Bob Davids: The Rarest Commodity is Leadership Without Ego at TEDxESCP (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of entrepreneur Bob Davids’ TEDx Talk presentation: The Rarest Commodity is Leadership Without Ego at TEDxESCP conference. For more details about the speaker, read the bio here.

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Bob David – Entrepreneur and writer

Hello, my name is Bob. I am a designer and an entrepreneur, businessman and today I want to talk about management and leadership.

The reason I’m here today is because I met Bob Townsend in 1980. Some of you may have heard of Bob Townsend; most of you probably haven’t. He was the CEO that built Avis Rent a Car and he wrote a breakthrough book in the 1960s, called Up the Organization. Up the Organization is still the number one book at the Wharton Business School on the must-read list, that’s 50 years of being number one. So I suggest you take a look at it.

It’s really a book about leadership, culture building, without ego. Bob Townsend walked into my office in 1980 and he asked me if I had 15 minutes. I said of course. He said, “I’m interviewing the management team because I’m going to join the Board of Directors at this company and I always want to speak with the management before I do.”

“Oh please come in and sit.”

I looked at my watch: 15 minutes, not a problem. Five hours later he left my office. I was stunned. I had never been in the presence of that much energy. He told me about his book Up the Organization; I hadn’t heard of it. At five o’clock that night, I ran out to the nearest bookstore and I got it. I read it from cover to cover that night; it changed my life.

I had always had the same ideologies, that same thoughts about leading people. But his book gave me a structure of framework that I could hang it on and I used it as a guideline for the rest of my life and I’m still using it.

The same year I was overlooked for a promotion to be the CEO of the company. I was in my 30s, I thought I was ready; the company didn’t. Bob Townsend suggested that I further my education; that was a good idea. I said, “Well, maybe I’ll go do an MBA.” He says, “No, never do an MBA.” There’s too many managers already. The world is short of leaders; we don’t need any more managers. Managers, leadership I thought that was same.

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