaders have certain habits that empower them. The shortest path to effective leadership is developing these important habits. Study successful leaders, read their biographies, and build those habits. It may take 21 to 66 days to develop a habit. Once you build those habits, you start to be successful. Keep refining your habits and competencies.

Dr. Dave Miles: That’s a great point. On a bigger scale, for organizations, it’s crucial to

give opportunities to your leaders to practice their skills. If you don’t give them projects or tasks to practice on, they won’t develop those skills. It’s important for executive leadership to provide Junior leaders with the tools and projects they need to grow. Without these opportunities, leaders will be frustrated and look elsewhere for growth.

Dr. AZ: Absolutely. To make your organization effective, you need to raise leaders and give them opportunities to practice. Delegation is a key aspect of this. Senior leaders may think they do things better or that others aren’t qualified, but leadership is not always clean. Leaders must delegate and allow their people to practice, make mistakes, and learn.

Dr. Dave Miles: Final question for the segment and the show: Tell our listeners how they can connect with you and get your book.

Dr. AZ: They can Google me, Assegid Habtewold, or find me on social media. My books are available on Amazon. My focus is on emerging leaders, but I also design programs for middle and executive leadership. They can reach me at

Dr. Dave Miles: Great. Thank you, Dr. AZZ, for being on the show today and sharing your expertise on leadership. Thank you to our listeners for joining us. We’ll see you next time on “Conversations on Leadership with Dr. Dave.” Take care.

Our special guest this week is Dr. Assegid “AZ” Habtewold.

Dr. Assegid (AZ) Habtewold is an author, coach, speaker, and facilitator at Success Pathways, LLC (

He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience by writing books to empower people to grow holistically.

Before becoming an author, speaker, coach, and facilitator in 2007, AZ had worked as a Researcher for an international research organization in Ethiopia, a Software engineer for an American multi-billion dollar semi-conductor manufacturing company, and a Trainer for some national and global training companies.

He holds a Doctorate of Strategic Leadership, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master’s in Computer Science.

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