There’s a new episode of our podcast Leadership Next out this morning, in which Ellen McGirt and I talk with Bill McDermott, CEO of ServiceNow, former CEO of SAP, and an inspiring example of the new style of leadership.
I first met McDermott ten years ago, backstage at Radio City Music Hall, where he was preparing to go onstage to give a talk on leadership and I was preparing to interview the legendary leader Jack Welch. For the podcast, I reminded McDermott of that meeting, and asked him about the change in leadership that’s occurred in the 20 years since Welch stepped down as CEO of General Electric. His response was worth capturing:
“Jack was an incredible force of nature. He figured you had to be number one or two in any business, and he held people highly accountable. And if you didn’t perform, you didn’t last long. That was a leadership style that proved to be highly successful for him.
“I do think the rules have changed so much. There is a bigger war for talent now than there ever has been. I believe you have to create cultures that have an enormous focus on purpose. And you have to create environments where people feel inspired to come to work. So the pendulum has really swung more toward a leader being absolutely in service to the employees and absolutely finding new ways to inspire them, new ways to innovate, new ways to bring out the best in them. And the accountability is in unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit versus managing hard line. There’s a soft touch that you need today that’s pretty unique.”
That, in a neat nutshell, is why we launched Leadership Next–to tell the story of how leadership has changed. There’s much more in this interview worth listening to, including how a working-class kid and deli manager from Queens managed to end up running a giant tech company in Germany.
And separately, thanks to those of you who inquired about my health. I got test results back yesterday, and I’m happy to report, courtesy of LabCorp, that 10 days ago I was COVID free. Still not sure how the whole test & trace thing is supposed to work with delays running that long. But I did learn something from this piece by former Fortune investigative reporter and editor Wyndham Robertson, who trained to be a contact tracer in North Carolina.
More news below.