Looking Ahead: Leadership Insights for 2023
December 19, 2022
In our ongoing interview series, top leaders share the most powerful lessons they’ve learned in their careers. Here are highlights from those conversations, and be sure to click on the links to read the full interviews.
Bob Brennan, veteran CEO, board director, and executive mentor at The ExCo Group
Make sure your stated priorities match your actual priorities
“If a CEO were to say to me, Let me tell you about my strategy and the prioritization,’ I would say to them, ‘Show me your operating expenses and I’ll read you back your strategy.’ When I was CEO at four different companies, there was always some incongruence between my operating expenses and what I said was important. And that’s such an opportunity to improve execution.”
Jacqueline Welch, CHRO at The New York Times.
Rethink foundational assumptions about HR
“Articles often talk about how the new generation of workers will have between ten and twelve unique employers, and you hear kids talking deliberately about wanting to work for a place for two years and then move on. That has huge implications for HR.
What’s learning and development if you’re only going to have someone for two or three years? What’s the value of succession planning if people aren’t staying past two or three years, and what are the impacts of reduced tenure on standard offerings like LTIPs, RSUs and benefits? People need to talk about the implications of this profound shift in how people see their careers.”
Ravi Chaudhry, Chairman of CeNext Consulting & Investment, former Chairman of four Tata Group companies
Organizations today are like streams
“There is also a paradigm change in how organizations are functioning today. For several decades, organizations functioned like machines, with predictable controls. A couple of decades ago, we realized that organizations were functioning like living organisms that called for more sensitivity, more responsiveness, and a different way to motivate people.
Today, organizations are like streams, always in a flow, which means continuous change and fluidity of identities and ideologies of all the players. Fluidity means less control, less ego, and more humility. It makes organizational pyramids irrelevant. You have to tap the skills wherever they are in the company. In such a scenario, the quality of conversation becomes the biggest strength of an organization.”
Harsha Jalihal, Chief People Officer at MongoDB
Teach people how to make difficult decisions
“We are no longer in a place where leadership is all about just getting the work done. It’s become so much more than that. There’s so much ambiguity. I cannot write a rulebook for leadership development anymore. I can’t write a 100-page policy document about whether you should let an individual on your team work in a flexible model or not.
You’re the manager. You know the person. You know what works for them. You know their challenges. Here’s a framework; make the call. That’s a tough and very uncomfortable position for many people to be in. I think HR has a role to play in teaching people how to make difficult decisions.”
Brent Saunders, former CEO of Allergan and Bausch & Lomb
Less is more, and should be rewarded
“Budgets shouldn’t always be just focused on more. When I was CEO, I tried to discourage the usual thinking that getting a bigger budget each year was a sign of success. If you’re a manager and you got a 20 percent increase in your budget, you were on cloud nine. And I would always ask, why is that winning? Maybe the person who discovers some efficiencies and delivers the same results with 20 percent less should be the person we celebrate. But a bigger budget is how a lot of people prove their worth and their importance. I don’t get it. In my whole career, I’ve always tried to prove that I could do more with less.”
Laurie Schultz, former CEO of Galvanize
What is your “Picasso” today?
“When I was working for KPMG as a consultant, I used to have this long list of projects. And I often felt like it was overwhelming, so I adopted this system of ‘one Picasso a day.’ I coach all my CEOs on it. When you wake up in the morning – and I do this every day – the first thing you do is to decide what will be your one Picasso that day. It’s about focus. What do you uniquely do that matters the most? After all, you can only do one thing really well at a time. It’s just a really useful metaphor for prioritization. And it helps you go to bed at night and be able to reflect and say, that was my Picasso today. It’s a great way to get up in the morning, and it’s a great way to go to bed at night.”