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Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly's Advice on Leading with Purpose

TCB's 2018 Person of the Year on being clear, being authentic, and shareholder buy-in.

Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly's Advice on Leading with Purpose
Best Buy's Hubert Joly on stage at TCB's 2018 Person of the Year event. Photo by Jordan Buckellew

More than 300 power players, from startups to Fortune 500s, gathered at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday evening for the Twin Cities Business annual Person of the Year Event. The man of the hour was Best Buy chairman and CEO Hubert Joly, who led the magazine’s list of 100 people to know in 2019.

At the event, Joly took the stage with TCB editor-in-chief Allison Kaplan for a conversation about leading with purpose. Here are some highlights.

Identify your purpose

It’s something that’s actually common to quite a few Minnesota companies. If you look at the preceding winners, Medtronic, US Bank, Ecolab, many companies, these are all very purpose-driven companies. We think identifying and being clear about purpose is really important. We’re not a retailer, we’re not in the business of selling TVs— even though, if you want to, we can sell you a few [laughs]—we’re really in the business of enriching lives through technology by investing in people… It’s a very human company that’s focused on addressing the needs of all our stakeholders. So, one of the visions I have is that the purpose of the company is not to make money. There’s a difference between what’s necessary and what is the purpose.

If you think about a company, an organization as being a human organization made of individuals working together to accomplish a certain goal, if you think about the importance for all of us as individuals to figure out what is our purpose in life – where we go after, we don’t get to bring anything with us. So, a lot of us are trying to live a meaningful life, and if a company can connect or drive individuals with its purpose, this is how great things happen.

 

Shareholder buy-in

When you talk with investors they completely understand this… For me there’s no tradeoff between meeting the needs of the customers, growing the employees, working with the vendors, working with the shareholders, and ensuring that the communities in which we operate are thriving. By maximizing the performance of all of these dimensions, then it works. So, it’s not either satisfying the shareholders, or the customers, or the employees, it’s all of them. And it’s something the shareholders completely understand.

Leadership vs. power

The first thing is being aware of dangers, so you have to avoid being seduced by power, fame, and glory. If you think about people in a position of great power who fall, usually it’s because they’ve been seduced by power along the way, so I try to stay away from this. As a company, we spend a lot of time being clear about these mission principles because at the end of the day, in an organization that’s very decentralized, where there’s 125,000 employees, the decisions that get made every day are not made in my office, they’re made by these 125,000 people. So it’s good to be clear about these leadership principles. At the end of the day it’s all about human beings interacting with each other and interacting with customers.

Joly’s Five B’s of Leadership

Be a purposeful leader. Be clear about your purpose as a human being and how it connects to the purpose of a company – customers demand to work with companies that are mission-driven, employees do as well, and shareholders, increasingly. 

Be clear about your role as a leader. If you believe your role as a leader is to be the smartest person in the room, you’re wrong. Smart is overrated… Your role as a leader is to create an environment in which the organization can be effective, in which people can feel that they are often being the best version of themselves. 

Be clear about who you serve as a leader. If you believe you are serving yourself… well, you’re wrong. On the other hand, if you believe your role as a leader is to serve the servants, the people who are on the front lines, give them the tools so that they can be successful. That’s the right mindset. 

Be a values-driven leader. Integrity matters. 

Be an authentic leader. Be the best version of yourself. People talk about work life balance… but [that] almost assumes that you have your life and then there’s work, like these are two separate things. Most of us spend a lot of time at work so being able to live an integrated life, where you are truly yourself at work makes a big difference.

 

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