Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Inspiring Unilever CEO Paul Polman Interview About Leadership

It has been a while I wanted to share with you an interview I found about Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, about leadership. This is a must read article, because it gives a clear and great insight. I love the philosophy and the way he perceives his position, and the way to conduct its business.

A great CEO indeed must be able to prepare the future rather than managing the present.

Here are the main insights:

The importance of serendipity
"My career has been a level of serendipity all along. I've never planned anything out more than a few years. All the places we lived—the 12, 13 countries—and the companies I worked for were a combination of circumstances."
I believe that in our nowadays world, serendipity is indeed a factor of success. In a constantly more connected & changing world, you need to open your eyes, share as much as possible, in order to size new opportunities that would not have come to you, or have not been planned.

New generations seeking for purposes:
Paul Polman points out clearly the challenge to find purposes for businesses in order to hire top talents. Why? Because new generations are seeking for ways to improve the world. And in fact, working for a company that don't share the same value, in the end, don't have much future.

"But, for example, if you work at an insurance company that sells premiums you wouldn't even sell to your wife or your mother, how happy would you feel to work there? It's going to eat you up over time. It might last a few years, but it doesn't attract the best people, and it certainly doesn't create the energy and engagement that you need to be a long-term performing company."
Having a clear purpose matters as much as the paycheck, and as Paul Polman said, it is an issue that some financial companies have, now top talent looking for other career options.

How to pursue long term goals rather than short term
Paul Polman has been known in the industry for having abandonned its exhaustive quaterly report. Why has he done it? Because it was shifting the focus of companies on short term goals fix, rather than long term more efficient goals and actions. He also says that by dropping quartely results cleaned its shareholder profiles from some short term speculators.

"The issues we are trying to attack with our business model and that need to be solved in the world today—food security, sanitation, employment, climate change—cannot be solved just by quarterly reporting. They require longer-term solutions and not 90-day pressures."

About the real focus of a CEO
The philosophy of the CEO position of Paul Polman is interesting. He believes (and I agree), the job of CEO is not to do by yourself, but to let people do for you.

"The moment you discover in life that it's not about yourself, that it is about investing in others, I think you're entering a steadier state to be a great leader. Because above all, I think the main quality of a leader is to be a human being. There's no reason you are special because you happen to have this job or this office or these responsibilities."