If it weren’t for the advocacy of Richard Davis, president, CEO and chairman of U.S. Bancorp, Minnesota might not be hosting the 2018 Super Bowl.
Normally, I’m not a huge football fan. But when I read that Mr. Davis was the Opus College of Business 2015 Distinguished Speaker, I had to go. As a finance professional, I was intrigued by the economic impact of such a high-profile event on our community.
Davis proved to be a captivating speaker. When he explained how values and ethics play into the vision and decision-making of a business, he inspired everyone there—including me.
During the event, we were encouraged to tweet our thoughts on leadership, success and ethics, and to explore St. Thomas’ FindYourAnswer.com using #FindYourAnswer. The person with the most compelling comments, we were told, would win lunch with Mr. Davis—and the winner could set the agenda for the meeting.
I posted several comments on the website and waited on pins and needles for a day. And then I learned I’d won lunch with Richard Davis!
When the day of our lunch arrived, I was a little apprehensive. After all, it’s not every day that I share a meal with a CEO. But Mr. Davis immediately put me at ease. We discovered several commonalities in our backgrounds and careers, including our economic educations, a love of math and our financial careers.
I really wanted to know how I could apply his insights and experience to my own personal and professional life, so I questioned him on everything from his leadership style and key strategies to his vision for U.S. Bancorp. Here’s what I took away from our conversation:
- Core values are fundamental to successful organizations. At U.S. Bancorp, leaders and employees are expected to live the organization’s core values, and not to simply pay them lip service. The business conducts culture audits and employee engagement surveys to measure alignment with core values, and uses storytelling and advocacy to share values internally.
- Leaders must be strong communicators, reaching out often and across all levels of the company. Vocal advocates can help leaders spread the word.
- A CEO’s most important leadership decisions ensure long-term strength, keeping the fire burning while also serving the needs of employees, customers and shareholders.
- Celebrating innovation and entrepreneurialism helps organizations think and act in new ways. Leaders need the courage to try new things and make bold decisions.
- Leaders can improve their own skills and decision-making by reading and listening to other leaders—as well as their own workforce.
- Today’s leaders face new challenges, including changes in the workforce and new customer expectations. They shouldn’t confuse management with true leadership, which inspires others to do their best.
Many thanks to the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business for this amazing opportunity, and to Mr. Davis as well. I’m so glad I discovered the #FindYourAnswer hashtag on Twitter—and if you’re wondering what you could learn by lunching with a CEO, I suggest you do the same!
Ola Osho '07 M.B.A., '08 M.S.S. is principal at Joseph & John Group, LLC