Leadership Lessons from a Recovered Addict – Soulful Leadership

Power HR was founded with the vision of growing and inspiring more leaders. We celebrate real life examples of leadership. True leadership has a domino effect of creating more leaders. We lead the way we are led.

There is an indisputable connection between our mind, body, and spirit. Our body is the temple where our spirit lives, and we need to exercise self-care to be effective leaders. Most people are enslaved by their mind’s fear provoking thoughts; however, there is a way to reach a higher level of consciousness. The mind is one form of intelligence, however, our feeling self, or “gut response” is a major form of intelligence and we often do not pay enough attention to what our gut tells us. It is usually right.  When we identify too closely with the mind, we put high value on external indicators of success like a job title, relationships, possessions, social status, family, and our own abilities. These things are not us – this is our ego. To be an effective leader, you need to put your ego aside, and focus fully on the present, and the individual person you are interacting with in the moment, and this involves not focusing on yourself, but being fully present with the other person.

“The best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life’s challenges when they come. Through those challenges, an already unconscious person tends to become more deeply unconscious, and a conscious person more intensely conscious. You can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep. The dream of ordinary unconsciousness then turns into a nightmare.” ― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Like most Tuesday mornings, this week I was at GoodLife at the 9:45am spin class in Quispamsis, New Brunswick, and the spin instructor, Zack was telling everyone to be present… It is all about PER-SPEC-TIVE,” he said. Lately, I have been a workout addict, and Zack’s spin class is definitely the highlight of my Tuesday. His classes are different than most spin classes. Zack is a leader and he imparts valuable messages to the lucky people that are part of his class. It is a hard workout, but what I like most about it is hearing Zack deliver his perspective on life, and the inspiring leadership messages he easily interjects into the class…. positive thoughts and messages seamlessly communicated during the 8 tracks. Zack is a leader that we should celebrate… an example of a leader, who walks the talk….

Zack is very open about his life journey…and where he is now as a 33-year-old recovered addict. For 12 years Zack was an addict, and two years ago he had a wake-up call. Zack was addicted to oxycontin, cocaine, percocet, sex, pornography, pretty much everything but intravenous drugs and crack. One night after being up for 2 days straight partying, he thought he was dying when his heart started beating out of control, so he called 911.

In Zack’s words, “I felt like my spirit was getting sucked out of me.” When he was in the ambulance, he remembers saying out loud “I don’t want to go out like this”. Then, he felt a peaceful presence wash over him. He believes, and he feels that God told him, “You need to change your life.” He survived what was likely a near-death experience….and took immediate, massive action to turn his life around. Two years later, Zack is now clean and yes …he has transformed his life.

The first thing Zack did, 45 days after his trip to the hospital, was go to GoodLife Fitness and start working out 6 days a week. Zack also started working as an employee at GoodLife. He started off as a motivator at the front desk greeting members when they walked in, and soon after Zack got certified as a spin instructor, and then progressed to sales. Eventually, Zack left GoodLife to work for 6 months mentoring teens, but soon after returned to Good Life to get certified as a personal trainer. Zack has been clean now for 15 months and continues to work at GoodLife as a trainer and spin instructor.

The key to leadership is serving other people,” Zack says, You can’t be the center of your life and be an effective leader.” Leadership is about helping other people. Zack believes leaders need to be in tune with God and their spirituality to help others.

Just like in spin class, Zack tells us…. “Get out of your own mind….be present.” We spend so much of our lives trapped in our minds. “I don’t want you on your bikes thinking about the fight you just had with your boyfriend, or what you are going to do when you leave this class…. Be here, now on the bike, enjoy riding, … be here, right now…y’all….get present.”

Zack’s view is that most people get to a certain place in life, and then they STOP. They get comfortable. His words ring true when thinking of many leaders I have encountered in the corporate world. Zack says, “We need to keep pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone, so we can better help other people.

For Zack, his spirituality and God is a driving force that has given him the strength to turn his life around. He gets present by praying, through meditation and through study of the bible. When asked how we can help others become better leaders, Zack says “the key to leadership is to lead by example.” In fact, he goes on to say, “it is the only way to lead.

As a kid, Zack was a skilled athlete, a hockey player and he believed he could have gone all the way. He had some excellent coaches that taught him about team work, etc. But when asked what even the best coaches fail to do well, he says “Coaches need to take the time to find out who the person is that they are coaching… ask them where they came from and find out what is their perspective. Unless you really know a person and what they are dealing with, how can you help them?”

Zack believes that the key to leadership is LOVE. Helping other people, and serving others is why we are here on earth.

It is clear to me that Zack is just getting started…. He will continue to influence others through his selfless leadership. Zack believes his purpose is to one day be a pastor of a church. There is no doubt that he will continue to influence many and reach his goals. I know that I am grateful for the chance to go to GoodLife and attend Zack’s spin class each week. I always leave feeling more centered, energized, and ready to give my all when I leave because of the energy and presence he brings to each class.

Zack’s guiding pillar for living his life comes down to the quote “these three remain faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.

“Love is not selective, just as the light of the sun is not selective. It does not make one person special. It is not exclusive. Exclusivity is not the love of God but the “love” of ego. However, the intensity with which true love is felt can vary. There may be one person who reflects your love back to you more clearly and more intensely than others, and if that person feels the same toward you, it can be said that you are in a love relationship with him or her. The bond that connects you with that person is the same bond that connects you with the person sitting next to you on a bus, or with a bird, a tree, a flower. Only the degree of intensity with which it is felt differs.” – Eckhart Tolle, Spiritual Leader and the Author of Power of Now


If you have a soulful leader that you feel should be interviewed, please contact me at susan@powerhr.ca