November 14, 2018

Bosszillas

Barry Salzberg Recalls That His First Boss Was a Jerk, Being From Brooklyn Had Its Disadvantages

Dr. Phil doppelgänger and incoming Deloitte Global CEO Barry Salzberg spoke at Wharton recently about leadership and how it has changed quite a bit since he started at Haskin & Sells in 1977. He riffed about the old days in his speech including how jackets were all but mandatory (especially if you were from Brooklyn) and the aforementioned boss from Hell:

“In those days, [Deloitte] was a fancy, formal place,” Salzberg recalled, “so formal that you would get bawled out — and I did — if you were caught in the hallway without your jacket, especially if you arrived speaking a foreign language like Brooklynese.” His first leadership lesson came on his third day. “Bosszilla,” as he calls his first boss, asked him for a photocopy of a tax ruling. Eager to please and show off his legal savvy, Salzberg included his own two-page interpretation. “Mr. Salzberg,” Bosszilla hissed, “I asked you for a copy of the ruling, not your interpretation. One copy, stapled.”

Of course, the Big Salz knew that this wasn’t how he wanted to lead so you can bet your signed copy of As One that he spends plenty of time at the Xerox machine. Another leadership trait that has gone the way of the Dodo is that CEOs don’t mingle with the commoners. Bar is out there mixing it up on the regular:

“What I do is get out and talk to people to give them the opportunity to share. And then what you have to do is act on it, so people understand that you can change your mind.” As head of Deloitte’s U.S. operations, Salzberg visits as many as 25 to 35 offices every year, sitting down with partners to hear their concerns. When he becomes global CEO, he plans to travel more, he said. “There’s nothing that can replace face-to-face interaction. Getting the rubber on the shoes worn out is how to do it.”

And of course, in this day in and age, you simply can’t ignore animal metaphors:

“No burying your head in the sand if there’s a problem, and no ignoring the elephant in the room. Much better to name and tame an issue, no matter how difficult it is,” than to ignore it or pretend it isn’t there, he said. “Making sure the truth is told and discussed with all is the foundation of leadership. Without that, you can’t build trust.”

Got it? Ignoring problems – even the really tough ones – is a thing of the past:

Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg on Leadership as ‘the Norm, Not the Exception [[email protected]]