If you are able to get the benefit of good education you have truly won the lottery of life!

By: Ganesan Mahadevan

I had the opportunity to listen to a fascinating CEO forum yesterday exceptionally moderated by Dr. Siva Sivaram, President of Western Digital for the Akshaya Patra USA Partnerships for Hope event.

Here are 5 things that I heard that impressed and inspired me.

Raghu Raghuram, CEO of VMWare while talking about the importance of education said “Growing up in India you realize the enormous difference in life outcomes that education enables for everybody.

If you are able to get the benefit of good education you have truly won the lottery of life.” Most of us reading this can relate to it!

Niren Chaudhary, CEO of Panera Bread talked about the importance of empathy in leadership. When they had to, unfortunately, furlough 35,000 employees during the onset of COVID he reached out to CEOs of CVS and Walmart (suddenly in need of more associates) to temporarily loan its employees going, above and beyond.

Courage, Gratitude, and Giving:

Niren shared some deeply personal stories about losing his daughter at the age of 18 after a 5-year brave health battle. He discussed how his personal tragedies shaped his thinking and how he embraced his pain and converted the pain into purpose.

3 things he learned from his daughter’s short but glorious life:

  1. Courage in the face of adversity by focusing on what you have control over and not what is happening to you.
  2. To always view life through the lens of gratitude. If you do that even in the midst of all difficulties you will see miracles unfold all the time around us.
  3. True joy really happens in the act of giving to others.

What he said was very powerful and moving.

“Courage, Gratitude, and Giving is what has shaped me. I leverage and go back to those lessons and reflections, whenever I am feeling beaten up.

How can I focus on what I can control? How can I have a sense of gratitude?

Who can I give to and how can I make a difference?”

The job of a leader has to be a force multiplier for good beyond the organization.

Talking of the impact agenda of a leader, Chaudhary mentioned leadership cannot be confined to the boundaries of the organization you steward and his belief that the job of a leader has to be a force multiplier for good. “So thinking of how I can have a broader impact not only within my organization but the community in which I serve and the planet at large, I think is a personal calling for all of us.

It is personal accountability, I believe each one of us needs to have. To be able to achieve the broader impact, it is not only about being ‘Smart’ it is about being a good human. I think smarts one can achieve through education. But goodness in your heart comes through building your character, by being reflective deepening your sense of compassion, empathy, and caring that you show up as a compassionate human leader. And I think when one does that, it engenders trust. And then trust becomes a magnifier of your impact to beyond the organization you steward”

Incorporating environmental and social goals as a core strategy and business goals.

Raghuram talked about the idea of stakeholder capitalism has taken root and CEOs recognizing the company’s purpose is not just investors, employees, and customers, but increasingly about serving the communities that we live in and supporting society’s most urgent needs. He also talked about his approach to not tracking it as a side activity and incorporating environmental social and governance goals as a core part of technology strategy, business model, and culture.

Power of individual action can create and has created large-scale change.

Raghuram reminded the 1,500 virtual audience that we are all citizen philanthropists and encouraged giving in any which way possible, not just dollars and cents. “It is not just the job of the Bill Gates of the world or those with big foundations. Power of individual action can create and has created large-scale change. That is the concept I want everyone to embrace.”

Hearing that reminded me of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote below.

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Ganesan is an accomplished IT leader with two decades of experience in data management, cloud technical architecture, and large IT transformation projects. His passions include public speaking, writing, philosophy, and helping others.