January 18, 2021


by Aalastair Sibley in News

New year, new episode from your friends at Red Havas—and this one is full of heart.   

In this episode you will learn: 

  • Leadership tips and observations from Team Rubicon’s cofounder and CEO and Marine veteran Jake Wood  
  • How to ground an organization in purpose—and why every organization must do this 
  • What it means to build “mental fitness” and why it’s the new year’s resolution we all need to make 

First, you’ll listen in on a conversation with Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon and author of the recently published memoir “Once a Warrior: How One Veteran Found a New Mission Closer to Home”, which was called “the book that America needs right now” by Tom Brokaw.   

Practically everything Jake says belongs on a plaque—this man is made to inspire. Since Team Rubicon’s first response in 2010 to the Haiti earthquake, it has grown to more than 130,000 volunteers across the U.S. and launched more than 700 operations mobilizing veterans to respond to large-scale disasters and humanitarian crises, often faster than traditional aid agencies. These days, Team Rubicon is stepping up to the task of helping distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, which Jake calls “the largest logistical challenge this nation has faced since the landing of D-Day or the Berlin airlift.”   

When Linda Descano, CFA®, an EVP at Red Havas, asks this sought-after leadership authority for advice on how to demonstrate leadership, and how to identify and inspire it in others—Jake has plenty to say on the matter, in particular what he learned from his experience in the Marine Corps.


“Leadership at its core is about love,” says Jake. “It’s about loving the people that you’re responsible for. It’s about truly caring about who they are, where they come from, what brought them to that moment in time, why they’re on your team, pursuing your mission and where they want to go with the rest of their life. What’s that have to do with courage? Well, I think if you can really build a foundation of leadership that focuses on love, and teams understand that they have that true caring for one another, that really creates this sense of safety for that team … That’s what unlocks courage, that sense of safety. It’s really weird to think about that—you know, that safety is what unlocks courage on a battlefield. Because it’s mortal danger that requires the courage to begin with, but that safety is always relative.”  

The three things that Jakes looks for in any potential employee or team member: initiative, tenacity, and enthusiasm. As he says, “Don’t be an asshole. Be the type of person with that infectious enthusiasm that people can’t wait to see on Monday morning, when they’re waking up. Be that person that people go to work so they can be around.”  

For Jake, this comes back to love and true care for your teammates, whether you meet them on the battlefield or they’re sitting at a table across from you. “As leaders, we can treat people like inconsequential characters in the story of our organization, or we can treat them like heroes. And what happens is if you treat them like heroes, they start acting like heroes,” he says. “But if you treat them as some unnamed character on page 56, that’s how they’re going to show up to work every day.”  

Linda and Jake explore, too, how to ground any organization in purpose—and why every organization must identify their purpose, regardless of whether they’re responding to disasters, as Team Rubicon is, or selling insurance or a locally made product: “Make sure that you can set as bold and ambitious and inspiring a vision and mission as you can,” says Jake. “If you’re not aligning every single decision, every action, every resource behind it, if you create a disconnect between what you say you want to accomplish and the way that you conduct your business, people are going to see it for what it is.”  


Closing out the episode with the Red Questionnaire segment, Nancy Anderson, Red Havas’ associate vice president of social and content, chats with Gus Worland, founder and director of Gotcha4Life (and lifelong friend of Hugh Jackman—fun fact!). When Gus spoke recently to our agency about building “mental fitness” and “emotional muscle” and the importance of initiating vulnerable conversations with your loved ones, there wasn’t a dry eye in the Zoom room. We knew he had to be on the podcast.   

During his interview, Gus speaks to the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health the world over—and why it’s a call to action for all of us to speak up, express our emotions and ensure we have a close friend in life that we can go to when times are tough. Further, it’s important that we show up for our loved ones in small but heartfelt ways each and every day, and Gus tells us how. Though Gus started the Gotcha4Life foundation to reverse the tide of declining mental health and reduce suicide in Australia, its “meaningful mateship” message is now being brought to the U.S. and U.K., where Gus is seeking to build mental fitness in local communities through social connection, emotional muscle and resilience.   

“The number one thing for me is to never worry alone,” says Gus. “Most of us go bumbling around in our own heads without actually explaining how we feel. We have our mask on, we have our armor on, and we just get into the world. There’s certainly times where you need that resilience. But most of the time, it would be lovely to have one person in your life who has got you for life that you can have that conversation with, warts and all, and they won’t care. They love you. There’s no judgment. I don’t think many of us have that, and I believe suicide is a death of loneliness. We need to man up and speak up rather than man up and shut up, which is what a lot of us have been told.”  

Give “Red Sky Fuel for Thought” a listen, and subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app. Don’t forget to rate and review to help more people find us!