Bob Dylan and Yogi Berra were right: The times are a-changing, and nobody can predict what’s coming next. In an age of global upheaval, how do we choose a course?
The answer may be to surround yourself with good people, communicate with them and take advantage of their diversity, according to Mark Weinberger, global chairman and CEO of EY (formerly Ernst and Young), a global business support firm with some 200,000 employees providing auditing, tax management and other services to businesses worldwide.
Weinberger presented the 33rd annual Hatfield Lecture, “Going Long: Leadership Strategies for a Volatile World,” Sept. 17 in Statler Auditorium, to a packed audience of students, faculty and alumni.
At a recent global economic forum he attended, Weinberger recalled, no one predicted an Asian financial meltdown, or that the price of oil would fall from $100 to $40 a barrel. And of course no one could have known that a tsunami would strike Japan, disrupting the supply chain in which Japan provides components for products assembled elsewhere.
There are longer, more gradual changes, he added. Of the very first list of Fortune 500 companies, only 57 are left. Ninety percent of people under age 30 now live in emerging nations – and practically all of them have smartphones. “The possibilities are endless,” Weinberger said. “There is a huge potential and there are major opportunities for all of us.”
You can no longer be an imperial CEO, he said. You must build a diverse team for a diverse world – people who will inform you about what end users of products and services care about. “If you don’t have the right people making decisions, you will get the wrong answers,” he explained. A CEO should be responding to stakeholders, not shareholders, he said, and that includes employees. Although it was part of a joke, he may have summed up his message with, “If I tried to do all this myself I’d be a failure.”
A Cornell education is good preparation for all this, he noted, because, “You learn how to learn.”
Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett introduced Weinberger, with whom she worked many years ago when both were aides to members of Congress. A Hatfield Fellowship, Garrett said, is “the highest honor Cornell can bestow on someone from the private sector.” She thanked Weinberger for hiring 92 Cornell graduates this year. “We’re just getting started,” Weinberger said later. “We’re shooting for 200.”
The Hatfield Fellows program is supported by the Robert S. Hatfield Fund for Economic Education, created in 1980 by the Continental Group Foundation in honor of the retiring chairman, president and CEO of Continental Group. Fellows spend part of their time on campus meeting with students and faculty.