Friday, December 15th 2017

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…)

Leadership: Coca-Cola’s former CEO on Strategy & Reinvention

E. Neville Isdell has had a long and distinguished career at The Coca-Cola Co. since he first joined in 1966. He worked in several executive capacities all around the globe until taking a break in 2002, when he was an international consultant to Coca-Cola and head of his Barbados investment company, Collines Investments. Isdell then came back to serve as CEO of Coca-Cola from 2004 to 2008 and as Chairman from 2004 until April 2009. Isdell is also a director on the board of General Motors.

We met with Isdell in the spacious pool house adjacent to his Atlanta home. Given the damp autumn air wasn’t suitable for a swim, and Isdell’s time was precious, we talked leadership instead of taking a dip in the pool. Isdell, who is largely credited for shaking Coke out of its early-2000’s slumber, was a charming and distinguished host. That charm, not to mention his authority as a leader, made the difficult work of rejuvenating a big company like Coke a conceivable task. As CEO, Isdell implemented a plan of systematic employee engagement to boost morale and recraft its strategy. As he shared with us, the plan worked. You can also read about his personal and professional story in his book, Inside Coke (2011).

For a glimpse of Neville Isdell’s views on leadership, watch the video interview by clicking the video box, or read the transcript that follows. (more…)

Leadership: Why You Should Re-elect President Obama

I remember the moment as if it were the indelible climax of a poignant dream: I’m standing in Chicago’s Grant Park under a starry autumn sky next to a friend and his young son. As the time ticks past 10 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2008, my friend raises his arms in victory, his son clinging to his waist, as news flashes onto a big video screen announcing then-Senator Barack Obama has officially won enough electoral votes to become the new President of the United States. As we stand, two black men and a boy about a 40-yard-dash’s length from the lectern Obama would use for his victory speech, we are overwhelmed with a feeling of long-overdue triumph—the exaltation and relief that comes upon knowing that after 232 years of divisive independence, America has looked past race to elect a man of color to the presidency … strictly because of his competencies.

To some, that moment may seem like four very long years ago. Four years of protracted joblessness and general economic malaise. But to me, it still feels as if it happened just last night. As my friend and I cheered, and even shed some tears that evening, I remember feeling, finally, as if we were a nation on the move. It was as if Obama had earned the keys to the American engine of growth and prosperity. But it was clear to me the vehicle he would be driving was no dragster. This would by no means be a sprint to prosperity. It would be one of those dogged desert ATV races—the kind where the vehicle is tossed around violently as it traverses the most bumpy terrain imaginable.

President Obama knew the journey would be difficult. He told us so that night. “The road ahead will be long,” he said four years ago. “Our climb will be steep.”  So steep, in fact, he warned us that we might have to invest in his leadership beyond four years. “We may not get there in one year or even in one term,” he forecast.

I believe we must re-elect President Obama and allow him to lead us to the very prosperity so many believed four years ago that he could unleash. Once you comb through all the clutter, the truth is Obama has indeed been driving us toward the future we crave. (more…)

Leadership: PNC Bank’s CEO Talks Risk, Regulation & Talent

Jim Rohr is Chairman and CEO of PNC Financial Services Group. He arrived at PNC as a young prospect in 1972, and excelled in various marketing and management roles before rising to president and COO in the 1990s. He became CEO in 2000 and Chairman in 2001. In addition to Rohr’s PNC leadership, he is also a director on the boards of BlackRock Inc., ATI, EQT Corp, and the RAND Board of Trustees.

We met with Rohr at PNC’s Pittsburgh headquarters. Instability in the global financial markets, not to mention Americans’ frustration with a sputtering economy, was weighing heavily on his mind, as it would any financial executive’s. Still, Rohr wore an effortless, satisfied smile–as if he had just hit a perfect wedge shot close to the pin at his home golf club. A fan of golf, Rohr is known for a steady hand both on the links and in the office. He has earned praise for leading PNC amid challenge and change. Under his leadership, PNC avoided catastrophe during the nation’s sub-prime mortgage crisis and survived an accounting investigation that forced a restatement of the bank’s earnings. In our conversation, Rohr shared some of his thinking about extending risk management beyond the boardroom and the importance of a diverse, digitally competent workforce.

For a glimpse of Jim Rohr’s views on leadership, watch the video interview by clicking the video box, or read the transcript that follows. (more…)

Leadership: P&G’s Chief Works To Turn the Battleship

Leading a Fortune 100 company is a lonely job.  From afar, it might seem like all glory and fanfare. But let a little bit of trouble and controversy come. As CEO and Chairman, you must always demonstrate control and authority; and yet, you are only as good as the team around you—a team whose actions and statements are driven more by the wish to say the right thing, than to be right.

So, Bob McDonald, CEO and Chairman of venerable but suddenly beleaguered Procter & Gamble, has it tough. He’s in charge of leading an $82 billion global behemoth that sells premium products (Tide, Crest, Olay) to increasingly frugal consumers strapped by the flattest economy in decades. Meanwhile corporate rivals, intent on eating away at P&G’s market-leading share, are slashing prices at a pace that P&G simply can’t afford to match.

But overcoming such an environment is what McDonald is paid to do. And believe you me, that’s what he’s spending every waking hour figuring out. I know McDonald and he’s as disciplined as they come. A West Point graduate, he wakes at the same time every day, returns emails within minutes, and studies markets and costs like a lion eyeing its prey.

McDonald admits that his plan to win the next billion customers by expanding internationally has been slow to pay off. Shareholders are losing confidence and activist investor William Ackman (known for pushing for change at the top) has recently taken a sizeable stake in the company.

Well, I’m betting McDonald turns things around. But he needs help. He’s not the first to face outside pressure of this sort. Two other CEOs I know—Dick Parsons, former CEO of Time Warner and Greg Brown CEO of Motorola (pre-spinoff)—endured the wrath of Carl Icahn, another activist investor with a reputation for breaking up companies. Both CEOs once captained conglomerates with slowing growth and profitability; and yet, both men managed to weather the storm without getting booted. They’re grayer for it, but they did it with the help of very strategic advice from the outside. (more…)

Leadership: Retail Legend Shares Her Secrets to Success

Rose Marie Bravo is the former CEO and Vice Chairman of Burberry Group Plc. Currently, she is a member of the Board of Directors of Tiffany & Co., Estée Lauder Cos. and Williams-Sonoma, which she joined in 2011. Bravo blazed a trail in the retail industry during the 1980s and ‘90s. She held a number of positions at R.H. Macy & Co., culminating as Chairman and CEO of subsidiary I. Magnin from 1987 to 1992. Her success there helped her land the job as President of luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue with responsibility for merchandising, marketing and product development. Then in 1997 she became CEO of Burberry, where she oversaw a bold reform of the British classic brand, expanding the line of products and boosting sales and profits in the process.

Her vast experience and success in retail is precisely the reason Bravo sits on as many boards as she does. We talked about how to excel on a board, about women in leadership, and of course, about retail. After all, (and she’ll bristle at this moniker) Bravo is something like the queen of luxury retail. The nice thing, however, is that she doesn’t act like it. Her commitment to hard work showed during our taping. As much as any executive interviewed for our leadership series, Bravo wanted to get things right, no matter the time it took. It helped that she was camera friendly—with a ready smile, plenty of wits and that good ol’ Bronx-neighborhood charm.

For a glimpse of Rose Marie Bravo’s views on leadership, watch the video interview by clicking the video box, or read the transcript that follows. (more…)