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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

Jul 8, 2020

Ron Williams is the former chairman and CEO of Aetna Inc. Ron’s new book is Learning to Lead: The Journey to Leading Yourself, Leading Others, and Leading an Organization. On the podcast, Ron provides practical, tested leadership advice, whether you're searching for a new career, looking for proven management solutions, or seeking to transform your organization. Developed from Ron’s own personal and professional journey, as well as the experiences of America's leading CEOs, these strategies emerge boldly from engaging stories, outlined with practical steps


Key Takeaways

[4:25] Leaders aren’t born. It is a learned skill. You have the ability to excel in whatever you put your mind to. Do not accept the narrative that others impose on you.

[6:45] Surround yourself with people who are where you want to go.

[9:15] When it comes to leading organizations, a critical skill to have is also the ability to lead yourself.

[10:25] While most staff are concerned about this week, this month, this quarter, the CEO and the board have to look beyond the horizon to see what’s next.

[11:20] A piece of advice Ron gives to executives trying to delay gratification: If it feels good, don’t do it.

[13:15] As leaders, it’s important to assume positive intent when it comes to your team. People want to do a good job. Most of them don’t set out to miss deadlines.

[14:15] ‘Why’ is a good question to ask, but it can sometimes make people feel like they’re five years old again trying to justify a bad decision. Instead, rephrase the question to, ‘help me understand what were some of the barriers.’ Make your ‘why’ question a collaboration question.

[18:15] In order to solve the right problem, you have to give your team the room to come forward and communicate.

[22:55] Values are only real if the executives talk about it and live it within the organization.

[27:10] Failure of leadership is when you create yes-men in your organization and your staff are too scared to speak up on bad ideas.

[29:10] Leaders can achieve great success in organizations with different approaches: Fear, Money, Pride, Values. Just because someone is successful, doesn’t mean their leadership style was a values-approached style.

[32:45] As the workforce becomes globalized, it’s more important than ever not to hire more people that are similar to you or practice groupthink.

[35:40] Do you think you’re inclusive in your organization? Ask yourself: When was the last time you were in a group where you were a minority?

[38:45] Ron’s challenge: A leader’s role is to develop the talent within an organization. Ron has had five people under him go on to become CEOs. You want to hire people who have the potential to be as good as you, if not better.


Quotable Quotes

  • “If people say, ‘You’ll never be successful,’ ‘You’ll never be a leader,’ learn to not accept their view of you.”
  • “The CEOs are often the only customer for many of the things that are really critical to the success and prosperity of the company. The CEO and the board have to look out over the horizon.”
  • “You have to start with the assumption that people want to do a good job.”
  • “When people get promotions, how many think about the obligations they just took on?”
  • “People merely strengthen their organization by this kind of unique perspective that they bring.”
  • “To bring inclusivity, the answer is to get out of your comfort zone and really have an understanding of what it’s like to see the world through someone else’s view.”


Resources Mentioned


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