On Monday, with all the seating occupied people stood lining the walls filling every vacant space in the GMB chamber in anticipation of the arrival of Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, to the Phil. When he finally entered it was overtly apparent how much respect the audience held for him, as silence filled the room, not even a hushed whisper daring to break it. The manner in which he spoke, addressing the entire room with every word made it evident as to why.
Interestingly, Jeff Weiner never aspired to be a CEO until LinkedIn provided him with the opportunity to execute his vision of expanding the compassion in the world. By the time he joined the team at LinkedIn, the company had been up and running for five and a half years and was on its way to becoming a multi-billion-dollar company, a goal it fulfilled with Jeff’s contribution of focus and bringing clarity to LinkedIn’s mission, values and strategic priorities. Compassion is something which he emphasises in all the talks which he gives, this one being no exception. He accredits much of LinkedIn’s success to it due to business being “all about relationships and communication”. He did, however, divulge the fact that even with his years of experience, he finds it strenuous when working with difficult people, therefore, he encouraged the room to “aspire always to work with compassion”.
He outlined how fulfilling his role as CEO and acting with compassion are both entirely compatible, however, difficulty can arise when another member of a team is failing to fulfil their own role. The solution to this problem lies once again in compassion; “if you cannot coach them back into their initial role, your only option is to transition them into a different role or out of the company entirely”.
When questioned as to whether he felt pressure to be open with his stance on political matters not only on his behalf but on that of LinkedIn, he replied, with a simple shrug, that he “never feels under pressure”. However, expanding upon this he stated that sometimes failing to comment can be more detrimental than doing so as it can lead to irrational assumptions, but he outlined how it is essential that what they are trying to achieve as an organisation is never overlooked. Most of all, he is aware that it is very important for his employers to know his stance as an individual on political matters as they value it greatly.
Stemming from this, Jeff Weiner expanded further on a topic which he clearly has a deep passion for – leadership. According to him, “Leadership is inspiring others to achieve, inspiration is what differentiates a leader from a manager”. He discussed the importance of personalising your approach to each member of your team; admitting that it took him many years to realise that you cannot expect everyone to have the same work process which you do and even how creative collaboration often leads to a better result. He urged us all to surround ourselves with “great” people, who inspire us to achieve and work hard.
Weiner proved to offer potent and valuable advice on a broad variety of topics when the floor was opened to questions. He emphasised the importance of being aware of our long-term career goals and ensuring that we are taking all of the necessary steps now to enable ourselves to achieve them in the future. The significance of believing in your vision fully and making the necessary steps to achieve it was another point which he brought up repeatedly throughout the talk.
Jeff Weiner reiterated the points which I have heard him make in every speech or interview I have seen. It was difficult to not feel slightly disappointed in the lack of new and inspiring information which he had to share with us. In this time, I took a moment to look around the room at the many people which filled it, questioning why we were all here when we could simply watch one of his videos on YouTube and gain the same information.
This was the moment in which it struck me, Jeff Weiner is a successful businessman because he knows how to do what he does well. He has mastered the art of leadership and although I have heard the concept of being a compassionate leader coming from his mouth various times, I haven’t heard it from many others. Maybe this is why Jeff Weiner repeats these core principles and concepts, not because he doesn’t have anything else to say but because anybody can talk about themselves and how they paved their path in the world. This is what makes him unique.
When asked about his role models, he showed deep gratitude to various people from his wife to his first boss, however, it was a particular anecdote which caught my attention. Every night when he went to bed his father would tell him “you can do anything”. With these words of guidance being provided for him from such a young age, it is no wonder that Weiner continues to share the same advice with those he gets the opportunity to speak to. He is providing people with the principles which he believes will ultimately lead them to succeed in their lives, which over the years he has managed to perfect.