43 minutes | May 13, 2019

Malcolm Gladwell

On this week's episode of A Call to Lead, I talk with Malcolm Gladwell, renowned journalist and best-selling author who is one of the world's foremost observers of how we live and work and lead. Malcolm has plenty to say, and it's all incredibly thoughtful, different, and relevant. He expounds on how people and businesses function amidst tech revolutions and demographic booms. He riffs on how perhaps arbitrary rules change outcomes of chess championships, LSAT scores, and potential careers. And he explains why we may need "a major re-evaluation, in every profession, of where we find talent." Malcolm and I cover that and much more. It was such a great conversation that we’ll release it in two parts with the second episode dropping in the coming days. Here are five nuggets that my team and I find particularly intriguing from part 1.  Despite the speed of technological change we are living through, Malcolm wondered whether we underestimate the degree to which we sometimes actually struggle to explain or rationalize a technological advancement until long after it appears in the marketplace or in our lives. “I’m really struck by how long it takes us, all of us, to figure out what change means…we come to these conclusions about what something means, but way too quickly. We are sort of fooled by the pace of technological change into thinking that just because technology is moving really quickly, our explanations should have to keep pace. But in fact, what’s really striking about technology is how often the technical side outruns the explanatory side.”  Malcolm talked about how leadership styles are shaped and molded by the culture of the organization in which they lead. "The definition of a leader changes from culture to culture. There are probably a hundred different kinds of leaders. [You] need to define carefully what [you want] in terms of our own institution.”   We discussed the gap that can exist between the type and caliber of talent an institution wants to hire and who they actually hire. “You may know what you want, but unless, in a very systematic focused way, you make a connection between what you want and what you actually go out and find, you won't do a good job. You'll fall back on old habits, and just hire. Malcolm reaffirmed what I’ve heard from almost every leader that I’ve talked to – on the podcast or not – that one of the single most important leadership traits today is humility. "What I'm drawn to, overwhelmingly more and more now, is humility. As the environments that we're working in get more complicated, we need to have leaders who respect that complication—who understand that they cannot know everything."  I asked Malcolm about the root cause behind some of the change we are seeing in the world today, and he wondered whether the demographics and age of our society might have something to do with some of the movements that we see shaping the world. "I wonder whether we are at this moment in our history, getting very fearful in ways that would be consistent with an aging society."    You can learn more by visiting: www.sap.com/acalltolead. And you can subscribe and listen to episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher. We welcome your feedback on the pod! Tweet me @JenniferBMorgan and use the hashtag #acalltolead or e-mail us at acalltolead@sap.com. Where to Listen: Subscribe and listen to episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher. --- Jennifer Morgan is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE and President of SAP’s Cloud Business Group. 
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