IAM1635 – Founder Leads a B2B Networking Community

Podcast Interview with Lee Eisenstaedt

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”: Lee hit on the idea of doing the business networking into a virtual meeting. Where the infrastructure was all designed around face-to-face. Making all business meetings possible even when in a different location or in different parts of the world.

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Lee Eisenstaedt 00:00

Someone has to come up with a vision for the organization. It'll be crafted or formed with others, but as the CEO it's up to you to lead the formation, to lead the communication. So it's all about aligning the organization with a vision.

Intro 00:19

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders, without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:46

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and we're doing something a little bit different this year with some of our episodes. We're repurposing some of our favorite episodes around specific topics related to entrepreneurship. This month we're focusing on entrepreneurship and community. Us, we, our, together, and we're gonna look at entrepreneurship and industries and different types of entrepreneurship, and ultimately what that really means. But we're also gonna delve deeper into the importance of community, networking, niche communities, and how that supports being a CEO, entrepreneur and business owner. So sit back and enjoy these special episodes around entrepreneurship and community.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Lee Eisenstaedt said of Leading with Courage Networking. Lee, it's great to have you on the show

Lee Eisenstaedt 01:34

Thanks for having me, Gresh. Looking forward to this.

Gresham Harkless 01:36

Definitely super excited to have you on as well too, and have you back on might I say. Lee is the founder of Leading with Courage Networking, a virtual B2B networking community for trusted advisors with 10 or more years of experience. He designed LWCN which is Leading With Courage Networking on his 40-plus years of experience as a senior finance and operations executive in the US and Europe. And as a member of countless networking groups, Lee has addressed some of the larger opportunities he feels are being overlooked by most networking groups and has designed a community for who we are today and the world we're evolving into. And you can check it out even more about Lee in episode number 357. I'm super excited to be a member of this networking group as well too. Lee, are you ready to speak to the I am CEO community?

Lee Eisenstaedt 02:18

I am. I'm looking forward to it Gresh.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:20

Awesome. Well, let's make it happen then. So to kind of kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, and hear a little bit more on what I call your CEO story. We'll let you get started with all the awesome work you're doing now.

Lee Eisenstaedt 02:29

Yeah, my COO story happened after 25 years with SC Johnson, where I was a finance and operation executive, and I took an early retirement program and reinvented myself with the package that I was able to get. As the chief operating officer of a top five and a top 50 accounting firm, two separate opportunities. And that was a big change, bigger than I thought it would be. Here I was well-suited as like a chief financial officer, and now I was trying to become the chief operating officer. But I did that and based on what I learned there, I formed the predecessor to Leading with Courage Networking, which was Leading with Courage Academy, which was a leadership development consultancy that helped people with self-awareness and just making a bigger impact sooner, which really then was the launching pad for what I'm doing now.

Gresham Harkless 03:22

Nice. I appreciate you sharing that, and you know the journey as well too. I think so many times we never hear about the journey and especially all the experience and expertise that you have, but I love how I say so often, like it's so important that we don't get attached to the how as much of the why. And if we understand why we're doing what we're doing, sometimes the how will manifest itself, it'll grow, it'll change as we're seeing in times like this. But I love that it sounds like you've been able to have those strong foundational points and it's now manifested itself into everything you're doing now.

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Lee Eisenstaedt 03:51

Yeah, I think that's true. What I've seen and, sometimes I'm jealous of people like this that have such a clear vision of what they want to do. Oh, I wanna be the CFO of a Fortune 500 company and I never had that. I never had either clarity of vision or ability to stick with it and I ended up going like on a random walk, some would say, in my career, but I had experiences that if I'd been very fixed on what I wanted to achieve. And I see these people, they achieve those things, but they get divorced along the way, they don't seem as happy. Whereas I kind of had a general understanding, and I ended up spending five years in France working in the family office of an ultra-high-net-worth family, starting a fine dining restaurant. I mean, you name it. I mean, there were things I've done in my career that if I'd been just fixed on an objective, I would never have seen these things, never done these things. And those are the things that really helped me do what I'm doing now even better, they enable everything. So it was like a liberal arts education, you know? It's good to see a lot of differences.

Gresham Harkless 04:58

I know you touched on the websites and everything you're doing there, so I wanted to drill down more about Leading with Courage and Networking, hear a little bit more on what you're doing, how you're making an impact and what you feel kind of even sets you apart and is your secret sauce.

Lee Eisenstaedt 05:10

Yeah, I think this happened, I've been doing work with Leading with Courage Academy in employee stock ownership plan companies and spending a lot of my time really focused on this narrow niche of companies and then about six months ago, the pandemic is really taking hold. It doesn't look like it's gonna end anytime soon. So I start looking out at it and saying, you know, there's got to be an opportunity in all of this. And I was saying, well, how can I take what I've got today and leverage it even more? How do I take it to the next level? And I just started thinking about it more and more. I go on a walk for two hours every day, and if I'm not listening to a podcast like yours, I'm thinking about why is this so?

So, I hit on the idea of business networking and how do we network? And so I decided, what if he just had an all virtual all the time networking community? Most of the networking groups I know are going back to face to face. They're trying to, but the members are anxious about it, but these networking groups and their brands are all based and their infrastructure is all designed around face-to-face. And I said, well, I don't have to do that, I can be all virtual. The biggest obstacle in the past to all virtual is no one knew how to use Zoom. First, they didn't know what it was, and second they, I got to pay for it, but that's all changed. That barrier disappeared and now it enables me to offer an all-virtual experience for trusted advisors with more than 10 years of experience.

So I really narrowed in on who I wanna focus on. The CEOs, they're more than welcome to join, but I'm afraid they may feel like a crumb at a picnic with a bunch of ants, because if you've got a bunch of advisors, You know, they're gonna be just crawling all over the CEOs. Now, we can do things to minimize that, but this has really been designed for advisors with more than 10 years of experience.

Gresham Harkless 07:15

I wanted to switch gears a little bit. Sure. And I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO Hack. So this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Lee Eisenstaedt 07:26

Oh, I think it's just asking people, how am I doing? What can I do better? That question threatens a lot of CEOs. They don't. I'm familiar with the case right now where the CEO, is a micromanager. He doesn't solicit feedback and he doesn't welcome feedback. And my prediction is he won't last too much longer. You can't get along. You can't get be successful if you don't know how you're doing from the perspective of the people that you lead and that you know you're supporting. And so my CEO hack is to other CEOs. Don't be afraid to ask how am I doing? What can I do better? And then listen to what you're being told.

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Gresham Harkless 08:13

I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO Nugget. So this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client or if you hopped into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Lee Eisenstaedt 08:22

Well, if I looked at a time machine and had to tell my younger business self, I don't have to go back that far. I mean, it could be just two weeks ago. Think twice before you say something. I have a habit of just, you know, speaking in my mind. Now, some people will call that direct and honest, sometimes that's just stupid. But you know, you say things that, yeah they were right, but the question I have to keep asking myself is, is now the right time? Is now the right place? Am I the right person to say it? And the problem, I usually end up saying, yeah, I'm the right person, but no one else is stepping up to it, that's a problem. But I think really thinking twice before especially if it's gonna be critical or could be perceived as critical. I did learn a hack from Ben Franklin, I read this somewhere. He never argued with people, this story was saying, he'd always start out by saying, I could be wrong, but, and then he'd say what he was thinking, so, if it turned out that what he was saying was wrong, he said, see, I told you I could be wrong, he had left himself this exit from there, but I could be wrong. And then you say, but you know, I would mandate vaccines. I could be wrong, but I would mandate vaccines. You just have, yeah, maybe I was.

The other one I have that goes along with that is I don't suppose. When you wanna get someone to do something, now you can't play this card too often, or you they start to read it pretty, but I don't suppose you'd consider getting a vaccine or getting vaccinated and I just choose that one because it's just top of my mind right now. But you know, I'll use it with my wife who does not like Chinese food . And so whenever I ask her, oh, can we order in tonight? And I'll say, what do you want? She'll always say Italian or something. But if she asks me, can we order in tonight? I'll say, yeah, that's fine, I don't suppose you'd consider Chinese. And if I don't do it too often, she usually agrees. I'll do that. But if I had just started out by saying, how about if we order in and we get Chinese? No, no, we're not doing it.

Gresham Harkless 10:39 You're right.

Lee Eisenstaedt 10:40

I don't suppose is another CEO hack, I guess. Is that what your nugget.

Gresham Harkless 10:45 Nugget, yeah.

Lee Eisenstaedt 10:46 How to, how often maybe they ask. After you've thought about it. So it's the, I could be wrong and I do suppose those are two that come to my mind.

Gresham Harkless 0:56

Awesome, awesome, awesome. So now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show. So, Lee, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Lee Eisenstaedt 11:05

Someone has to come up with a vision for the organization. It'll be crafted or formed with others. But as the CEO, it's up to you to lead the formation, to lead the communication. So it's all about aligning the organization with a vision and a strategy for achieving it. That's why I think the CEO is .The CEO is not there to tell them how to do things. The CEO is there to tell them what to do again after getting buy-in and passing it by being an inclusive kind of strategy developer, you don't wanna develop it all by yourself. The other thing that I think the CEO has to do is make tough decisions. They can't keep kicking the can down the road. At some point, someone has to stand up for do we launch this brand or don we not, do we withdraw this product from the market? Do we terminate this employee? Do we put out a statement about employee activism or what's going on in the broader environment and whether we support it or we don't support it. That's the job of the CEO. There's no one else in the organization that can do some of those things. And so that to me is, you know, vision, strategy, and then making decisions for the organization that are consistent with those two. That's what I think the CEO does.

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Gresham Harkless 12:35

Well, awesome. Lee, truly appreciate you for that definition and that perspective. I appreciate you Of course you know, for your time. What I wanted to do was just pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best they can get ahold of you and find out about all the awesome things you're working on.

Lee Eisenstaedt 12:52

Yeah, I mean, the best place to find out about Leading with Courage Networking is going to our website, And there you can, read about our differences, our benefits, who the subject matter experts are like, you Gresh, and if so inclined, you can apply. We'd love that. Our goal, we filled our first group of 20 in three weeks. My goal is to have another nine groups of 20 formed in the next six months, and I haven't decided yet if that's just a too easy a goal or if it's stretch because the first group was, Pretty easy, which tells me there's a need in the market. So go to and you can learn a lot more. I regularly post on LinkedIn, but I think going to the website really is the best place to learn more. There is one thing and I didn't even think about it, so now I got to go look for it here. But if anyone in the audience wants a flyer, and you've seen our flyer, I think, but if you want the flyer you just have to text the word flyer. Just text that to this phone number, 2623834770. The word flyer and you'll immediately get back the link to our flyer, and you can download it right then and there. So it isn't like, you got to send me something and then I send you back. No, this happens immediately. It's really a nice little piece of technology we found.

Gresham Harkless 14:22

Yeah, I was gonna say technology is definitely a beautiful thing and to make it even easier, we'll have that information in the show notes as well too, as far as the links and also the number as well too so that everybody can follow up with you,

Lee Eisenstaedt 14:34

You know the business. A bit. I mean, am I forgetting anything?

Gresham Harkless 14:39

No, I mean, I think you have your website. We'll have that in the show notes, and we have everything as far as the flyer as well too for people to get ahold of with you. But we can always add more information, you know if you have anything that you see fit. So definitely make sure to check out the show notes.

Lee Eisenstaedt 14:54

Okay. Yeah, that sounds good. That's everything I've got.

Gresham Harkless 14:58

Awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Lee. Truly appreciate all the awesome things you're doing and the reminders that you gave to us today and all the phenomenal nuggets and hacks that we can kind of implement right here, right now. Whether we're trying to get Chinese food, we're trying to figure out the best food and the best products that we should have within our business. So truly appreciate you, my friend, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 5:18

Thank you for listening to the I am CEO Podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 media. Tune in next time and visit us at I am CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Get your driven CEO gear at This has been the I am CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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