It’s no surprise that the world of work is changing—big time. We are shifting to a new type of leadership, and we’re about to welcome a new generation of innovative thinkers to the work ranks.
But how do we prepare for this new future of work? I recently sat down with Maynard Webb, founder of Webb Investment Network, author of Rebooting Work, founder of Everwise, chairman of the board at Yahoo! and an Imagineer on a mission to crack the code of human potential. He also contributed to Richard Branson’s recent report on “The New Ways of Working,” and with his extensive leadership experience, business acumen and total devotion to helping others reach their potential, he is just the person to tell us what the future has in store for great CEOs. The verdict? Command and control leadership is a thing of the past, and putting people first is the business imperative for the future.
Laura Garnett: What are the characteristics of a great CEO of the future?
Maynard Webb: I think it’s somebody who understands it’s all about inspiring talent. A lot of great CEOs understand that nothing happens without people joining them. Having an inspiring and engaged workforce is key to success.
I sit on the board of Salesforce, and Marc Benioff (the CEO) has done an amazing job at creating this dynamic, energized, industry rule breaking company. For the last four years it has been rated the most innovative company in America by FORBES, and it continues to climb up the rankings as one of the best places to work. Mark knows it’s all about having visionary ideas and disrupting the world of technology. The way he achieves this is by inspiring people and guiding them. Every person should own a piece of the destiny of the company.
Garnett: Can a large organization make a complete shift in how they operate (i.e. from command and control to innovative and people first)? If so, what is the most important action that a CEO needs to make first?
Webb: Yes, they absolutely can. But you have to make really symbolic changes and show that you care for that shift to really happen. For example, when my friend Meg Whitman first started as CEO of HP, the company had separate offices, dining rooms and parking places for executives. When she got there she took down the walls and put executives in cubes. She got rid of the special dining rooms and had executives eat in the cafeteria with everyone else, and this was a very symbolic act to show that things were going to change.
Another example is CEO of Yahoo! Maris sa Mayer, who talks to the entire employee base every Friday afternoon about the state of the business and the state of the company. She brings in comments from her employees into the boardroom, so that they know we are listening to what most matters to them. In all, it’s about showing openness and transparency. The best leaders know that they are going to make mistakes, and they should acknowledge mistakes and not being afraid to share mistakes. They exemplify the attributes that they would like to see in a leader.
Garnett: What should be every current leader or CEO’s biggest priority now in order to create a great place to work now and in the future?
Webb: The biggest priority should be helping each employee fulfill his or her destiny. Create a workplace that’s focused on helping employees get as far along on their journeys as they can, and you will never lose anybody. Focus on employee success en route to delivering company success.
Garnett: Besides not attracting the best talent, what does a CEO lose by not innovating to a people-first model?
Webb: Think of the passion and capability that comes from an engaged workforce! Salesforce has been named the most innovative company for the last four years, and we achieved that through a fired-up workforce and energy. It’s more like a rock concert than a computer show. The energy and capability of an organization expands exponentially when you have engaged and passionate people working for you.
Garnett: What was the catalyst in your life to engage in people-first leadership, and how would you advise aspiring CEOs to be more people-first?
Webb: I have always enjoyed working for inspiring leaders and cultures. When I was at eBay, I was inspired by the power of the marketplace and the community. I realized the importance of engaging that community correctly. As we put out new guidelines and principles, it was important to let innovation flourish in the marketplace and to enable the community rather than control them. It changed the way that I thought about networks and communities. Anytime we would try to do something that seemed more command-and-control, it would not go over well and there would be mini revolts. When you guide people and give them choice they do better things than what you can imagine. You have to go slower in order to go faster.
By Laura Garnett
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