Leadership and Legacy Lessons From Former Intuit CEO Brad Smith
People who demand excellence don't get it nearly as often as people who inspire it.
Ask anyone working at Intuit and they will tell you that former Intuit CEO Brad Smith is the type of person you feel lucky to know and call a friend. After 11 years as CEO, Smith handed over the job to Executive V.P. Sasan Goodarzi on January 1 of this year.
Smith’s tenure at Intuit has been legendary. During his time as CEO, he helped transform Intuit from a product company to a platform company selling services in the cloud, taking its market cap to nearly $60 Billion. He did all this while creating a loving work environment and throughout the process, continuing to preserve who he is as a leader.
A recent article was written by Cassie Divine, VP of QuickBooks Online Platform Leader at Intuit talking about Smith as a leader who is kind, authentic, and a master storyteller. Smith knew how to inspire his team to excel as human beings and as part of Intuit. Ask any of his former team members and they will tell you, he led with great presence and love often ending company talks to employees with “I love you like brothers and sisters.”
While a large part of business is about products and processes, it's the people who ultimately make good organizations great. Smith was a man of the people. He always believed it was about "we, not me” often quoting “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Smith. I asked him how he views his legacy at Intuit. While the idea of legacy can be difficult to encompass, as the late Jim Rohn said, “All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”
Here is what Smith said about his own legacy.
“I have always struggled with that question, and primarily because I believe when you are interested in how the play was … don’t ask the actor how it went, ask the audience! Lol!”
“My summary response would be: “That I led through serving others” (the philosophy of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable).”
“To click down on that, I’ve always aspired to have an impact in a way that “leaves it better than I found it”. When it comes to people, I have aspired to measure success through “the Three E’s.”
Smith believes a leader should create the “Three E’s” in every interaction:
Energized: Leaving every interaction with a person or team’s heart beating faster, seeing the possibilities and believing in themselves.
Educated: Teaching them something they didn’t know before the interaction, and in turn, my having learned something from them that I didn’t know.
Empowered: Building their capability and confidence to move forward without my involvement.
He also talked about creating fun throughout his organization, something more CEOs are emphasizing with their teams.
“And during the journey we had fun. When it is all said and done, my hope is that those who were there can reflect and say…“Don’t let it be forgotten, that once there was a spot for one brief and shining moment, that was known as Camelot” (quoting from the musical Camelot).”
Smith leads through service to others, not just as employees but as human beings. Looking at the most human approach to solving problems. Smith’s leadership focused on coaching and loving versus judging and dictatorship. His leadership legacy will be remembered for someone who was fundamentally kind. Someone who was a great listener. Someone who cared deeply about his people.
So what’s next for Smith? In an article for Fortune, he mentions only his new role as executive chairman, plus his board service at Nordstrom and SurveyMonkey and his passion for improving public education “in the overlooked zip codes” like the area he came from in West Virginia.
Smith is a shining example for all business leaders and entrepreneurs who want to lead their teams to greater impact. My hope in writing this article is that more entrepreneurs can hear of Brad Smith and study his wisdom so they can become better leaders and human beings. If you are still reading to this point, my mission has been accomplished.
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