Your Life Story is Your Leadership Story

Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.

Warren Bennis, American leadership scholar

The first thing Neil MacKenna asked me to do was to write down my life story and share it with him. I found it strange at the time. Sharing personal details about my life did not come naturally. And it’s not a commonplace exercise. But maybe it should be, as similar tactics are used by some of the smartest people in the business world. Let me tell you about Jim.

Jim Mead is one of the most skilled headhunters ever to recruit talent. You’ve probably never heard of him. That’s partially because he’s been retired for several years now. But it’s more likely due to the fact that he’s a humble, self-effacing guy. He doesn’t chase the spotlight. Quietly, behind the scenes, he’s been responsible for identifying and recruiting some of the most successful giants of the corporate world over the last 40 years, not to mention large swaths of the leadership teams I assembled at Nabisco and Campbell Soup Company, 39 of whom have since gone on to become CEOs of prestigious organizations in their own right. Over the years, I’ve relied on Jim a lot. There was a time when I spoke with him almost every day. And you know what? For the most part, every person we recruited together turned out to be a winner. He’s got the magic touch.

So, how does he do it? It would be natural to assume that Jim ...

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