I've been meaning to blog about what was perhaps the best leadership conference I have ever attended: HSM's World Business Forum, held here in New York October 10 and 11. First the quality of the speakers: Alan Greenspan, Jack Welch, Garry Kasparov, Michael Eisner, Herb Keller, Fred Smith and Scott McNealy to name a few. The fact that everyone offered really valuable insight and the whole thing ran on time was also most impressive. The conference came at the perfect time, as I have been contemplating weighty business and personal issues. So here are some of the takeaways which inspired me to see and think more clearly, and some other interesting business insights from some of the world's most accomplished business leaders and thinkers. Because of the length, I will break it up into a couple of posts.
Alan Greenspan, Former Chairman, Federal Reserve -- Mr. Greenspan is quite a funny guy, and quite to speak in layman's terms about complex issues. "I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said," he commented. According to Mr. Greenspan, there will probably NOT be a recession because even with the declining housing market, subprime crisis and credit crunch, because the U.S. stock market is so strong. Interestingly, one of his greatest learnings as Chairman of the Federal Reserve was that all the models and econometrics and historical data can not help you predict human euphoria or fear, which has fueled some of the greatest up- and down-turns in history. One can only use models to prepare for a crisis, which he had to employ during the stock market plunge of October 19th 1987, only 2 months after taking office. He also acknolwedged that the U.S. is doing quite well economically, and that the global economy is truly self-calibrating and self correcting. Interestingly, the IMF (International Monetrary Fund) and the amount of loans they have outstanding are so low they arent getting the interest income to sustain themselves and so their long term viability is becoming a question mark. So much more to add clearly, but you can get it all in his Memoirs, which is a big read, but actually pretty good.
Jack Welch, Former Chairman, CEO of General Electric -- Jack is a salt of the earth kind of guy. I love his Boston accent, and his sharp sense of humor. He uses his intuition to make some of the biggest deals he's ever made as CEO of General Electric, but always does his homework when hiring people. He is quite pointed when he explains that the worst people he ever hired were MBA's from the Ivy League schools. His leadership style is extremely, if brutally, honest. He describes candor in the following way: "Forget about outside competition when your own worst enemy is the way you communicate with each other internally." Organizations in danger are those where there is a withholding of comments or criticism, sugarcoating bad news to maintain appearances, false politeness and decisions being made behind closed doors. Mr. Welch also commented on our current administration, on its inability to communicate effectively, and the power of China as a new economic force. His prediction: they will be flying high until after the Olympics. Meanwhile, watch out for Russia. They have a lot of oil, and they've been quietly getting their act together.
Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Board of Intel -- Mr. Barrett's passion now is U.S. education, and getting more kids into college in the technical areas. His five business maxims: Invest -- dont save your way out of a recession, it's better to invest your way out; Change -- its always better to change your business before the environment or competition forces you to change; Question -- unless you ask "why?" four or five times you will neve get to the root cause of any problem; Planning -- surprises are for birthday presents, not business relationships; Knowledge -- if you know and love your business, then dont be swayed by the so called experts who earn a living critiquing you!
Garry Kasparov, Chairman of the United Civil Front of Russia, International Chess Champion -- This gentleman, most known for his achievements in the game of chess, is now running against Putin for the Presidency of Russia. His goal is to help further democratize Russia. Wow. Talk about courage. His sage advice: Intuition is your most powerful tool. Having the courage to trust your intuition is the only way to develop it. And what separates winners from losers is the willingness to do what is not expected. If you live in fear, you will live a life of medocrity. And one must also be comfortable failing because one learns from failure.