Sunday, April 20th 2014

Leadership: 10 Tenets for Creating Billions in Value

By Shawn D. Baldwin

carlos-slim-leadershipThe prolific growth and subsequent value creation of the companies launched by Carlos Slim Helu (left) catapulted him to being named the world’s richest man (surpassing Bill Gates) according to Forbes in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. This is an incredible feat, as most people had believed surpassing Bill Gates in net worth to be a fantasy. It is all the more notable because Carlos Slim (as he’s called) is from a developing country, Mexico. He comes from very humble beginnings, but he began his investing career at the early age of 12. He initially made his first fortune in real estate, becoming a millionaire in his early 20′s, and he has since created a net worth of over $73 billion dollars through his companies. Slim’s holdings are diverse, ranging from securities and banking to insurance and real estate. However, he is most well known for his success in the telecommunications industry. His core holding is America Movil SAB (AMXL) which operates in 18 countries, takes in revenues of over $59 billion, and has over 150,000 employees.

telmexThe telecommunications industry is well-suited for outlining Value Creation (a series this author, Baldwin, writes for Fast Company). The telecom sector, driven by wireless technology and innovation, has been a dominant generator of wealth and jobs. As a point of reference, the telecom sector was up last year over 21% and has a total market capitalization of over $93 billion. The capital markets believe the sector has tremendous upside, as we saw Verizon close the largest bond transaction in history — a $50 billion bond deal last year. Slim sees more potential opportunities in telecom and for American Movil. He says the industry will invest over $9 billion over the next four years, citing greater speed and services for small business as the particular growth engines.

Despite his immense wealth, the first most notable thing about Slim is his extreme humility. Despite being a multi-billionaire, Slim resides in a relatively modest six-bedroom house that is less than a mile away from his office. He personally doesn’t ascribe to the concept of conspicuous consumption, and doesn’t have a super yacht or multiple mansions around the world. He doesn’t have a fleet of high-performance, exotic cars, and he still prefers to drive himself. (more…)

Leadership: Business and Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela

The wheels of American Airlines Flight 6447, the plane I was aboard, touched down in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday, December 7th — two days after President Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95.  As my pastor has since assured me, this was divine destiny: to be in that country, at that time.  It was my first trip to the Motherland, and as I took my first steps on Africa’s hallowed ground, I was anxious about what I might see and experience.


To be sure, Johannesburg (“Joburg,” as South Africans affectionately call it) defies the stereotypical images perpetuated by American media.  Little is “Third World” about this great city.  With a population of more than 3 million, it has more people living in its city limits than the number of people living in my current home of Chicago.  The district we stayed in, Sandton, is a bustling, modern mix of business offices, shopping malls and upscale hotels.  It is the neighborhood where Oprah and President Obama stay when they visit Johannesburg.

President Mandela lived a couple of miles away from Sandton in an elegant suburb called Houghton.  The neighborhood reminded me of driving down the best-manicured streets of Kenwood-Hyde Park in Chicago or Bel Air in Los Angeles.  Huge houses are protected by large fences, walls and gates.  A security guard stood on the red brick sidewalk leading to the golden-walled home that Mandela lived in until he passed.  What was most striking about Mandela’s house was the dense, 6-foot wall of flowers that surrounded it (pic above).  The rows of flowers had been there for months — repeatedly replenished by admirers of “Madiba” (as South Africans call him) since he had fallen gravely ill.

The people of South Africa, indeed the people of the world, love Nelson Mandela.  The current of that love washed over me like a spiritual tsunami, as I stood not too many steps from his front door.  And as I spent the next several days with South Africa’s people, I learned a lot about why Mandela was so beloved as a leader.  Here, I share five attributes, or lessons, that made his leadership style so irresistible and effective. (more…)

Leadership: A High Performance Year for Women Execs


Dick Costolo took Twitter public last year. Jeff Bezos continues to transform Amazon into the “everything” retailer. Sergio Marchionne is resurrecting Chrysler. These men led their companies to impressive achievements in 2013. Still, in my book, no one accomplished more than Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer, HP’s Meg Whitman and Xerox’s Ursula Burns. Here’s why:

Mayer faced an uphill battle when she was named CEO in the summer of 2012. Yahoo, once a promising player in the race for Internet riches, had been dusted by the likes of Google and Facebook. Despite the millions of users it had drawn over the years, I considered the Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale) company’s prospects as dead as a dial-up modem.

Clearly, Mayer doesn’t give a hoot what most people think. One of her first moves as Chief in 2013 was to ban Yahoo employees from working from home (and this in a region legendary companies were launched by people working in PJs out of their garage).  The approach drew widespread criticism at first. But in Mayer’s mind, “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side,” she wrote in an internal memo. “That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

The  move helped develop a culture of collaboration and devotion at Yahoo. (more…)

Leadership: Unilever’s Chairman Explains Boardroom Strategy

Leadership in the Field: Interviews with Global Leaders

By Russell Reynolds Associates with Roger O. Crockett

Michael Treschow, Chairman of Unilever, discusses the board’s relationship with the C-suite, including CEO support, succession, diversity and driving a winning strategy.

For a glimpse of Treschow’s views on leadership, watch the video below.



Michael Treschow is Chairman of Unilever N.V. and PLC, a global powerhouse in consumer packaged goods. He was appointed Chairman in May 2007. He is a member of Unilever’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and the Compensation and Management Resources Committee. Prior to joining the Unilever board, Treschow was Chairman of telecom networking equipment maker Telefonaktiebolaget L M Ericsson, from 2002 to 2011. He was also chairman of the board of AB Electrolux from 2004 to 2007. Treschow became CEO of Electrolux in 1997, and before that he was president and CEO of Atlas Copco AB. A native of Sweden, Treschow was chairman of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise until joining Unilever.

CHAPTER 1: Supporting a new CEO through succession and transition

Roger Crockett:       As Chairman of Ericsson previously and now with Unilever, you’ve overseen several CEO successions.  So what is the role of the Chairman in that succession planning process?

Michael Treschow: I think the Chairman has to be the most active in it, but particularly if you look at the situation in the Anglo Saxon companies, like Unilever, the Nomination Committee, which is a committee of the board, has a key role to make sure that you specify the job and run the process.

If we take the example of Unilever, our Nomination Committee meets every time we have a board meeting, roughly five or six times a year.  Among its key duties is surely to make sure we are on top of the succession planning.  But also the full board is interested. So at least once a year we have a full session with the board on succession planning and talent management. (more…)

Leadership: Amazon CEO Sets Pace for Jobs and Innovation


Amazon recently announced that it missed earnings on the bottom line for the period ending in June, and yet the stock has hardly quivered. It dropped in early trading July 25 when earnings were released, but it has since bounced back. The stock is up nearly 30% over the past 12 months, and in March traded at more than 700 times the previous 12 months’ earnings—the highest price-to-earnings ratio of any company in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. All this, despite consistently reporting flat to negative net income.

What gives?  Well, investors are showing confidence in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his growth strategy. They recognize that sales remain extremely strong, growing 22% to 15.7 billion in the second quarter. Meanwhile the company is using its cash to invest: In warehouses for distribution that brings the orders of its various products to consumers more quickly, in movie development and distribution, in new hand-held devices and set-top boxes that expand the array of entertainment and information options for users.

Some wonder if Amazon is the omen to a sequel of the dotcom crash. I don’t think so. (more…)

Leadership: Mobile Phone Chairman on Boardroom Execution

Leadership in the Field: Interviews with Global Leaders

By Russell Reynolds Associates with Roger O. Crockett

Gerard Kleisterlee, Chairman of mobile phone giant Vodafone, discusses the role of the board in different regions of the world, the relevance of cultural and gender differences, and the board’s impact on innovation.

For a glimpse of Kleisterlee’s views on leadership, watch the video below.


Gerard Kleisterlee is Chairman of London-based Vodafone Group Plc. If you are not from Europe, or if you don’t spend considerable time there, you might not know that Vodafone is the world’s second largest mobile phone operator with more than 400 million subscribers—roughly quadruple the number of subscribers served by Verizon Wireless, a company Vodafone owns 45% of. Kleisterlee became Chairman in July of 2011, serving as a non-executive member of the Board. He retired as President, CEO and Chairman of Philips Electronics N.V. (‘Philips’) in March 2011 after a career with Philips spanning three decades. Indeed, Kleisterlee has become one of the most prolific governance executives in Europe. In addition to his role at Vodafone, he has been a member of the Daimler AG Supervisory Board since 2009, a non-executive director of the Supervisory Board of Royal Dutch Shell since 2010. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Dell Inc.

Often on the road, Kleisterlee met with us in Vodafone’s Amsterdam offices. Our meeting came before Vodafone launched its current takeover bid for Germany’s biggest cable operator, Kabel Deutschland. But one wonders if Kleisterlee, given his expansive mind and Vodafone’s interest in dominating media services across Europe, might not have already been thinking about such deals. As tempting as it was to talk about wireless, instead we focused on another important subject: corporate governance. After all, Kleisterlee’s knowledge on the topic reaches nearly as far as he is tall. For a glimpse, play the video above or read the edited transcript that follows. (more…)

Leadership: Former WNBA President on Sports and Women

Leadership in the Field: Interviews with Global Leaders

By Russell Reynolds & Associates with Roger O. Crockett

Val Ackerman, former WNBA President, discusses women in leadership, how to succeed in a male-dominated industry, and the leadership development benefits of sports.

For a glimpse of Val Ackerman’s views on leadership, watch the video interview by clicking the video box.


Valerie “Val”Ackerman served as the founding President of the Women’s National Basketball Association from 1996 to 2005. From 2005 to 2008, she served as the first female President of USA Basketball, which oversees both the U.S. men’s and women’s Olympic basketball programs. During her tenure, the programs notched a record of 222-23, including gold medal performances by the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She currently is the U.S. representative to the International Basketball Federation, an adjunct professor of sports management at Columbia University and a sports consultant.

Ackerman was generous in praising several men, including NBA Commissioner David Stern, for their mentorship over the years. She even told me during our interview that she owes as much or more of her success to hard work rather than sheer smarts. Maybe so. But it doesn’t take long, when talking with Ackerman, to discern that she is one smart human being. It’s no easy task for a woman to achieve her level of success and in the male-dominated world of sports.  Read the edited transcript that follows (more…)

Leadership: Baby Slap Makes The Case For Cultural Ethics

Maybe Joe Rickey Hundley had a bad day. Or maybe, more likely, he’s just a bad guy. It doesn’t matter. The alleged baby-slapping, slur-slinging airline traveler broke more rules than Ferris Bueller on his day off.  Give me Ferris any day. Even an irreverent teenager knows better than to slap a toddler who isn’t even his.

Such behavior is absolutely reprehensible coming from a company president, as Hundley was. Looking at the incident through the lens of corporate leadership, it’s clear this drunken executive acted in a manner terribly unbecoming of an employee—any employee, let alone a top-level manager. If you somehow missed the story, an FBI court affidavit says the accused, Joe Rickey Hundley, an aerospace executive based in Hayden, Idaho, was on a Feb. 8 Delta Air Lines flight sitting next to Jessica Bennett and her young son. Bennett, like Hundley, is white, but her 19-month old adopted boy is African-American. Bennett told FBI agents that as the plane began its descent her boy started crying (which babies typically do), and that’s when Hundley rudely told her, “shut that N—-r baby up.”  Then Hundley, according to court documents, slapped the baby in the face, scratching him below his eye.

Most people are appalled that a 60-year-old man would slap a baby, particularly one that’s not his. It’s inexcusable. But there’s an opportunity for a different sort of teachable moment here. No one should rise as high as Hundley did inside a company without fully understanding and abiding by what I call cultural ethics. You’ve heard of business ethics, right? Those are the standards and rules that govern employee behavior. For example, some companies have rules stating they should not use child labor. They should not unlawfully use copyrighted materials and processes. They should not engage in bribery. Such rules are often written in a company’s code of ethics. For employees, these rules establish guidelines they can follow to distinguish between “right” and “wrong,” and direct people toward the “right” choice. Often, there’s a business ethics training workshop required of employees.

Well, I think such codes of ethics ought to be updated to reflect the global environment we live in. (more…)

Leadership: CEOs To Watch In 2013

Some new leaders stepped into the light last year. Will they succeed or fail? And what about some familiar names? Can they keep the magic going? Here are some top managers to keep an eye on.

Tim Cook, Apple

Its tough following in the footsteps of a legend. But that’s where Cook finds himself. So far it’s been a turbulent ride, and 2013 is emerging as a pivotal year. The Apple iPhone’s dominance in smartphones is under siege by Samsung’s Galaxy line, and new entries by Microsoft and Blackberry will only make things tougher this year. That’s one reason investors have taken a bite out of Apple (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!). Apple’s shares were trading in the mid-$400 range in January, stratospheric by most standards but more than a 30% drop from Apple’s high of $705 per share in September 2012. Despite announcing strong quarterly earnings in January, the bellwether’s stock still slipped 12% in what was its largest single-day loss since 2008.

The erosion caused Apple to fall behind Exxon as the most valuable company in the world in market cap, and left Cook scrambling to explain to employees and investors what’s up. Over the years, Apple has excelled by targeting the high-end and earning loyalty with elegant and innovative products. But that high-end is becoming saturated, and rivals are taking share with lower-priced devices. Most experts believe Apple must carve out new territory among the mainstream. And Cook best start cracking the innovation whip. Apple has relied on incremental updates to its existing lines, while rivals introduce attractive new features. To re-accelerate growth and reinvigorate the stock, Apple needs to launch new products–and, as in the days of old, create new markets.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!

After just six months at the controls, the former Google star led Yahoo to an upbeat quarterly performance, increasing revenue for the first time in four years. She pumped life into the search business, revamped the e-mail service and redesigned Flickr, Yahoo’s photo-sharing app. Fans attribute the good news to “Marissa Magic”.

But she’ll have to perform many more tricks this year, especially in the critically important digital ad space. (more…)

Leadership: Habits of Successful Business People

What’s the secret to success in business? How does one convert his or her skill set into a climb up the corporate ladder or turn a good idea into a blockbuster entrepreneurial business? The people that do it well become business leaders–CEOs, Chairman, Founders, Partners. There’s no sure-fire method, and a certain amount of luck is needed. But follow the examples set by the successful, and a blueprint emerges. I recently joined Tom Burrell (far left), marketing and advertising pioneer and founder of Burrell Communications, and other successful leaders in a conversation on “Habits for Success” presented by news and lifestyle site, The Root. Click The Root Live to listen.

Burrell talked about the importance of having a mentor to help set us on the right path and keep us there. I couldn’t agree more. No successful business leader achieved success on his or her own. They each had someone who invested in their success and helped guide the way. So what exactly is a mentor? The important thing is to distinguish between a mentor and simply a friend or caring associate. I once asked Dick Parsons, the former CEO of Time Warner and former Chairman of Citigroup, about that distinction. We spoke about his relationship with Vernon Jordan, the Lazard senior adviser and “first friend” to President Bill Clinton. Parsons considers Jordan a friend and adviser on a personal issues. On occasion, if he was wrestling with something at work or a career move, he would call Jordan for his wisdom and ask for his sense of the situation.

A mentor is someone like Ardie Ivy was to me when I was a college senior grappling with how to forge a career. Ardie, a marketing specialist in Los Angeles at the time, took me under his wing. He made my success his personal mission and responsibility. He helped me forge a 5-year plan, the career equivalent to a business plan, only I was the “business”. Ardie was to me as I suspect Nelson Rockefeller was to Dick Parsons, or as former American Express CEO Harvey Golub was to current American Express CEO Ken Chenault.

Besides having a good mentor, here are four additional “habits” I’ve observed in the successful leaders I’ve interviewed over the years: (more…)