The world is becoming increasingly connected, and future leaders need to have world-sized mindsets. That’s the message from Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings. Overseeing multiple worldwide brands like Priceline.com, Booking.com, Kayak.com, and OpenTable. The company has 24,500 employees in 200 countries, Glenn understands the opportunities and challenges that come with global connectivity. But as the world changes and leaders have more exposure to the world around them, they need to think big and be aware of the global impact of their actions to be successful.
As part of the research for my new book, The Future Leader, I interviewed more than 140 top CEOs around the world, including Glenn. He shared his great insights on what leaders need to do to succeed in the next decade and beyond, including having a global mindset.
Jacob: What trends do you think are going to impact the future of leadership?
Glenn: One of the trends that we’ve been seeing over the past 20 to 30 years is a significant accelerating rate of change in the business environment. That means leaders have to adjust to make decisions so much faster. In fact, it’s reached a level where it’s impossible for the leader to make all the decisions, so you’ve got to be able to push downward decisions so that you’re empowering other people to make those decisions. If you don’t, you’re never going to be able to keep up with all the changes that are happening.
The people who are looking backwards, and looking at how can we execute our way out of the struggles that we may be having in our business right now? I think, are ultimately going to fail.
Another one is recognizing that the leader is important to help the success of the organization, but it’s the organization’s success that’s the goal, not the leader’s success. So, it’s the issue of you should not let your ego, as a leader, help determine what your decision should be. It should always be subsumed to the organization’s success, not the leader’s success, and you see a lot of examples of failure that may have come out of confusion by a leader thinking that their success was more important than an organization’s success. And, that goes into the other issue of leadership which is being willing to sacrifice, and the first sacrifice you should be making is your own. Trying to remember that the people who you are working with need to be provided for first, and the leader is last in line or should be last in line.
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Jacob: What mindsets do you think are going to be important for the leader of the future?
Glenn: Clearly, globalism has been a force that has been going around for some time now, but it continues to increase. You can’t be a leader of a world-sized organization without having a world-sized mindset. While in many places, you’re finding a push against globalism and internationalism. You’re seeing a rise in xenophobia, and that is a trend that somebody has to fight against and really consider oneself a citizen of the world and not a nationalist if you want to have a worldwide company. You can’t have a narrow view and think of things from a point of view of your culture or where you’re from. You’ve got to be able to think much more broadly.
Jacob: What skills do future leaders need?
Glenn: They have to be willing to learn, always. You can never stop learning because with this accelerating change, this issue of a world view, if you stop learning, the world will have changed more and you’ll no longer be effective.
Something else that’s important, you’re gonna need a greater deal of empathy. And the reason is because as our business continue to evolve, you’re seeing a schism between the haves and the have nots, and there was a mindset in the past of well, if this person is not doing well, they’re just not working hard enough. But, I think what we need to do is develop more empathy you know maybe the way they created the structures around the world are creating some of the inability for some people to participate, and I think that empathy will help leaders think about ways to try and become more inclusive of people that have been unfortunately hurt by the structural changes happening around the world in terms of businesses.
Jacob: What are some of the greatest challenges that future leaders will have to overcome?
Glenn: Dealing with the expectations that business leaders have to become more than just business leaders. In the past, the biggest part of the social contract between a business and its employees was to pay them and have people work, get paid, work, get paid, but now, particularly the millennial generation expects a lot more. They expect their organization to take stands on issues. They expect their organization to make statements about whatever the issues of the day are. That’s a big difference because the challenge now is for a business leader who on the one hand has a fiduciary obligation to what’s best for the organization, and at the same time, also now has an obligation to a bunch of other stakeholders beyond that, which would be its employees, its customers, its suppliers, its community and all these other issues. And, that’s a change from the past, and that’s going to be a very big challenge for a lot of business leaders, one because a lack of having grown up in that type of environment so it’s a new skillset to learn and do but even more so, it’s because it requires making choices that probably many business leaders would prefer not to have to make because one would end up, no matter what choice is made, causing some of their stakeholders to be unhappy whether it’s customers, suppliers or whoever.
Jacob: How do you define leadership?
Glenn: I think you have to define it by the traits of what a leader is and does, and so we can go down the list about being willing to sacrifice for the organization, humbleness, willing to listen, having a belief in what the mission is, having vision, and more. How you describe leadership is by the characteristics of a leader.
Jacob: Do you have any leadership hacks, tips, techniques that you’ve used during the course of your career that you think helped make you a more effective leader?
Glenn: Well, it’s a thing that people talk about all the time, and that’s listening. It’s recognizing you don’t have all the right answers and hiring people who can help you learn what the right answers are. But if you don’t listen to what they’re saying, it’s not going to help you very much is it. So, I would say listening more than you talk is a good thing to do.
Jacob: What one moment or experience most shaped your perspectives on leadership?
Glenn: In 1995, the company I was at, Kidder Peabody, was bought by Paine Webber and my job, along with most of the other bankers at Kidder, was eliminated. The process was about as cold as it could be with people not expecting that there would be a mass layoff and on the day it happened, you were asked to come to a conference room and simply told your job had been eliminated. You were told to sign an agreement immediately if you wanted to get a severance package and then go back to your desk with a security officer and gather your personal belongings and leave the premises. Forever since, one thing that comes into my mind in every business decision I make is how might this impact employees
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