Self-Leadership: Cracking The Productivity Code With Bobby Harrington

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

TBT Bobby Harrington | Self Leadership


Self-leadership is the cornerstone of productivity. When we take charge of ourselves, we enter the path to achieving our fullest potential and creating meaningful results. In this dynamic episode, host Penny Zenker interviews guest Bobby Harrington, creator of the Rubicon Course of Action (COA) Immersive Leadership Development company. Bobby also wrote the book “Lead You: The Winning Combination to Achieve Personal and Professional Success.” Today, Penny and Bobby discuss taking control of our productivity by exploring the concept of self-leadership. They dive into the core principles of self-leadership and how it influences personal and professional success. They also discuss the importance of mindset, habits, and intentional choices in taking charge of one’s time and energy. Penny and Bobby emphasize how embracing self-leadership and staying true to your values can ultimately lead to a happier and more meaningful life. Tune in now and learn how to harness the power of self-leadership.

Listen to the podcast here


Self-Leadership: Cracking The Productivity Code With Bobby Harrington

Take Back Time is here to talk to you about working smarter. It starts with us. It is our self-leadership and the way that we show up. I’m excited to have Bobby Harrington here with me because his special sauce is your self-leadership and he has written a book about it. He is the Founder of the Rubicon Course of Action, which is an immersive leadership development company that specializes in performance programs and immersive leadership development events.

I love those types of events. Maybe we can talk about that. He practiced leadership in sports, martial arts, military, private business, Fortune 100, and oil and gas companies. He has taught leadership in 24 different countries with 13 different languages. This guy is loaded. Without further ado, let’s talk to Bobby. Hey, Bobby.

Penny, thanks for having me. I’m grateful to be here.

You got quite a resume there.

I have been busy for years.

You have written a book about self-leadership. Out of all the experiences you have had, the people you have worked with, and the training you have done, that was where you chose to focus. How come?

I surveyed the book landscape. The first place I went to look was Amazon. I saw 60,000 titles on leadership. That in and of itself is mind-boggling. I have been a student of leadership for many years since I joined the Marine Corps. What I have found to effectively lead others is, we have to lead ourselves first. I’m writing a series of books. One on leading self, leading teams, and one on leading effectively through change, but I thought I would start with leading yourself.

That is where it starts.

It is like problem-solving. You work from the inside out, get to the root cause, and do not try to continuously treat symptoms.

There is so much to talk about in this context and being more productive. Let me ask you before I say what I think. What is the number one thing that keeps us from leading ourselves?

Primarily, limiting beliefs. Right under limiting beliefs is self-trust and self-belief. I will go back to Covey’s definition of trust, character, and competence. If I don’t have good character and confidence, how can I believe in myself? If I don’t believe in myself, the limiting beliefs can creep in.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how are others going to believe in you? They can see right through it.

I have had people argue, “No. Self-belief comes first.” I say, “What do you believe in?” They were like, “I believe in myself.” I said, “I understand that,” and they still can’t get it. I said, “That is okay. Let’s test. Give me a civic leader, a political leader, or a religious leader you admire.” They name a person. I said, “Why do you believe in this person?” They were like, “They treat people with compassion. They did this great thing.” I said, “You described trust. You described their character and some skill or confidence they had.” I will double down and believe that self-trust precedes self-belief.

That is an interesting way of looking at it. What is the difference? Doesn’t self-belief lead to self-trust? It is because of a limiting belief that you don’t have trust in yourself.

I know where you’re going with that. I would go back to character and values. When I say character, sometimes people have a problem talking about that or addressing character at all because they think you might be impugning or critiquing their character. It is not about that. The Marine Corps gives us fourteen leadership traits of character, justice, judgment, dependability, decisiveness, integrity, and things like that. We continuously work at those things. The stronger we build our character and we live our values according to our character or whatever values we choose, the less chance these limiting beliefs can creep in because a strong character, staying sovereign, and living values give us trust.

We trust those values. There are guardrails to keep us. I’m riffing here because I haven’t thought of it in that way. What is interesting is that you are presenting it in a way that is different than others have presented it. It gets us out to go, “Huh?” We then have to think about it.

You bring up a good point because we can do something, practice it, and teach it. When you go to write about it, you have to think deeply. While I was writing the book, the chapter on self-trust and self-belief caused me to dig deep. When I examined my time from adolescence growing up with my parents and my father was a World War II veteran in Vietnam three times. My mother was strong in sports, the military, private business, and Fortune 100 companies. I examined all those experiences. When I had succeeded and failed, I put it on paper. That is what I came up with and presented it in that manner.

This is how we get in our own way. That is the number one thing when we want to be more productive. For people who are using that word, we want to be more self-confident, a better leader, and build more trust around us. We get in our own way. This is the number one thing that you believe is there in that self-trust.

Rely on your good character and stay sovereign to your values. Be known as a person who does not waiver according to your values. Oddly enough, I teach a lot of leadership classes and have taught people along the way formally. You will be surprised that I do a little exercise. I ask people to write down their five core values. After ten seconds, I say, “Pens down. Who has 5, 4, or 3?” Most folks haven’t got past 1 or 2. It is an eye-opener in the class and it is a humbling experience.

Be known as a person who will not waver according to your values. Share on X

People go off, “What are my values?” I go on to explain to people that our values change throughout our leadership journey and life. When we are young, ambition might be of value. Hard work is a value. Some stay no matter what. For me, family, self-belief, and hard work have always stayed consistent. Now that I’m retired, our preceding retirement, financial planning, and stability were a value. They are going to change according to time. If you are known as someone who doesn’t waiver from your values, that is going to make you a better leader in the eyes of others because you are going to be reliable and dependable.

Here is what I would have assumed. It is in the people I interact with. People know their values, the people I know or myself, for instance, but there is often a gap between what you write down as your top five values and operationally how you are living. That is one of the keys that is also there. 1) Identifying what those values are. 2) How do you stay true to those values? How do you define what those values mean? What do you do, or how do you help people to bridge that gap?

There are always going to be things that compete with our values and expectations from parents, spouses, and society. There I said is social media, where everything is perfect so folks have to resist that temptation. This is the reality. Staying true to your values and character comes with a cost. You are going to lose business opportunities. You are going to lose maybe friends and your circle is going to get smaller, but that is okay. You should be hanging around people where you have to play up and with people that improve you. The idea is not to go the other way where you are the strongest mind in the room. If I’m the strongest mind in the room, I will find another room.

I have heard that before and I’m a big proponent of that. Find those people who lift you and teach you who you can spar with and challenge you. You said, “You are going to lose.” I feel like if you are true to your values, you are going to gain. Rather than lose, you are going to let go of things and people that don’t belong in your life or that aren’t going to fit.

You are going to add by subtracting.

That is true because we live happier. When we live by our values, we live happier and have more meaning in our lives. I believe that makes us more productive. It means that we focus on more of the things that matter most. We are able to be more flexible and adaptable because we know what matters most.

There was an interesting exercise done in the industry across many industries like financial, oil and gas, and construction. That study revealed that only 10% of senior leaders adhere to the company’s values and their own values. Circling back to your point, how do you get people to live their values? It is difficult because there are always competing priorities and peer pressure. The idea is not to be perfect but to stay as close to your values as possible because life is perfect. There is a chapter in the book, chapter 10, on perfect.

We do struggle with this trying to please everyone. I don’t know why we chase perfection, but it seems to be that a lot of people do. That is from our insecurities. It comes back to not trusting ourselves in that aspect. It knows when to tap out and say, “I’m done. This is enough.” To be in a burnout culture, the way that we are is because we don’t tap out. We are all going to come and read that chapter on perfection.

It is a good read. It is not because I wrote it. It is simple and straightforward. At the end of each chapter, there are tools that people can use right away. There are no high-minded theories. Everything is usable. I personally burned out three times in many years. I know what that feels like. Sometimes, thinking back, it is a balance between perceiving it as burnout or you reached a plateau and you need a break. There are physical and mental signs of burnout as well.

I wanted to come back and touch on burnout a little bit there, but about living our values and the challenges that we have in doing that. I’m working on a new book at the moment. It’s around making more reset moments. It would be those moments that we pay attention to those signals of when we feel that we are struggling with a competing priority or we want to behave a certain way because that is the way our value wants us, but we are in an environment where it makes it difficult.

Those signals come up for us. Those are reset moments. Moments that we allow ourselves to be conscious of the choice we are making. Not be on autopilot and do the first thing that comes up or the easiest thing, but consciously choose at that moment how we want to show up if we need to pay attention to a reaction from someone else. That is the moment where we slow down and tap out. What do you think of that concept of reset moments? What does it mean to you when you hear that?

What I’m hearing is the space between decision and action. The thing for me in my life, what I have learned and what I coach people on is between deciding and acting, there is a space. That is where your character, your values, and, most importantly, your courage lies. Unfortunately, some folks are taught leadership. Leadership is a skill that has to be taught.

There are some people who are predisposed to charisma, collaborative personality, and a lot of drive. That is fine. Those folks get along in life. They are clever but large organizations, and that is what I have been in, the Marine Corps, Chevron company, and oil and gas. You have to have some framework you are working in when you are leading yourself and others. Courage is part of that formula or framework for me. I wish we would teach more people moral courage and physical courage.

What does that look like? When you say to teach people, what is an example? How would we teach people that?

Anecdotally, when you are stuck in a place where you are hit by peer pressure, you have to make the decision that I’m not going to bow to peer pressure. I’m willing to suffer or endure whatever comes my way. I don’t think a lot of people are taught that. A lot of people are taught that go along, get along is the right answer.

I don’t think that I know that because that is what I have witnessed along the way in many years across sports, the military, martial arts, small businesses, and Fortune 100. A lot of folks are in to go along, get along type of sphere. That is okay. I’m not a judge, but if you want to live your values, you have to have courage.

Thought of it like that in terms of courage, but when I reflect back on what I heard you say about the reset moment, it gives you the courage and the framework to step into your character and into that courage so that you can do what you feel is right.

Resetting is powerful and detachment. I put those in the same light. Whenever a situation gets heavy, try to detach yourself from it.

It is emotional hijacking that comes in and stops us from seeing the reality of the situation. We don’t make good decisions when we are in that place.

Emotional regulation is one of the big ones I see in business and work. Some folks are spirited with their emotions. Instead of operating with emotion, they operate emotionally.

That is an important distinction. One is leadership and the other is out of control. One of the questions I ask everybody on the show is, what is your definition of productivity and why?

My definition of productivity would be using a set of resources effectively and efficiently to get the intended outcome and doing it in the right way.

It’s very clear and concise. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you yet that you feel would be important to share with the readers about how to take what we have talked about and put it into the sense that they can use it and work smarter in the way they are going about their life?

Everyone wants to work better, love stronger, have more trust in themself, more belief, and overall, live a better life. The way to do that is it starts with the self. In chapter one of my book, I say, “The most important conversation you will ever have is the one with yourself.” People have to reconcile with themselves before going out to these external entities for belief and trust.

When you have that conversation, it can get brutal. Ask yourself why you are not where you want to be with your belief system or faith, with your family, financial situation, and health situation. From there, you can make a course of action or a plan that is going to contribute to you living that better life. That all starts inside out with the root cause and doubling down and going back to character and values.

It requires you to make a decision because a decision can say, “I can learn all of this from the past, but I need to make a decision now that I want to be different. How am I going to show up? What am I going to do going forward?” That is where I come up with this concept of the reset moment, and resetting is to take all that experience we have gained. Let’s not beat ourselves up over it. Let’s learn from it and begin from a new place and direction.

I want people to know that you don’t have to be the same person tomorrow that you are now. We come back to your point. You have a choice to reset and that choice is powerful. In my book, I write about the transformation I had when I was 45. I had some career-best working at Chevron. I earned an award and got to see the CEO. I picked my next assignment.

TBT Bobby Harrington | Self Leadership

Lead You: The Winning Combination to Achieve Personal and Professional Success

If we got the next assignment, things weren’t roses. It was difficult. I found myself in a dark space. I had that internal conversation. I found out that I was doing good but wasn’t doing my best. That hurt because I was always taught as a young person and in the military to be your best. That is what it is about. If it is worth doing, why not do it well? I made a plan to improve and I have been working on it for several years now. Now I’m in a great place. I’m retired, living with my wife, and starting this new business on leadership. That decision brought me here to this show.

Thank you so much for being here. Where is the best place for people to go, get more information about you and get your book?

There are two places. You can go to LinkedIn and find me under Bobby Harrington. You can also go to the website. It is

Thank you so much for being here, Bobby.

I’m grateful, Penny. It was wonderful.

Thank you all for being here. The number one focus when you want to be better at anything is yourself. Take a good look at yourself, your character, and values, and where you are showing up courageously to live into those. There are great nuggets. Lead You is the book that you need to get and start there. Check out Bobby’s book, and we will see you in the next episode.


Important Links


About Bobby Harrington

TBT Bobby Harrington | Self LeadershipBobby Harrington is the founder of the Rubicon Course of Action (COA) Immersive Leadership Development company, specializing in performance programs and immersive leadership development events. He has practiced leadership in sports, martial arts, the military, private business, and a Fortune 100 oil and gas company. Bobby has taught leadership in twenty-four different countries with thirteen languages. His work focuses on people in leadership, team design, and technical innovation

leadership. He earned a degree in Intelligence Studies and International Relations later in life. Bobby is a United States Marine Corps Desert Shield/Desert Storm Gulf War veteran and lives in Texas with his wife and family.