Becoming a Self-aware Leader with Charles Rath at RS21

Leadership is often challenging. Leading people requires you to understand yourself. Being a self-aware leader will help you know your limits. It is also essential as you lead others to be self-aware. Today’s guest is Charles Rath, President and CEO at RS21 Inc Magazine ranked his company #485 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. RS21 is a global data science company that uses artificial intelligence, design, data engineering, and modern software development methods to empower organizations to make data-driven decisions that positively impact the world. Charles gives his perspectives on becoming a self-aware leader.

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Charles Rath: The Transcript

About: Charles Rath is the Founder of RS21. RS21 is a data science company that uses artificial intelligence, design, and modern software development methods to empower organizations to make data-driven decisions that positively impact the world.


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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


Charles Rath: [00:00:00] We’re a data science company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico with an office in Washington, DC. And we have the audacious mission of changing the world for the better. Using better information and better data in our decision-making. So we work on everything from cancer to crime issues. COVID-19 really anywhere where there’s a big, complex human problem.  We need a better person welcome to grow.

[00:00:31] Intro: [00:00:31] Welcome to Grow Think Tank . This is the only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

You’ve probably heard the term being self-aware. What does that really mean in terms of leadership? Well, a self-aware leader is someone that can take feedback from others and reflect on what’s really missing in their skillset, maybe their mindset, but also how they actually show up for the people around them as a self-aware leader.

[00:01:08] When you tune into what’s really going on and what’s missing. Your skills will be able to evolve to the next level. You will be able to impact and lead others that you couldn’t reach before becoming a self-aware leader will give you the power that’s missing that you don’t have today. Our conversation today was with the CEO of RS 21. They’re a data science company. That’s really making a name for itself inside of the impact they’re making, not just in business, but in how they’re attracting talent and how they’re impacting the world. RS21 has grown fast we’re number 4 83 on the ink list. But also our conversation with Charles really talks about becoming a self-aware leader.

[00:01:51] We look at the mindset that it takes to grow a company fast to lead companies through all of the chaos that it takes to greet, create, to lead companies through all of the chaos that it takes to lead this kind of pace. When you think about being self-aware I want you to think about two things. One is, what is it you don’t know? You know, that’s hard to answer the question, but the two is what is it that if you knew that you’re not doing now, that’s a little bit easier, but both of those things can unlock a powerful way of how you’re showing up. So in this episode, we talk about becoming a self-aware leader. Before we jump into the episode, I want to make sure, you know, we’ve got an incredible opportunity. If you are the founder, CEO, or president of a fast-growth company, is a place where you can hang out with your peers. You can learn from them. You can create a network that really is something powerful for you in a force inside of the company. If you want to check out what is, just make sure you go there. Take it in really let it sink in. If you become an extraordinary leader, not everybody wants to be extraordinary, but if you want to hang out with other leaders that are impacting the world, impacting their communities, impacting their markets, then make sure you check out If you ready, you can apply. That doesn’t mean you’re committed because we actually have to interview you to make sure you’re a good fit for the group that we already have growing. Want to make sure that you know, that it’s available to you. Just apply at here’s the conversation with Charles,

[00:03:31] Charles, how are you doing?

[00:03:34] Charles Rath: [00:03:34] Great to be here.

[00:03:35] Gene Hammett: [00:03:35] Excited to have you on the growth think tank. We’re going to talk about the leadership mindset, what it takes to truly survive as a fast-growth leader. And we want to start here with, tell us about RS 21.

[00:03:47] Charles Rath: [00:03:47] Yeah, we’re a data science company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico with an office in Washington, DC. And we have the audacious mission of changing the world for the better using better information and better data in our decision-making. So we work on everything from cancer to crime issues. COVID-19 really anywhere where there’s a big, complex human problem, where you need a better perspective to solve it.

[00:04:17] Gene Hammett: [00:04:17] Is this you having technology or is it data scientists or a combination of both?

[00:04:22] Charles Rath: [00:04:22] Both, we have a team of 85 or so data scientists, data, engineers, developers, and we also have a platform called mother, that we deploy, in the client environment.

[00:04:34] Gene Hammett: [00:04:34] I’m glad you’re going to be here to talk about, um, the power of mindset. So to you, what is mindset?

[00:04:40] Charles Rath: [00:04:40] Mindset is the ethos. , it is the perspective. , it is the attitude, the rigor, the hustle, the grind, the grit that is required to, be successful. , and I, I’ve learned a lot about mindset over the last six, seven years of, starting this business and scaling it. Can’t say I got it right all the time, but, I’ve learned some things.

[00:05:02] Gene Hammett: [00:05:02] Well, take me back to the moment when you realized that mindset was an important thing because I will be honest with you. I have a very technical background. I was an engineer by education. I had a very strategic, upbringing through three tours of duty, if you will, in different kinds of corporations. Um, before I became an entrepreneur and it was very much based on strategy and logic and I didn’t think about mindset much. Can you remember back when you didn’t think about mindset?

[00:05:28] Charles Rath: [00:05:28] I think, um, You know, like many, when I started my career, I was very focused on stability. , very focused on, you know, getting a paycheck. You know, it was important to me that I was involved in something that was for good. , in my case, it was public service. Um, but it took me until probably my late thirties to realize that, you know, I could change the world. And, and to not be, in any way, restrained, by what I’ve experienced in the past to think about a bit, a better future. And so, for me, the mindset has a lot to do with just being audacious. , and in realizing that you can, you can put a big dent in this universe. , And, you know, I try to surround myself with those that think big and are willing to take risks, and, or want to make it happen.

[00:06:20] Gene Hammett: [00:06:20] The mindset of a leader and those around you is sort of contagious. Have you found that your mindset can either spill over into someone else that’s in a bad way or a good way?

[00:06:32] Charles Rath: [00:06:32] Oh, absolutely. I mean, we, as humans, feed off of each other’s energy. , off of each other’s passion, you know, I think a lot about, you know, having a positive focus mindset when I’m engaging with, our C-suite and our employees. I think it’s something that you have to kind of monitor and be self-aware of, um, you know, being a CEO and scaling a business. It has its ups and downs. , you know, I’m from time to time, I’ve caught myself being a little bit of an ER. , and I have to say, Hey, you know, how, how are people feeding off of this? How are people perceiving me? How are people experiencing me and, and kind of redirect,

[00:07:09] Gene Hammett: [00:07:09] Charles you’re known there for having a big impact. Um, you’re honored by Ernst and young. You’re honored by Inc magazine, but you have a kind of unconventional structure. Describe to me what that structure is,

[00:07:22] Charles Rath: [00:07:22] structured my, my business?

[00:07:24] Gene Hammett: [00:07:24] Yep.

[00:07:24] Charles Rath: [00:07:24] Yeah. So, we are a company of. , what I call dreamers disruptors and doers, um, that have all been United around the common cause of, doing good with data. , and so we bring together, data scientists, conventional, you know, statisticians, along with artificial intelligence experts and machine learning experts, you know, big brain Ph.D. types. And many times we put them in rooms with a creative designer, like people from Oculus or EA sports or Disney, because a big part of solving big problems is getting everyone on the same page. And so what’s really, unconventional about RS 21 is the intersection between data and the hard science of data science and analytics with the softer skill of design and, inspiring people, and creating intuitive things. so it’s a really unique and special place to work.

[00:08:23] Commentary: [00:08:23] Charles has talked about doing good with data. Well, that’s their mission. And why is that so important? Well, a mission-driven company has the ability to align people together to something bigger than just a paycheck. When you have a mission-driven company, you can actually create a space for people to be a part of something bigger than just the work. Now I bring this up because if you want to attract the top talent in your company, you can always find a way to create more of a mission-driven Alliance, or the ability to create a mission-driven organization will give you a chance to grow beyond where you are today. I bring this up because it’s a common thread across many fast-growth companies of having this mission-driven approach. Now. This is a, a RS 21 is a technology company. They have connected their mission to doing good with data, and that impact is rippling through the entire organization. And the bottom line, just a little bit of insight around why mission-driven is good for business back to Charles.

[00:10:22] And what about your leadership principles make all this possible?

[00:10:26]Charles Rath: [00:10:26], I think first and foremost, I am very, transparent, and also I try to create an environment that is not hierarchical. You know, technology is evolving at an astronomical speed. As we enter this fourth industrial revolution, which is, you know, high-performance computing, big data, artificial intelligence. And I must create an environment that is very flat, right? So I get a, a brand new coder who is, you know, 21 years old, fresh out of a coding boot camp or out of college. I want that person to have a voice. , and it’s really important that we create that. , that environment and knocked down any barriers that would prevent people from speaking their mind.

[00:11:14] Gene Hammett: [00:11:14] I have a speech that I give every once in a while, back when we did speeches before the pandemic era. And, I’ll probably do them again someday, but I study the patterns of the fast-growth company is there are two things in there that you picked out, which was one is transparency, but the other one is everyone should be involved in the decisions. Everyone should have, their ideas should be honored. Um, tell us a little bit more about how that plays out in your organization.

[00:11:38] Charles Rath: [00:11:38] We asked for it, first and foremost, I mean, we are, constantly soliciting feedback and in trying to engage in people in a variety of different ways, whether it be in town hall meetings, project meetings, surveys, et cetera. Um, we’re also, a values-based organization. And, um, our first value of course is, is doing good with data, but the very next value is being real. , and we really hold each other accountable. You don’t find great teams, um, that aren’t willing to speak up when things are going portal, right? You need to create an environment where if an employee sees something that is inconsistent with the vision or the mission or can be improved, you want every person in your organization to feel empowered, to say something. And to feel obligated to say something otherwise, you’re pretty much destined for mediocre. In my opinion.

[00:12:30] Gene Hammett: [00:12:30] I love that. Cause you’ve just brought in a few more key aspects of the work. I’m kind of organizing the patterns of fast-growth leaders. And I want to make sure we get back to this idea of mindset. Um, if you take us into. Common practices that allow you to tune in to the necessary mindset shifts. Do you have something that you do on a day-to-day basis or month to month basis that helps you keep that tune in?

[00:12:53]Charles Rath: [00:12:53] Yeah, I do. I mean, it starts with very basics, right? I mean, and that is, I think, as a leader, um, getting a good, good night’s rest. And for me, it’s. It’s exercise. And I don’t know if you hear this from other CEOs, but, you know, I need every day to be able to focus on something else and kind of recharge, my, my brain for me, that’s extra spend a lot of time on my Peloton. Um, and then throughout the day, I’ll do little, and I just started doing this in the last 30 to 60 days, um, doing these little, little, little mini-meditations, right? So, you know, two minutes of just. No closing my eyes, getting reset, focusing on my breathing, et cetera. Um, so I can, you know, not get caught up in the day to day, you know, the pace of, of this business and really focus in on the vision, being self-aware and ensuring that, being a good leader

[00:13:48] Gene Hammett: [00:13:48] self-aware is something. I think a lot of people talk about it. What does that really mean for you? As you are a leader of a fast-growth company.

[00:13:55] Charles Rath: [00:13:55] Yeah. I mentioned it earlier. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s trying to put myself in the shoes of our customers, of my employees and thinking about, you know, how are they experiencing me? Um, and you know, also it’s, you know, taking, taking kind of, you know, measuring myself on, you know, how are you feeling today? Are you feeling overly anxious or is your mind focused on the job at hand? Um, are you, are you, are you focusing on the things that, that can add the most value to the organization? Right. I think many times, leaders, tend to work. , in the business, not on the business. Right? So a lot of times I evaluate myself around, you know, is, is this task that you’re working on, the highest priority for the organization or the area where you can add the most value? Where is this something that, you know, someone else can do or that we can outsource or whatever the case maybe? No, I think that is one of the biggest challenges of being a leader is finding the right level from which you engage. Where only you have the perspective and the strength to make that.

[00:14:58] Gene Hammett: [00:14:58] A lot of people think about mindset? And there’s a popular book out there called mindset where it, which shows a distinction between fixed and growth. But what I find is there’s a lot more nuance to this growth side of the mindset. Um, when I think when I ask you about nuances of growth mindset, what comes to mind? ,

[00:15:16]Charles Rath: [00:15:16] I think about imagination and visualization. , one of my favorite quotes is from Mohammed Ali. And it’s basically, it says he who has no imagination has no week. And, you know, I think I spent a lot of time visualizing what my business will be in the future. Visualizing. What the physical space will be visualizing the problems that we will solve. The articles that will be written about us in the newspaper. Um, the, the types of clients that we will work with, the types of employees that we will have. , and I think, by visualizing in a very real and clear way, I think your mind subconsciously from day in day out, starts to take those steps, to make that vision a reality. Um, you know, it sounds kind of loose. , but if you look into the science of visualization, it’s very real and very effective.

[00:16:05] Commentary: [00:16:05] Hold on. Visualization is not just touchy-feely. In fact, a lot of psychological studies have been looking at the power of visualization. One specific one involves basketball in the late 1990s at the University of Chicago. I won’t go into the details of this, but here’s kind of the way it goes, just for you to understand the power of this. There are three groups that I want to go through today, but everyone came in sort of as a baseline and shot free throws and traditional basketball court. Right. That makes sense. But what happened next is they broke them up into three groups. Then they took one group and they said, you’re going to practice every day for a certain amount of time. You’re going to practice a free-throws. And when we come back in 30 days, we’re going to measure you. Great. The second group was told to do nothing, not to pick up the ball, not to think about it, not to do anything different, but that would be the baseline. The third group would come in and after the first day they would not touch a basketball again, but they would be asked to think about making baskets to visualize the process. And they would do that every day for a small amount of time. You may not be surprised when I tell you, but the ones who did the best were the ones who practiced there was really a pretty big difference in how they performed compared to the ones who didn’t practice at all. But that is the second group. The third group was very close to actually the first group, the group who did not touch and did not practice, but visualized shooting baskets was very close. To the ones who actually did it. So the kind of concept I want you to really think about here is the power of visualization. It’s almost like the brain can’t distinguish between actually doing it and visualizing it. So what I want to bring up here is if you are willing to let yourself visualize what you want consistently, and over time, you will start to see things align around you because everything happens within your brain first. And then we create it in our external world. , back to Charles.

[00:17:09] I talk a lot about this with my clients. I actually do a lot of visualization myself, but. Is there any specific practice you have around visualizations that you could share with us?

[00:17:19] Charles Rath: [00:17:19] Um, gosh, I don’t know. I wish I had a recipe for it. I think that you need to be in the right state of mind. , and for me, I put little reminders, around. Of my vision. Right. For, for example, one of my, one of my visions when I first started the company was to be on Inc 500. So I had, I visualize that what it would look like, what it would feel like, and actually had a copy from like 2017 of that issue in my office. It was still in the wrapper and I would just look at it and that would trigger. Me to be like, oh my vision, right. I have a picture of what I envision our headquarters to look like when we’re a company of thousands on the screensaver of my phone. And so I look at that and it triggers that, that visualization, that feeling. , and you know, I’d like to think that, you know, every day we’re taking steps to make that happen.

[00:18:07] Gene Hammett: [00:18:07] I love those little ideas that you just shared with us. That’s different than what I do. , I do have some vision board kind of stuff. I’m not really that into it, but it did it just because I’m like, why not? And it was actually a fun exercise and some of the things I can look at on that vision board I can see that has already happened, but I want to take you into a question that I asked commonly with mine. Executive coaching clients and really has no wrong answer to this. But as you think about what you’re trying to create with our S 21, you know, the future version of this company, who do you need to be to create the success that you see for that company?

[00:18:40] Charles Rath: [00:18:40] Well, I think, our vision is very audacious and, um, you know, it’s, it’s. You know, tackling the world’s most complex, difficult problems where people have tried time and time again in a fail. And, you know, we’re in a unique point in history where, you know, again, advancements in high-performance computing and artificial intelligence and, you know, big data allows us to solve this pro, in ways that we never had before. So, a big part of our ability to be successful in the future is to not be afraid. Right. Um, to be willing to fail. And that’s, that’s a big part of my message to our employees is that look, we are swinging for the fences as a comp. Um, we can’t be afraid to fail. In fact, we need to embrace failure, as part of our ability to innovate. and so I think that’s a big part of it. Um, you know, the other thing, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of this, particularly over the last three or four years is being very open and transparent about what we’re trying to do here. Um, we’re not a typical tech company. We are very focused on the problems. Facing humanity in the universe. , and I think that is attracting a certain unique kind of person that wants to work at a values-based mission-based company and not for a company that says they are. , but at the end of the day, it’s just exclusively about the bottle.

[00:20:03] Commentary: [00:20:03] Just another quick moment here. If you’re listening to this on a podcast based on your phone or some other thing, then we want to make sure, you know, we have a YouTube channel. If you want to check out all of the resources there that are only on YouTube, go to If you want to be an extraordinary leader, you want to make sure you go there subscribe. And don’t miss a video that we put out about you being the best leader. You can be.

[00:20:26] Gene Hammett: [00:20:26] Well, there’s a lot to unpack inside there, but I know that we have about running out of time. I want to kind of dive into one aspect of the mindset that we haven’t touched on, which is truly creating leaders across the company. I believe that fast-growth companies want people to feel like owners I’ve seen, I’ve heard many people sitting on the other side of the microphone for me. Talk about how important that is. What are your real key thoughts about the culture that you’re creating there and how that creates leadership? Throughout the company.

[00:20:56] Charles Rath: [00:20:56] Yeah. So getting leaders in your company that have an owner’s mindset is essential. And you know, one thing that we did very tactically is we gave everyone ownership. So they, they have shares in our company and, you know, therefore they have that, that kind of mindset. Um, I think also it’s, it’s, you know, hire super passionate, talented people, give them an audacious vision and mission of what they’re trying to accomplish. And empower them and kind of get the heck out of their wet. And allow them to do, do their job and, and, you know, that’s, that’s something that has been a tried and true leadership philosophy for me since I started and, you know, we’ll continue to do so

[00:21:36] Gene Hammett: [00:21:36] Charles you really blew me away. So much of what you described today is inside the book that I’m writing inside the work that I do with my clients. So I appreciate you sharing your story and some of them, your perspectives, and the things you do day in and day out to help us all be better leaders.

[00:21:52] Charles Rath: [00:21:52] Thank you, Gene. I really appreciate it.

[00:21:53] Gene Hammett: [00:21:53] Well, I want to wrap up this a little bit offline because if you are thinking about evolving as a leader, and Charles has talked about some of the things that you know, you could grow into, you don’t have to do that alone. In fact, if you really want to hang out with your peers from the Inc 5,000, the fastest-growing privately held company out there, we have fast growth boardroom. What is it? Well, it’s a community of leaders and founders that are really evolving from where they are today to become powerful, extraordinary leaders, doing impossible things, and they’re all supporting each other. And all you have to do is find out more information, just go to If you want to be a part of that community, just apply. We’ll have a conversation and see if it’s a fit. I really would love for you to consider that if you want to be an extraordinary leader and lead fast growth, it’s going to as always. When you think of growth and culture, think of growth. Think tank lead with courage. We’ll see. That’s that?

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.




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