May 30, 2010

Jeff Raikes on "The Business of Doing Good"

I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Jeff Raikes, the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at Seattle University as part of the Albers Executive Speaker Series last Wednesday. Raikes spoke to a packed auditorium about the lessons in leadership and his experiences in philanthropy.

Several things resonated with me. First of all, Raikes, like nearly every other speaker I have heard offer advice to emerging practicioners in (insert field here) is to follow your passion. In Raikes experience, he learned early on in his career at Apple that his passion was software (rather than hardware) development- which in turn lead him away from Apple to become one of Microsoft's first 100 employees- (fun fact: he and his wife Tricia were the first Microsoft couple).

He outlined three lessons of leadership, which I tweeted through @EPIPSeattle but that I'll share here as well:
  1. Part of being a good leader and a good manager of people is to know when to roll up your sleeves and dive into the work alongside your employees (a lesson learned from John Shirley, President of Microsoft from 1983-90).
  2. You will learn the most when you are in an environment where it is okay to fail and to learn from your mistakes (a lesson from Bill Gates, Jr.).
  3. Realize that there is something that you can learn from every single person around you. This lesson comes from Lou Piniella, the former manager of the Seattle Mariners, who also taught Raikes four additional lessons on how to be a good leader: a) get along with everyone, b) know how to get your players to preform at their peak, c) always be mindful of public relations, and d) to always have a game strategy in mind.
Raikes' closing argument was for audience members to find their passion and then to invest in United Way (Raikes and his wife Tricia are heavily involved on the Board of Directors of United Way of King County), though if United Way isn't for you, he suggested finding other advocates and ways to raise the quality of life in our communities.

Though tailored to a decidedly business-oriented audience, I found the talk interesting and I think it's always important to be reminded to follow one's passion. I was instantly taken back to the closing keynote speech at the EPIP National Conference, in which Benjamin Todd Jealous put forth a similar message: Find your passion and if your current job is not fulfilling that passion-quit.

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