This week, we speak with Ron Williams, former CEO of Aetna. He joined the company when it was not doing well, and turned it around, making it profitable, eventually selling the firm to CVS. He is the author of Learning to Lead: The Journey to Leading Yourself, Leading Others, and Leading an Organization.
Williams describes his experiences at Control Data, which 70,000 people to a 3 person start up to Blue Cross of California at about 5,000 people. But he notes that it is not the size but the corporate culture that is most important. He explains how Blue Cross would hold dinners for senior executives, bringing in former CEOs to explain their experiences insights. Williams says these evenings helped him develop the skills he needed to become a CEO.
When he took over as CEO of Aetna, he started a listening tour of the company to speak with various employees. When an employee doctor asked why anyone should believe him — he was the 5th CEO making the case — it was the start of an honest but painful turnaround that helped save the company. “Buy-ins from all constituencies” was the key to any success in William’s experience. The company eventually is named Fortune’s most admired health care company 3 years in a row.
In his book, Learning to Lead, Williams also describes via Peter Drucker that you must lead yourself before you can lead others. This includes teaching yourself the skills in team building, transitional change, and communication before you can lead an organization.
You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Apple iTunes, Overcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Bloomberg, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.
Next week, we speak with Jay Bowen of Bowen, Hanes. They have been the sole manager of the Tampa Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Pension Fund over the last 44 years, and have managed to significantly outperform the markets during that period. The “Tampa Fund” has become shorthand for a simpler, cheaper and more effective way of managing capital in the public pension space.
Ron Williams Authored Book
Learning to Lead: The Journey to Leading Yourself, Leading Others, and Leading an Organization by Ron Williams and Karl Weber
Ron Williams Favorite Books
Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker
Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
And Herbie Hancock album discusse
River: The Joni Letters by Herbie Hancock