Executive Update

Executive Conference Keynote Speakers

Chairman's Lecture – General Stanley McChrystal

This year’s Chairman’s Lecture featured four-star General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, former leader of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees the military's most sensitive forces, and a pioneer in creating a revolution in warfare that fused intelligence and operations.

Focusing on sustaining leadership, McChrystal shared his experiences from the military and how to become an influential leader, no matter the industry. He mentioned three important steps in great leadership: 1. molding organizations into junior leaders; 2. guiding them to places they wouldn’t normally go; and 3. inspiring everyone around them. “Part of constant leadership is inspiration. Leadership is not the leader, but their relationship to their people – they have to stand up and be able to inspire.”

McChrystal shared examples of past leaders, who took on challenges that were out of their realm and how their leadership ability affected either their success or failure, and he also shared some of the successful factors that helped him as a leader and his team to reach difficult goals.

“To be effective – we needed the right target at the right time. We needed to become as efficient as possible, and we needed a level of transparency and inclusiveness where the organization shared internal perspectives and a sense of common ownership and responsibility.”

McChrystal explained how crucial it is that everybody on your team understands as much information as possible, and that a leader must deal with trends that are difficult to discern, as well as the unexpected.

“We’re facing difficult trends that are going to take action and leadership to deal with. But in reality, leaders are everywhere, and leadership is not something you have. Everyone in this room is a leader, because it’s people who are responsible for other people's welfare - that is what leadership is. It’s people from different races, backgrounds, women or men, old or young. Leadership isn’t a talent or a gift – it is simply a choice.”



Leadership Luncheon – Dr. Peter H. Diamandis

Dr. Peter Diamandis, founder, chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation addressed attendees on leadership, incentivizing breakthroughs, and innovation for future generations.

Diamandis believes that we are living an extraordinary day and age, and that the rate of innovation is growing exponentially. “Back in the day, the world was local and linear. The only things that touched our lives were in a day’s walk, and families didn’t change generation to generation. Now, they change year to year. We are living in an age when small corporations are able to do things only large corporations and the government could do before. The forces that created the extraordinary times we are living in are only accelerating. We are moving from a linear world to an exponential world.”

And Diamandis explained that the rate of change is so fast, if you are not cognizant of how technology can change your industry you can fall behind, citing Kodak as an example.

In 1996, Kodak had a total of 140,000 employees, and a market cap of 28 billion. This year Kodak is bankrupt, with only 17,000 employees and 100 million market cap. “The world has been getting better at an extraordinary rate and we are going to have a tremendous number of challenges as robotics continue to change the world around us.”

Diamandis said that there are an abundance of resources around us, and that technology is a scarcity-relieving force.

“Today’s resources, are not scarce, there just hasn’t been technology made to find another resource.”

And what is the key to finding that technology? Incentivizing.

Diamandis discussed the importance of incentivizing, and how often looking at your data from a different point of view can change your perspective and find a more innovative, cheaper way to perform. He then shared the example of his non-profit foundation The X Prize, which designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit mankind.

“Most of the smartest people in the world work for someone else, so I decided to create a $10 million prize to engage these minds, but not attract really large companies.”

The X Prize was a competition for the private sector to, for the first time launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks, with a prize of $10 million.

“The more people told me I was crazy, the more I was inspired. However, I did not have $10 million. Fortunately, I announced the prize and no one asked me if I had the money.”

Ultimately, years later Anousheh Ansari made a multi-million dollar donation, and the competition was renamed the Ansari X Prize. The launch was successful, and was accomplished on October 4, 2004.

“The idea is, driving real breakthrough requires taking risk. If it isn’t a crazy idea, it wouldn’t be a breakthrough.”