Dave Calhoun took on a near impossible job when he became CEO of Boeing in January 2020. Two deadly plane crashes of the Boeing 737 Max, which killed 346 passengers, had cratered the company’s reputation. And his predecessor had flubbed the response.
So how did he begin to pull the company back from the brink? (The job is not yet done.) That’s the question Michal Lev-Ram and I asked him on this week’s episode of our podcast Leadership Next. His answer is a lesson in leadership. But one piece, in particular, resonated with me:
“You have to be transparent with literally everything, no matter how uncomfortable the data is or the conversation is. You have to tell everybody everything, including the media. And you’re going to get whacked along the way, and that’s life. But for us to regain trust, number one with our own people, and then with the flying public, they were going to have to believe us. And that was the culture we were going to carry forward.”
The general media critique was that Boeing had compromised safety for the sake of quarterly profits. But Calhoun sees it differently:
“We had a culture problem. But I’ll characterize it quite a bit differently than the media liked to characterize it. The idea that any human being makes a trade of quarterly profits over safety is just a flawed notion…It’s just not what happened. What I do think I found was an organization and a company and a culture that was having a hard time being honest with one another, with where programs stood, how much time was required, what things still needed to be completed. As a result, leadership became disconnected from the ground troops.”
I write a lot in this newsletter about how leadership has changed in recent decades. But while many things have changed, some haven’t. Calhoun says he learned the value of transparency from the iconic leader of the last century, former GE CEO Jack Welch.
“The one thing you could count on from Jack was pure reality and pure clarity every step of the way. He told you everything he thought about your business, what he had heard from the people he visited with in Crotonville the day before. He just went at you … He kept you ahead of the game.”
I pointed out there are other parts of the Welch management legacy that haven’t weathered as well. His response:
“It was a different time and a different context. Leaders have to change and adapt to the circumstances we’re faced with. Do I think Jack would have adapted and led in these changed circumstances as well as he did back then? I think the answer is yes.”
You can listen to the full interview on Apple or Spotify. More news below. And be sure to read Shawn Tully’s fascinating analysis of the “Trillion Dollar Club” and the challenge it poses to today’s stock market investors.
Salesforce employees laid off earlier this year may soon be re-hired as the company tries to fill “a significant number of new roles” for its messaging platform Slack, Fortune’s Kylie Robison reports. According to an internal note to staff, new hires will focus on product development and generative A.I. Salesforce is hurriedly rolling out over half a dozen new “GPT” tools to keep up with the new technology. Fortune
FedEx reported its third consecutive drop in revenue on Tuesday as the delivery company still struggles with a slumping e-commerce market. The delivery company reported $21.9 billion in quarterly sales, a 10.3% year-on-year drop. CEO Raj Subramaniam is currently leading a drive to cut $4 billion in costs from the company. Bloomberg
Google’s ad monopoly
Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the U.S., has filed a lawsuit accusing Google of monopolizing the digital advertising market. The publisher argues that Google’s dominance lowers prices and thus hurts the provision of local news content. Gannet’s action follows a similar antitrust suit from the Department of Justice earlier this year. The Wall Street Journal
AROUND THE WATERCOOLER
Elon Musk says A.I. will bring ‘an age of abundance’—but others say a devastating ‘liar’s dividend’ could also be a byproduct of A.I. by Jeremy Kahn
Intel soaks up Europe’s chip anxieties and subsidies by the billions by David Meyer
Kevin Hart didn’t want to just wait for the Hollywood phone to ring. So he created a multimedia powerhouse on the side by Massimo Marioni
Mark Zuckerberg has got $39 billion richer during the A.I. boom. He’s not alone—the world’s über-wealthy have made a killing by Eleanor Pringle
Bill Gates’ venture firm, with backing from Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma, just minted a $1 billion A.I. unicorn that uses machine learning for mining rare earth metals crucial for EVs by Chris Morris
AB InBev’s chief marketing exec calls boycott over its Bud Light beer an ‘important wake-up call’ for brands to be ‘very humble’ by Christiaan Hetzner
This edition of CEO Daily was curated by Nicholas Gordon.
This is the web version of CEO Daily, a newsletter of must-read insights from Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.
Read the full article here