Relentless Without Being Ruthless or Reckless

Relentless Without Being Ruthless or Reckless

Relentless Without Being Ruthless or Reckless

Relentless Without Being Ruthless or Reckless

By Craig Johns

Have you ever wondered what allows someone to achieve high levels of success? 

Whether in sport, business, leadership, music, art or many other areas of life, they find a way to achieve extraordinary things. They may be extremely gifted, but quite often they aren’t the most talented. 

What separates the best from the rest, the ordinary from the extraordinary?

Successful leadership requires a high performance mindset and approach. 

Being relentless in your pursuit of performance is important if you want to succeed, however you need to be relentless without being ruthless and reckless if you want to leave a profound legacy without the train wreck that follows so many successful people.

Before you dive in further, let’s first understand what relentless, ruthless and reckless mean in the context of leadership and high performance.  

RELENTLESS – non-stop commitment

Someone who is relentless is determined to do something and refuses to give up. They will continue to pursue a goal, continually overcoming obstacles and creating new paths when one is leading in the wrong direction. 

It doesn’t mean they will necessarily be full speed ahead 24/7, although as you see below they can be. They will be fixated on an outcome and for some they will do whatever they can at all costs. 

RUTHLESS – taking no prisoners

A ruthless person will do or pursue something no matter the costs to other people or themselves. They are mean, show no mercy and don’t care about a person’s, others or theirs, feelings or emotions.  

Ruthless people lack compassion, are considered very harsh or cruel, will do anything that is necessary to achieve what they want and are determined to succeed without caring about others.

RECKLESS – careless of consequences

Taking a reckless approach means a person doesn’t care about getting bad results or the negative consequences that occur as a result or your actions. They disregard danger and the effect their behaviour will have on other people.

Warning signs don’t enter the memory sphere and are considered wasted space. The risks involved aren’t either considered or are disregarded for a bigger result. 

Relentless Without Being Ruthless or Reckless 3 R's Craig Johns

When All 3 R’s Collide

It is likely that you have seen people act in a relentless, ruthless or reckless way. You may have seen people act in a combination of two or all three of them and in most cases the trail of destruction isn’t pretty. 

If we are all being honest with ourselves, a majority, if not all, of us have been in situations where we have experienced modes of each one and combinations of the three. I know I have and the times where all 3 aligned are not some of my favourite memories.

“When I was 14 years old I broke my arm while playing touch rugby at school. My relentless approach to winning and in field hockey helping my team win meant I would continue playing with an arm in a cast. We were winning by 5 goals and on my relentless approach to continue adding to my 47 consecutive successful penalty stroke conversions, I shifted into a ruthless and reckless mode of disregarding the thoughts of my teammates by deciding to take a penalty stroke with the broken arm. Joe was a highly accomplished penalty stroke taker and great co-leader, but my ego kicked in and I had to take it. I ended up missing the goal and breaking my unbeaten successful attempts.

Craig Johns
Relentless Pursuit of Athletic Dominance Craig Johns

Relentless Pursuit of Athletic Dominance

Michael Jordan is regarded as one of the all time best athletes the planet has seen. His pursuit of excellence is second to none. Relentless in every approach to being the best basketball player the planet has ever seen. Ruthless in his addiction to bringing the best out of his teammates for the collective goal of winning, but at times reckless in regards to the long-term mental and physical toll inflicted on them. 

If we look at the 3 greatest male tennis players of recent times, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, they all excel in their relentless pursuit of excellence. 

Djokovic has a massive team and will leave no stone unturned in finding that extra 0.001% of performance, however his ruthless approach to getting what he wants is well publicised and even more his reckless disregard of the consequences of his actions was for all of the world to see as he his visa was cancelled on trying to enter the 2022 Australian Open. 

Nadal is relentless in his preparation and routine to achieve the performance state that it takes to win global majors. His ruthless attention to his own routines has quite often impacted other people. However, is not likely to show signs of recklessness as he is quite calculated in his approach to winning. 

Federer on the other hand is relentless in ensuring all aspects of his life thrive while understanding the changing needs of his body as he ages. Over the past decade he has shown a relentless approach to finding a way to win or stay in the game. The ruthless and reckless aspects of his personality from his younger days have disappeared. 

Business Is Not Bigger Than the People. Relentless without being ruthless or reckless

Business Is Not Bigger Than the People

Shifting into the business world, let’s compare 3 highly successful business leaders Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Indra Nooyi. 

Musk is noted for his relentless pursuit of new innovations. He is known for his long work hours and ruthless approach to the working environment. The collateral damage in his reckless disregard of his personal life has led to his 3rd marriage and his children don’t speak to him. Also known for his unorthodox or unscientific stances and controversial public statements. At what cost has success been for Musk?

Facebook changed the shape of our lives and how we view it. In Zuckerberg’s relentless pursuit of socially connecting the world, the negative consequences have resulted in a reckless disregard to the mental health of humanity. He was ruthless in crushing the competition, acquiring rival companies and copying innovative features with a single-minded purpose of being the best and most dominant social media conglomerate. 

Nooyi is one of the pioneers of the new leadership. Her relentless approach to being human centric and changing the way the Pepsico was perceived is admired by many people around the world. She has done it in a compassionate and humble way without the need for being ruthless and reckless. 

High performing leaders Relentless without being ruthless or reckless. Craig Johns

High Performing Leaders

The true high performing leader’s relentless pursuit of an outcome or excellence is all about being 100% present and focused when on task, and switching off to recharge and recover in between high energy focused efforts. 

“I learned this the hard way between 2012-2014 when I stepped into my first C-Suite role leading a team of 500 people from 22 nationalities and highly talented people in the sport, health, mind, education and hospitality industries. My relentless approach led to working intensely for 70-80hrs a week over 302 days straight.

Our ruthless approach to demanding excellence, removing people who weren’t up to our high standards and crazy drive to be world leading at everything we did led to recklessly flatlining in hospital. I had let my own inner drive to win become win at all costs and it led to quite a lonely time where I had put work before my people and my health. 

This led to a conversation where I realised I needed to Break The CEO Code and implement the high performance skills I had learnt and excelled at as an athlete and sport coach.

The result is I relentlessly focused on scheduling, focusing and investing in my energy to ensure that I avoided moments of ruthless and reckless behaviour.“

Craig Johns

They are driven to achieve results, make effective decisions and exceed expectations through bringing the best out of themselves and the people they work with. 

To bring their best performance mindset, performance and productivity, they know they need to integrate regular exercise, good nutrition, a calm mind and purposeful recovery into their daily environment.  

They work hard, but more importantly work smart in their relentless pursuit achieving a higher level of individual, team, company and industry performance. Knowing what to focus on, where to place their energy and how to use their talents is a priority to a high performing leader. 

Wellbeing, enjoyment, purpose and inspired people fuel their approach to leading highly successful teams. Work is all about precision, efficiency and detail and never settling for anything less than excellence. The leaders are concerned about providing an environment where people can thrive and not just survive in their role. 

Removing the Unnecessary

To be relentless without being ruthless or reckless requires precision in planning, preparation and people management. Your instinct and how you react has everything to do with your practice. What you practice becomes your performance. 

Take some time to remove the unnecessary risks and actions so you and your team can thrive no matter what the world throws your way.  

It’s time to take a selfless proactive approach to your leadership so you can relentlessly pursue your vision and goals without ruthlessly affecting other people and reckless creating harm. 

Remember a relentless non-stop commitment means you do everything you can be on when you need to be and also off to recharge. Leadership and high performance is not about taking no prisoners and being careless of the consequences.   

Spend some time to reflect on your leadership and pursuit of a vision, goal or excellence. Write down any aspects of ruthless and reckless leadership. Next to this list write down what you could do that wouldn’t have any negative effects on other people or danger to yourself and the company. Now take action to implement these changes while still being relentless.   

Be an Inspiring Great Leader.

How Heavy is the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders Link
How Gravity of Leadership Effects Your Impact Link
Beyond The Comfort Zone Link
High Performers Cultivate More Powerful Traits Link
Are You Living Link
People Are Our Greatest Assets Link
Are Leaders Born? Link


Craig Johns SPEAKER
Craig Johns BLOG
Return to HOME

You Cant Stop Rotting Wood


Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash


By Craig Johns

Have you ever felt like the company you are working for is like a ship that has sprung a leak, taking on water and gradually going under?

At first you put a wrong decision, behavior or action down to a mistake or an interesting choice, but after it is replicated many times, it feels like you are on a runaway train with no brakes.

Once a negative culture or behavior becomes ingrained it is like wood in that when rot sets in there is no way to stop its progress.

I have found that a dysfunctional company or team culture starts from the leader or leaders of an organization lacking the necessary skillsets to one, set a positive culture, and two, have the ability to manage the direction of the culture created.

The demise of many teams and companies can be directly related to the environment created by a leader, leadership team or a group of people who are able to use their influencing abilities in a negative manner.

As is often noted in business circles, ‘the fish rots from the head down’, meaning that the when a team or company fails, it is the leadership that is the root cause.

Why is culture so important to a business? Here is a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing.

BRIAN CHESKY, co-founder and CEO, Airbnb

Deloitte completed a Global Human Capital Trends survey in 2016, which found that 82 percent of respondents believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage as it drives people’s behavior, innovation and customer service. (Kaplan et al. 2016)

Ashworth (2015) noted that, “a company’s culture is the only truly unique identifier. It is like a fingerprint. It may be similar to others, but is uniquely distinct to your business”.

Iannarino (2012) pointed out that, “if leadership doesn’t establish and protect a healthy culture, some unhealthy culture will fill that vacuum… If a pocket of negativity or cynicism exists, it’s because leadership hasn’t cut it out of the organisation – especially when the pocket of negativity comes from the leadership ranks”.

Culture is like the wind. It is invisible; yet its effect can be seen and felt.

BRYAN WALKER, Partner and Managing Director, IDEO

There was this one time when I was working for a start-up company who over-hired during the pre-opening phase due to the ambitious large scale of the operation.

As the company moved into the opening and post-opening phases they had to reduce the size of the team to improve financial and operational efficiency.

The problem was is that the leadership team continued to down-size more than once and the leadership team continually change over a period of three years, which resulted in a lack of trust and the development of an unhealthy culture.

An unhealthy culture then began to spread external to the company into the community, like a plague of locusts, creating negative brand image and consumer distrust that resulted in members leaving.

Today I want to share with you three ways that you can be in more control of your culture and ensure that a positive environment exists in your team or company:

  1. You must live and breath the company identitylead by example, be a positive role model, and show your team members what the right or acceptable behavior is.
  2. Build a relationship and communicate regularly with your team members. Get to know them in both a formal and informal setting, and be curious by asking questions that allow the team members to feel valued and know that their work matters.
  3. Empower team members, inspire them to do their best work and recognize and reward them for positive behaviors that continually strengthen the culture.

It is important that you protect your wood, ensure that it is watered, has adequate nutrients and is protected from the harsh elements.


Ashworth, P. (2015). Why Company Culture is So Important to Business Success. BrightCoach LinkedIn Articlelink

Iannarino, A. (2012). A Fish Rots from the Head Down (A Note to the Sales Leader). Iannarino Company Website. link

Kaplan, M., Dollar, B., Melian, V., Van Durme, Y., Wong, J. (2016). Shape Culture Drive Strategy. Deloitte Insights. link


To learn more about proactively planning your recovery and scheduling your energy, please DOWNLOAD the Break the CEO Code Whitepaper


Beyond The Comfort Zone Link
High Performers Cultivate More Powerful Traits Link
Are You Living Link
People Are Our Greatest Assets Link
It’s All About Trust Link
Are You Leading A High Performing Culture? Link
Are Leaders Born? Link


Craig Johns SPEAKER
Craig Johns BLOG
Return to HOME

What Does It Take To Improve Your Culture


What Does It Take To Improve Your Culture


The culture of a company, organisation or team is the make or break between growth and decline, retention and turnover, and success and failure. Too often we hear comments such as “toxic culture”, “team unrest”, “trouble in the boardroom” and “disorder in the trenches” that disrupt team cohesion, productivity and performance. If you are facing a storm in a teacup, what steps can you take to re-right the ship and ensure that your culture breeds success?

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.



First of all, let’s take a look at what culture is. Culture is our:

  1. Shared behaviours and the way we treat each other;
  2. Voices and our actions;
  3. Products and services;
  4. Capacity to learn and transmit knowledge to succeeding generations;
  5. Customers and consumers;
  6. Way of acting and interacting with others;
  7. Combined way of life;
  8. Attitudes, beliefs and philosophies; and
  9. Community and ourselves.

What we do as a leader is ultimately more important than what we say when it comes to culture. In essence, culture is the personality and DNA of the company, organisation or team.

There are, in general, four types of organisational or team culture:

  1. We do things 1st – Our focus is making breakthroughs and creating the future through adhocracy.
  2. We do things fast – We love to compete and want to be the fastest to go to market with a short-term performance focus.
  3. We do things right – Our culture is to make incremental checks, do our homework and control the process through a hierarchical approach.
  4. We do things together – We collaborate and are focused on long-term development in a tribe type environment

“The most important thing about culture is that it is the only sustainable difference for any organisation. Anyone can copy a company’s strategy, but nobody can copy their culture.”



It is important to understand your current culture and what it will look like in the future is the first part of the process to support successful change. Once you understand what the future looks like, from a culture point-of-view, you then need to utilise your collaboration skills to engage your team to commence the implementation phase and begin establishing the cultural behaviours. Finally, you need to coach and mange your team so that it is embedded in the way things are done in your organisation or team.

UNDERSTAND what you want to look like and establish the expectations that are required to get there:

  1. Complete a cultural audit by evaluating your current culture and performance.
  2. Clearly define your initial vision
  3. Develop a new set of expectations by clarifying your values and behaviours

COLLABORATE through teamwork and align your team so a common vision can be achieved.

  1. Identify and clearly articulate your strategic priorities
  2. Bring your team together and engage them in developing and defining your team goals
  3. Focus on your results and build accountability through clarifying and tracking key measures

COACH and manage your team to ensure that culture is cohesively developed and ingrained.

  1. Build a management system that incorporates the cultural drivers, priorities and goals
  2. Guide, manage and communicate your new habits and routines
  3. Celebrate the small wins and build team motivation throughout the process

“A culture of discipline is a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness.”



Changing an organisational or team culture is one of the biggest challenges a leader will face. This is due to a culture comprising an interlocking set of attitudes, processes, roles, goals, values, attitudes, communication and assumptions. It is unique for every organisation and team, and therefore every change requires a unique approach. A leader will need to be prepared to disrupt the organisation or teams deepest values, beliefs and what it holds closest to its heart.

Culture is deeply embedded into every layer of an organisation and requires the leader to question everything to fully understand what aspects are absolutely crucial to extract or mould for a better future. It is constantly evolving over time, although the culture is deeply linked to its history and development.

Important elements to consider when preparing for change:

  1. LISTEN to employees, by giving them a voice
  2. COMMUNICATE through 2-way communication and feedback channels
  3. LEAD by example by seeking, speaking and acting with truth
  4. FEEDBACK on a regular basis to and from employees
  5. COLLABORATE openly rather than in isolation, through encouraging sharing and healthy debates
  6. TRANSPARENCY by leveraging tools to stay on the same page
  7. APPRECIATION with a sustainable reward and recognition program
  8. CHALLENGE and encourage employees to take risks
  9. TEAM approach by creating a supportive environment that cultivates strong co-worker relationships
  10. CARE by showing that people matter
  11. ENJOYMENT in a light-hearted and fun environment
  12. PURPOSE with passion
  13. COMMON language, values and standards
  14. PERSISTANCE and consistency in your approach
  15. FLEXIBILITY by adapting and evolving throughout the process
  16. WORK-LIFE integration and/or balance
  17. EMPOWER employees by providing a sense of freedom and ownership, as well as embracing and inspiring employee autonomy
  18. BOUNDARIES that have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities
  19. LEARNING environment through continuous training and development
  20. RECOGNISE and solve, both individual and organisation,  problems  and issues

CASE STUDY: A few real life examples of how I have implemented some of the requirements for change:

LISTEN – We implemented a “pebble in my shoe” segment during our monthly team meeting, which allowed people to openly express things that were living rent-free in their mind.

COLLABORATE – In one organization, we established a 3hour period on Wednesday afternoons for employees to work on creative team projects that were focussed on innovation .

APPRECIATION – Working in hospitality, we had a company-wide manager meeting just before lunch every day, where we recognised at least one employee or team achievement.

ENJOYMENT – Every month we had a staff party, which had a different theme, where each team worked together to create a skit, performance or show.

CARE – At a recent coaching course, the attending coaches wrote a handwritten thank you card that was individualized for every presenter.

PURPOSE – To bring out the passion from our employees we changed our values to philosophies and asked the employees to develop the meaning of each philosophy.

WORK-LIFE – I find I am most effective when I exercise before starting work and then go for a ride or run during lunch time as it provides clarity and reflection to the projects I am working on.  I have encouraged staff to do the same.

The cultural change process will test your full range of leadership skills. You cannot afford to take your attention away from the change process as a drop in momentum can have a negative effect on the cultural change. If you aren’t in the driver’s seat, you have no control over the final destination.

Tune in to next week’s article, which will discuss the leadership attributes of successful change, what a positive workplace looks like and developing a High Performance culture.

“Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organisation is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.”



Are Leaders Born? Link
It’s Your Story Link
Be A Rookie Link
Art Of Communication – Change Series Part 4 Link
Achieving Successful Change – Changes Series Part 3 Link
Change Tantrums – Change Series Part 2 Link
Why Change? – Change Series Part 1 Link
I Make No Apologies This Is Me! Link


Craig Johns SPEAKER
Craig Johns BLOG
Return to HOME