I had the opportunity to hear Bill McDermott speak today. Bill is the CEO of SAP SE, an enterprise with about 21 billion Euro in revenues. Watching him speak was just amazing – he was humorous, charismatic, patient, personal, proud of his achievements and most of all, humble. All the traits that many great leaders have. I have written some points that he made; some traits that can be imbibed very easily if one is willing to change.
- There is no substitute for hard work and hard work along with smartness pays off big time. Bill narrated how he traded savings from 3 part time jobs to buy his own deli. He worked hard to increase revenue and beat competition in the neighborhood. The deli supported him through college and he learnt invaluable business lessons through this experience.
- Respect goes a long way in building a business. One should also do what the competition can’t. Bill literally got customers to his deli by giving them a purpose and treating them with respect which his competition didn’t do. His deli was smaller but more agile and customer focused.
- Glorious moments are met with many disappointments in life but it depends on how you pick handle those disappointments. He narrated this story of his job at Xerox and how it was not what he anticipated. But that didn’t deter him. He made use of his communication skills and his sales acumen to build trust in teams and worked his way up the ladder.
- Trust and transparency is imperative in any team without which teams eventually fail. He explained this brilliantly with an example from his stint as the leader of the Puerto Rican sales team at Xerox. The team rose from the last position in terms of sales to number one in a year and exceeded all sales numbers in the whole company. Winning is a habit of people who have a purpose.
- Leaders of consequence know changes they make today affect thousands of people tomorrow. In a leadership position in SAP, Bill took steps he knew will help people in the future. He created that vision and helped team achieve it.
- A hard challenge is always a great opportunity. Aim as high as you can. Simplify the path to that aim and find opportunities to reach that goal. Success is a quest which can be achieved through simplification and creating your own path.
- You will fall, many times, but how you rise up, defines you. Bill lost vision in one of his eyes because of a bad fall last year. When he was lying in a pool of his own blood, one part of him was telling him to sleep, to give up. But his will was on the side of him getting up, of overcoming the accident and returning to his life and inspiring people. Determination to succeed is one’s own personality – so if you are determined, you can overcome any challenge.
It was truly an inspiring talk and am sure motivated to do more.