I had several requests for a detailed breakdown of my observations on the first day of the World Business Forum – careful what you wish for. Day one of the conference was headlined by a highly esteemed group of speakers who didn’t give me nearly what I had hoped for – While there were a few shining stars, and some great sound bites, I wasn’t challenged nearly as much as I hoped to be. There was a lot more common thinking than critical, innovative thinking. I have live video above, and in the text that follows I’ll share my opinions on the best and the worst of WBF Day 1…
Jim Collins kicked-off the day with everything you would expect from him. Jim was animated, passionate, informative and lucid. He is a great presenter and was highly entertaining. My problem is that I was looking to be more than entertained. Where Jim fell short in my opinion was that if you’ve heard Jim before, there wasn’t a lot of new information. Jim went to his staples of Level 5 Leaders, the Hedgehog principle and the Flywheel concept. I wasn’t nearly as dazzled by Jim’s statistics and metrics as I was his outlook on life. What really resonated with me was that Jim seems to walk the talk. He reads 100 books each year that are NOT related to his work, he maintains work-life balance as evidenced by the fact that at age 50 he still goes rock climbing at least three times a week, and what really impressed me was his humility. The bottom line is that I really like him, I just wished he had more new material to share. Some of the nuggets that Jim did disseminate were as follows:
- Success that translates in hubris leads to failure.
- Never confuse power with leadership.
- Most overnight successes are 20 years in the making.
- Double your ratio of questions to statements.
- Don’t waste time trying to be successful, spend time being useful.
- Be willing to change your tactics, but not your core principles.
Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP followed Jim, or at least attempted to…While Bill has a successful track record in business going all the way back to his years as an entrepreneurial teenager, his presentation was horrid (sorry Bill). It was full of trite cliches and worn out leadership rhetoric. Bill’s passion an his sales skills were clearly evident, but his presentation came across as a wannabe self-help guru more than a CEO of one of the world’s best software companies. Now that Bill will probably never speak to me again, here are the few gems that he passed along to the audience:
- Get better every day you live.
- In a world where everything is connected, anything is possible.
- Leaders make the news, they don’t report it.
- Winning is the biggest force multiplier that a leader has.
The highlight of the day for me was when Jack Welch took center stage, and center stage he took. Jack literally held court – he was marvelous. What I truly appreciated about Jack was his caring and compassion, but perhaps what I found most appealing was his candor. I’m so tired of business speak and cute presentations that I could scream. What Jack did is what Jack does – he tells you the truth. You might not always agree with him, but you know where he stands. Boy is this something that most leaders today could really go to school on. Spare me the sanitized, politically correct rhetoric and just tell me what’s on your mind. Why does this prove so difficult for today’s leaders? Here are a few of the peals Jack shared yesterday:
- Lead change before you have to.
- Play offense - Try desperately not to be on defense.
- Leaders get too caught up in trivial things and don’t pay enough attention to leadership development. The lack of leadership development in most organizations is tragic.
- Barack Obama and particularly his administration is anti-business.
- The Teacher’s Union has killed education in America.
- Fear is dead as a management tool.
- The best idea should win.
- More candor can only be good for business.
- You can’t protect jobs with walls.
Up next was Calos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Carlos is responsible for more than 300 brands globally, and it’s no wonder why – he has a plan and he’s sticking to it. Carlos was passionate, on-point, and as you might have guessed consistent in his messaging. Following are a few of the ideas Carlos shared yesterday:
- Dreaming BIG and dreaming small take the same amount of energy – why not dream BIG?
- Companies are made of people, so dreams matter.
- Great people with the right training and opportunity will become better than you – hire great people.
- Since you can’t please all the people please the people that matter – those that perform.
- Great leaders create a culture of ownership.
Next was Charlene Li who spoke about two of my favorite topics – social media and leadership. Charlene covered the basics with clarity. She made a compelling case for leaders to adopt social media and gave numerous illustrations as to the many benefits for doing so. What I liked about Charlene’s presentation is that she clearly articulated that EVERY aspect of business can be improved through the proper use of social media. A few of her thoughts can be found below:
- Social Media is forcing us to redefine leadership.
- Can’t control relationships in social media..you have to give up control but make sure you still have command.
- Social Media is not about technology – it’s about communication.
- When it comes to social media fail fast and fail smart.
- What’s the ROI on a handshake?
- Asking who should own social media is like asking who should own the customer.
Matin Lindstrom followed Charlene with a great presentation on branding. What I liked about Martin’s presentation was that he went a bit deeper than most who attempt to decipher the ethereal topic of branding. Some of Martin’s key points were as follows:
- Great brands are emotional bookmarks.
- Everything your brand does should survive without the logo.
- The more senses of a customer you engage, the more loyal they will be to your brand.
- 85% decision-making is irrational– but most brand research is purely rational.
- Good branding: Sound +Vision = emotional engagement = consumer preference.
Joseph Grenny was up next talking about influence and leadership. Of all the topics on the agenda I was most excited to hear what Joseph had to say about influence. I have found that influence is often misunderstood, frequently abused, and rarely leveraged to its full extent. Following are a few of the thoughts Joseph shared on the importance of influence:
- Influencers succeed where the rest of us fail.
- Smart leaders leverage influencers by involving them in modeling, mentoring and coaching.
- Challenge begins when new ideas confront old thinking.
- Leadership boils down to 2 things: what should we do & how do we get people to do it?
- Creating influence is about creating a magical experience.
- The most important capacity we possess is to influence behavior.
Closing out the day was David Gergen on the topic of leadership. Few people have witnessed leadership at the level David has serving as a White House advisor for 30 years spanning multiple Presidencies. While David and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on things, we seem to agree on the important points. I not only admire David for his years of service, but in his encouragement to others about the importance of service. Out of all the speakers on today’s agenda David is the one I’d be most interested in having dinner with. Following are a few of the thoughts David shared in closing out Day 1:
- Start-ups begin here, but are scaling offshore.
- Looking to hire great leaders – hire one of our veterans.
- The single most important thing a leader does is to find the next leader.
- too much group think is a sign of poor leadership.
- The increased education of our workforce mandates a change in leadership style.
Well, there you have it Day 1 of World Business Forum in a nutshell. I’d welcome your thoughts and comments on the speakers and/or their ideas.