Thoughts on Leadership: Omaha, Change and an Exchange with the Oracle

By Gino Blefari

Last week my travels found me in Omaha, NE attending the Berkshire Hathaway Energy January 2017 Executive Leadership Conference and related workshops. More than 350 officers and managers from throughout the enterprise attended the three-day event, which included cross-business panel discussions and presentations related to key challenges and opportunities.

Panel discussions centered on managing competitive risk, modernizing assets, reducing our environmental footprint, enhancing cybersecurity plus an overview of political and economic effects on our businesses – all great material.

I also loved the interactive Leading Change Workshop, which leveraged the creative input of participants for greater understanding of the impact of change on people and for leading changes to meet continuous goals.

Still, without question, the highlight of our meetings came Tuesday afternoon when Berkshire Hathaway Energy Chairman and CEO Greg Abel conducted an interview with Warren Buffett. The session lasted about 60 minutes but we could have listened to Mr. Buffett for hours. He seemed all-knowledgeable with important perspectives on every question. At the same time, he was straightforward, witty and positive.

When the interview concluded Mr. Buffett remained for questions from the audience. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity so I quickly stepped up to the microphone. Admittedly, I was a little nervous but I got the words out — but Mr. Buffett gave me a welcoming smile and carefully answered my question, making eye contact with me the entire time.

The moment was not lost on me and never will be.

What’s the message? Very simple. Leaders, no matter who they are, must take the time for the people they lead. They listen, process and respond with respect and, in the process, enrich and grow their entire organization.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: A Jolly Leader

Everyone knows there’s not one mold from which great leaders are made. Yet it’s also known that all leaders share common traits: They inspire, they motivate, they bring about joy and cheer to every member of their team.

What leader inspires, motivates and spreads cheer and joy more than jolly, old St. Nick? If you think about it, he’s got a lot on his cookie-filled plate. And we can’t deny he’s one busy guy. Here are three reasons why St. Nick is the epitome of a great leader:

  1. Nick must always maintain a positive mindset. In fact, we count on him to be steadfastly optimistic, always. Could you imagine a grumpy St. Nick?
  2. Time-management is hugely important. If his time isn’t managed properly, he can’t succeed at his job, shimmying down chimneys and delivering presents all across the world in the span of a single night.
  3. Nick abides by the four disciplines of execution: First, he focuses on his Wildly Important Goals: bringing cheer and holiday spirit to everyone around the world and putting smiles on our faces during the holiday season. Second, he acts on his lead measures. He loads his sleigh, maps out his gift-giving route and slides down chimneys to deliver gifts. Third, he keeps a compelling scoreboard, checking his lists twice and keeping score of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Finally, he creates a cadence of accountability by meeting with his elves once per week all year long. During these meetings, his elves announce how many toys they’ve assembled that week and how many they’ll assemble in the week ahead. (“This week I made ten nutcrackers and five dolls and next week I’ll make twelve nutcrackers and seven dolls …”)

So what’s the message? St. Nick’s greatness as a leader also springs from his universality. We can relate to certain aspects of his leadership style and take whatever works best for us, which is exactly as it should be. Because the holiday season means so many things to so many different people. For some, it might be about spreading joy, observing the spirit of the season, spending time with friends and family; for others, it’s about reflecting on the year gone by and resolving the make this new one even better.

No matter what this holiday season means to you, my hope is that it’s one filled with health, happiness, peace, prosperity and joy for one and all.

Happy Holidays,


GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.