Robert McDonald, COO, Procter & Gamble
Description: A West Point start, army career, and a disciplined approach to distilling key life experiences has guided Robert McDonald through his 20 years at Procter & Gamble. McDonald recommends a deliberate system of self"examination that results in an articulation of beliefs, which he sees as essential to strong leadership.
McDonald describes an ongoing process of "getting in touch with my culture, experiences, education, family" to discover his values, which he writes down, and revises over time. He believes that "people in an organization like to work for a leader who's predictable," and whose expectations they understand. Some of McDonald's key beliefs, drawn from such early experiences as the Boy Scouts, and the military academy, continue to hold true to this day. He feels that "leading a life driven by purpose leads to a more meaningful and rewarding life than meandering without direction." This has meshed nicely, he says, with P&G's statement of purpose: to improve the lives of the world's consumers. Says McDonald, "I think my purpose in life is to help other people."
Some other key beliefs: "Everybody wants to succeed, and success is contagious." Nobody wants to fail, and a good leader puts people in the right jobs, doing work they are good at. This also means that leaders "take responsibility for things even when they're beyond our control," when plans go awry or collapse. McDonald also believes that "organizations have to renew themselves," which means leaders must provide development opportunities, and recognize that success comes not just from being strong but being adaptable, prepared for change. The final belief he offers is that a true test of a leader's character "isn't what happens in an organization when you're there, but when you're not there." Good leaders build sufficient capability around them, so the organization "can withstand your leaving." Charismatic is fine, but "we don't like heroic leaders." For those searching for purpose, McDonald recommends this practical written exercise: list organizations to which you belong, and their dominant values; note lessons learned from your family, memorable life and educational experiences; then turn this into a set of beliefs.
About the Speaker(s): Robert A. McDonald oversees all global operations and corporate functions of Procter & Gamble's $76.5"billion business, which maintains on"the"ground operations in more than 80 countries.
In 1975, McDonald graduated from West Point with a ranking of 13 out of 875 students and a B.S. in Engineering. He then served as a Captain in the U.S. Army for 5 years, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division. While still serving in the Army, McDonald received an M.B.A. from the University of Utah in 1978. He graduated with honors from Beta Gamma Sigma.
McDonald joined Procter & Gamble in 1980 in the U.S. marketing division. He transferred to Toronto in 1989 to lead P&G's Canadian Laundry business, and then to the Philippines in 1991 as General Manager. In 1995 he became Vice President and General Manager, Laundry & Cleaning Products"Asia, and relocated to Japan. After several other promotions, he was appointed Vice Chairman, Global Operations, in 2004, returning to the U.S. after 14 years abroad. McDonald assumed his current role as Chief Operating Officer in July 2007.
In 2007, McDonald received the inaugural Leadership Excellence Award from the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard Business Review. The award recognizes top executives of U.S."based companies who consistently exemplify a commitment to personal integrity, business success and fellow employees.
McDonald serves on the Xerox Board of Directors and is Chairman of the Board for GS1, an international supply chain standards organization. He is also a member of the U.S. Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations(ACTPN).
Host(s): Sloan School of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
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