Closeup of hand drawing heart beat in heart shape. Preventive medicine concept

Beating Heart

This is part two of my incredible and awesome week sharing from the Fortune Global Forum. In my previous post, I talked about achieving the unachievable and making that your purpose. I also talked about the idea that the most important aspect of leadership in disruptive and tumultuous times is having a true north, a purpose, and to let everyone know what that purpose  is. Yes, these aspects are critical today, but now I want to share one more thing that came out of the crazy, incredible and awesome week I had —and that is “culture.”

The word culture was used the second day as much as the word disrupt was the previous day. They are both really important words that facilitated a lot of discussion. (I will add the meeting notes at the end of this blog.)

But there was one thing —over and above everything else, that became apparent to me. The discussion went along with an idea that “culture trumps strategy.” I totally believe this, but then it made me think, “what trumps culture?” Is it possible that there is one thing? Try this crazy conclusion on for size: What if “a beating heart” trumps culture?

What do I mean by a beating heart? What I mean is that you are alive, aware, not beaten down by the existing system or culture, that you are a seeing, feeling, loving, human, and to be that you have to have a beating heart. You need to be human… be yourself, relate to people as people, not be safe, not be calculating or be anything other than yourself. It was really interesting to me that the people at the conference who had a beating heart (to name a few) where Marc Benioff of SalesForce, Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz, Mark Bertolini of Aetna and Ram Charan of the famous Ram Charan. They all resonated with me as being their authentic and amazing selves. You can just see the bright light around people who are living with purpose, achieving the unachievable and living true to who they really are.

You can also see how people flock to them and want to hang with them. This is where I think the beating heart, the real authentic person, trumps culture. A person who lives with a purpose, who knows their own true north can lead in spite of the existing culture.

So, the question becomes, are you living true to who you truly are? In meetings, are you saying what you believe and feel? Do you deplore politics and stodgy cultures that only do things the way they have been done in the past? Are you part of the solution or part of the problem in your company. In other words, are you making the people around you light and airy? Are you smiling, looking at new ways of doing things, being your authentic and amazing self?

What if you commit, right now, to go to work tomorrow as your authentic self, saying exactly what you think and feel, telling the people around you who you are and what you are. Even if you don’t think you know exactly who you are, just live in the spirit of presence, with a feeling of that beating heart, of the life blood in your veins. Let the beating heart lead you on your path. See what happens, and see if you start attracting other authentic people that you feel have a sense of humor and can stand up for purpose and achieving the unachievable. YEAH!

Beat On—


Below are the notes from day two of the Fortune Global Forum. If “disruption” and “change” were the most used words of day one at the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, then “culture” carried day two. Conversations kept returning to the challenge of creating company cultures that can endure and embrace the hurricane winds of change.

Here’s a sampling…

“Fifty percent of our business has changed in the last ten years. The key to surviving is having an ownership culture. You have to get to people’s hearts. You have to get to people’s pride.”  —Joe Kaeser, CEO, Siemens

“Only a baby with a wet diaper likes change. Everyone else resists change. The job of a CEO is to resist the temptation to look at last year, and to persuade everyone that where we are going is worth fighting for.” —Mike Ullman, Executive Chairman, JCPenney

“The culture, people wanting to work for Comcast-NBC Universal, is the one thing I’ve got to get right.” —Brian Roberts, CEO, Comcast

“As companies get bigger, they get slower and more risk averse, especially in fast-moving industries. That’s good for entrepreneurs.” —Geoff Yang, Redpoint Ventures

“It isn’t that entrepreneurs are smarter than companies, it’s that they are trying more crazy ideas, taking more shots on goal.” —Peter Diamandis, Founder, X Prize

“Culture does trump strategy, every day.” – Mark Bertolini, CEO, Aetna

The takeaway: Technology may be driving the rapid change in business today. But it is human attitudes and behaviors that are gating it, and determining the difference between failure and success.

You can see full coverage of the Forum —including investor Marc Andreesen’s claim that we are in a tech “bust,” not a “bubble.” here.

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