It’s a question that any executive or wannabe executive asks: What defines great leadership? Are great leaders born – or can the skills be learned? And how does strong leadership get connected to successful business outcomes?
To learn more, I spoke with someone who not only spends much of his time thinking about leadership, he also writes and talks about it – and most importantly, has spent much of his life doing it.
Ron Williams is the former Chairman and CEO of Aetna. When he joined Aetna in 2001, its loss from continuing operations was $292 million, with earnings per share loss of $0.46. By the time Williams left in 2011, the company’s full-year operating earnings were $2 billion, with operating earnings per share of $5.17. During his tenure, Aetna was named FORTUNE’s most admired company in the Health Care: Insurance and Managed Care category for three consecutive years.
Since Aetna, Williams has continued to help drive leadership in business, including in private equity. He as served as Operating Advisor to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, where he is chairman of CD&R’s portfolio company, agilon health, and successfully guided two other CD&R portfolio company exits.
His influence and experience doesn’t end there: Williams is a Director of American Express, The Boeing Company, Johnson & Johnson, Envision Healthcare and is a member of Deutsche Bank’s Americas Advisory Board. He also served on President Obama’s President’s Management Advisory Board from 2011 to 2017, where he worked to bring the best of business practices to the management and operation of the federal government.
As you can tell, Williams is motivated by leadership – why it matters, what it looks like, what it can do to improve business and, frankly, society.