- Strive For Results, Not For The Accolades
This interview with John Donovan, chief technology officer at AT&T, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.
Q. What were some early leadership lessons for you?
A. There are certain characteristics that give people a start — and for me, I remember starting to use them when I was named captain of my hockey team. I think after that it becomes practice. I think those characteristics are the ability to set a framework that makes sense to people, and being articulate. You can look at the landscape, characterize it and set a framework for action, then be able to articulate it clearly. You have to have antennas for picking out what’s really important.
So you have to have those basic skills and be a good pattern recognizer. I was always good at those problems where you go “two, four, six, eight, what’s next?” And you start to put those skills together and then, like anything else, you get better with practice.
That said, if there’s a situation where someone else needs to lead, and it’s working, that is A-O.K. I don’t feel a burning need to be in charge, and I don’t feel that it’s a bad thing to follow when the right things are getting done. So in some respects, I don’t have the innate drive that certain people have about control and ownership and leadership. When I left Silicon Valley, a lot of people bet me that I wouldn’t last at AT&T. They figured that because I’d been a C.E.O. before, I couldn’t go work at a big company where you have bosses, and you don’t control everything.
It really isn’t even a consideration for me. I just derive great satisfaction from a well-played plan. As a matter of fact, I have an aversion to situations where credit is showered upon leaders. Those don’t sit easily with me. Maybe that’s because I was one of 11 kids in our family. I love engaging, but I don’t like the compliments, with somebody saying, “Hey, great job.”
Thanks to Adam Bryant / NY Times / The New York Times Company
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