What does it mean to be a courageous leader? Find out on the new season of Harvard Business School’s chart-topping management podcast Deep Purpose.
A Series on Courageous Leadership presented by Harvard Business School Professor Ranjay Gulati
The debut season of Deep Purpose went behind the headlines and success stories of top global CEOs, revealing how they unlocked meaningful purpose in their personal journeys. Now, Deep Purpose is returning for a second season with an all-new slate of inspiring business leader. You’ll hear them reflect on times they had to make bold decisions with real impacts – both on their personal journeys and on their organizations.
Host Ranjay Gulati – Harvard Business School Professor, best-selling author, and one of the most-cited business minds – sits down with these executives to discuss their courageous and often career-defining decisions, including:
- Ben Minicucci, CEO of Alaska Airlines, on how he learned to prioritize people over metrics and to lead the airline’s workforce with compassion.
- Susan Tynan, Founder and CEO of Framebridge, on how managed the risks of entrepreneurship while aiming to make a lasting impact.
- Paul Polman, Former CEO of Unilever, on how companies can achieve robust financial performance and play an active role in solving the most pressing challenges facing society today.
- Harmit Singh, CFO and CGO of Levi Strauss & Co, on how taking risks throughout his career has made him a more courageous, future-oriented leader.
Other guests include: Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach; Equity Group CEO James Mwangi; Etsy CEO Josh Silverman; former Xerox Corporation CEO Anne Mulcahy; Fynd Co-Founder Harsh Shah; Baxter CEO Joe Almeida.
Paul Polman Bio
Business leader, campaigner, co-author of “Net Positive: how courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take”, a Financial Times Business Book of the Year.
Paul Polman works to accelerate action by business to tackle climate change and inequality. As CEO of Unilever (2009-2019), he demonstrated that business can profit through purpose, delivering shareholder returns of 290% while the company consistently ranked 1st in the world for sustainability. Today he works across a range of organizations to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which he helped develop. www.paulpolman.com
October 16, 2023
How Unilever’s Purpose Inspired Paul Polman to Lead Courageously
Paul Polman is the legendary former CEO of Unilever and a global leader in combating climate change and promoting corporate responsibility. Reflecting on his career during and after Unilever, Polman explains how a company can achieve robust financial performance while playing an active role in solving the most pressing challenges facing society today.
John Chen Bio
John is a distinguished business leader and proven turnaround executive with over 40 years of engineering and management experience. Prior to joining BlackBerry, John served as Chairman and CEO of Sybase Inc. where he re-invented the company and achieved 55 consecutive quarters of profitability during his 15-year tenure.
Recognized as a thought leader and as a respected voice in foreign policy, John has testified before Congress on U.S.–China trade relations and was appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Export Council. In 2006, he was appointed co-chair of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee. Additionally, John chaired the U.S.-China Policy Advisory Roundtable for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), served on the Board of the National Committee on U.S. China Relations since 2012, and has been a member of the Committee of 100 since 1997 and its Chairman from 2009-2011.
John graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). John has an honorary professorship from Shanghai University, and honorary doctorates from San Jose State University, City University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. John has received awards from the U.S.-Asia Institute, the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, the California-Asia Business Council, and the U.S.-Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation.
John served on the Board of Directors for The Walt Disney Company (2004-2019) and Wells Fargo & Co. (2006-2018) and as a trustee of Caltech (2008-2022). John is an Advisory Board member of the US Chamber China Center. He is also active in the not-for-profit community, and is a board member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, member of CFR, national trustee of The First Tee and Governor of the San Francisco Symphony.
October 23, 2023
Saving BlackBerry: CEO John Chen Explains How to Make the Hard Calls
John Chen was hired to save an iconic smartphone company that ran out of juice. BlackBerry had gone from being a corporate world must-have to a global has-been. Chen says the key to turning Blackberry around was being prepared to make hard calls, even in midst of uncertainty. He says that, in business, the journey can be more important than the destination.
Susan Tynan Bio
Susan Tynan is the founder and CEO of Framebridge, a custom framing startup that has landed deals with Target and Crate and Barrel. Framebridge has raised more than $67 million in venture financing from T. Rowe Price, New Enterprise Associates, Revolution Ventures and SWaN & Legend, along with Crate and Barrel co-founder Gordon Segal, Living Social co-founder and former CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy and former Rent the Runway president and COO Beth Kaplan.
Before founding Framebridge in 2014, Tynan held product and business development roles at several consumer technology startups, including LivingSocial, Taxi Magic and Revolution Health. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Harvard Business School, she began her career at Accenture, and served as a management advisor on technology and customer service for the Obama White House.
October 30, 2023
How Framebridge Founder Susan Tynan Managed Risk While Making an Impact
Great business leaders are problem solvers. That’s what sparked Susan Tynan (Harvard Business School MBA 2003) to found Framebridge, a custom framing company. When Tynan couldn’t find a reasonably priced place to frame her beloved posters, she launched a business, which took off after years of hard work – and hard decisions. Tynan reflects on her learning journey, discussing how she managed the risks of entrepreneurship while aiming to make a lasting impact.
Stefan Scheiber Bio
Stefan Scheiber graduated in Business Administration from the University of Applied Science in St. Gallen and later continued his education at the Institute IMD Lausanne and the Harvard Business School.
In 1986, Stefan Scheiber started as a management trainee at Bühler and has spent more than 30 years with Bühler in different functions. From 1988 onwards, he has worked in various international management positions within Bühler worldwide, including East and South Africa, Eastern Europe, and Germany.
After a first international assignment in Nairobi, Kenya, he became Commercial Manager and interim Sales & Service Manager at Bühler South Africa.
In 1999, he took charge of the Brewing/Malting and Rice business units, located in Braunschweig, Germany, and thereafter, assumed the overall responsibility for Bühler in Germany. From mid-2005, Stefan Scheiber headed the Sales & Services division and became Member of the Executive Board at the age of 39. In 2009, he was named Division Manager of the Engineered Products division which he divided and reorganized into the Food Processing and the Advanced Materials divisions. He led the Food Processing division as of 2009 for the next four years.
In 2014, he was charged with the reorganization and integration of the Food Processing and the Grain Processing divisions, creating the Grains & Food division, which he led until 2016. Stefan Scheiber was appointed CEO of the Bühler Group on July 1, 2016 and became Member of the Board of Directors on August 28, 2020.
In 2017 and 2018, Stefan Scheiber led the process of the acquisition and post-merger integration of the Haas Group which became part of Bühler as of January 1, 2018.
Furthermore, Stefan Scheiber is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Kistler Group and Bucher Industries AG, and a Member of the Executive Committee of Swissmem as well as of economiesuisse.
Stefan Scheiber was born in 1965 and is Swiss.
November 6, 2023
Making Global Sustainability Personal at Bühler
The global food supply chain is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental challenges. Many companies avoid these issues or make token efforts to reduce their impact on the planet. But as CEO of the Swiss-based technology giant Bühler Group, Stefan Scheiber is mapping a courageous plan to combat food waste and climate change. He describes how he challenges his own company, its customers, and himself to face sustainability problems head-on.
Harmit Singh Bio
Harmit Singh is the chief financial and growth officer for Levi Strauss & Co. He is responsible for managing our finance, strategy, information technology, strategic sourcing, real estate and global business services functions globally. Previously, Harmit was executive vice president and chief financial officer of Hyatt Hotels Corporation from August 2008 to December 2012. Prior to that, he spent 14 years at Yum! Brands, Inc. in a variety of global leadership roles, including senior vice president and chief financial officer of Yum Restaurants International. Before joining Yum!, Harmit worked in various financial capacities for American Express India & Area Countries.
In 2019, Harmit joined the Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) project, helping to establish the U.S. Chapter of the organization and mobilize other prominent financial leaders to promote the business case for sustainability. In 2021, he was named the U.S. Co-Chair of A4S. In 2023, Harmit joined the board of directors and the Compensation Committee of The AZEK® Company.
Harmit served on the board of directors and the Audit Committee chair of Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. and is the former owner, operator and franchisor of Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurants. Harmit also served on the board of directors and the Audit Committee of OpenText Corporation.
November 13, 2023
How Levi Strauss & Co.’s Harmit Singh Finds Purpose in Profit
As the Chief Financial & Growth Officer of the Levi Strauss & Co. clothing brand, Harmit Singh makes tough decisions by sticking to a clear set of values that are well-aligned with the company’s larger purpose. He is inspired, in part, by Levi Strauss himself, who started selling his now-iconic jeans during the California Gold Rush and committed some of his first profits to a local orphanage. With this inspiration in mind, Singh reflects on how taking risks throughout his career has made him a more courageous, future-oriented leader.
Ben Minicucci Bio
Ben Minicucci serves as chief executive officer and president of Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. Together, the airlines carry more than 41 million guests a year on 1,200 daily flights to 120+ destinations throughout the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and Belize.
Under the leadership of Ben and his team, Alaska is focused on running a safe and strong operation, profitable growth of the route network, and creating an airline people love.
During Ben’s 19-year career with Alaska, he has contributed in various roles of increasing responsibility, becoming CEO on March 31, 2021.
Ben holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada. He serves on the board of directors for Alaska Air Group, UNCF, World Trade Center Seattle, Washington Roundtable, Challenge Seattle, and the University of Washington Michael G. Foster School of Business Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking.
November 20, 2023
Piloting Alaska Airlines with Compassion
To pilot Alaska Airlines, CEO Ben Minicucci draws on his Italian immigrant roots and Canadian military training, which was put to the test during a tricky operation near the North Pole. Having first gained a reputation at the company as “the numbers guy,” Minicucci discusses how he has been evolving into a leader who cares deeply about Alaska Airline’s employees, customers, and the communities it serves.
Dr. James Mwangi Bio
Dr. James Mwangi is Group CEO of Equity Group Holdings, credited with democratizing financial access, leading Equity to become an integrated financial services Group operating in 6 African countries with a client base of over 16m, and an asset base of USD 12B+. James established Equity Group Foundation to scale shared prosperity, mobilizing support of likeminded partners to commit USD 445M for social impact. James is an awardee of the 2020 Oslo Business for Peace Award; the 2007 G8 Global Vision Award citing him as “an initiator of a concept of the future that will shape the world economy”; recognized in the FT’s 2009 list of ‘Top 50 thought leaders in emerging markets’ and the ‘Top 20 most influential people in Africa’; is the holder of the 2012 EY World Entrepreneur of the Year award, and was named one of the Bloomberg 50 in 2019.
November 27, 2023
From Rags to (Shared) Riches: How James Mwangi Democratized Financial Access Across Africa
James Mwangi made a courageous decision to leave a comfortable, big-city banking job to rescue Equity Building Society, a local financial institution on which Kenyan farmers and villagers depended. Under his leadership, the struggling firm transformed into a multi-national conglomerate (Equity Group Holdings) that now serves millions of customers across six African countries. Mwangi explains how he found the fortitude to fight for the financial futures of everyday people.
Harsh Shah Bio
Harsh Shah is one of the three co-founders of Fynd, the unique fashion e-commerce portal which brings the latest in-store fashion online. He has a keen interest in consumer-facing technology in the retail sector, and specialises in management consulting. At Fynd, he brings his valuable experience in technology and entrepreneurship to the table, and oversees the supply side of operations, including managing partnering brands and stores.
Harsh completed his graduation from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, in 2010 and was already part of the entrepreneurship landscape by his second year of college. As the Head of the Entrepreneurship Cell at IIT Bombay, he directed a team of twenty students.
Currently based out of Mumbai, Fynd is successfully disrupting the fashion market by combining technology and retail.
December 4, 2023
Entrepreneur Harsh Shah Debates the Exit Strategy: Is it Selling Out or Building Value?
Harsh Shah and his firm’s co-founders faced a once-in-a-lifetime quandary: should they sell the incredibly successful e-commerce venture they worked so hard to build to a big conglomerate? Reflecting on the circumstances surrounding their acquisition offer, Shah outlines the values that guided their ultimate choice.
Anne Mulcahy Bio
Ms. Mulcahy, age 70, was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Xerox Corporation (business equipment and services) until July 2009, when she retired as CEO after eight years in the position. Prior to serving as CEO, Ms. Mulcahy was President and Chief Operating Officer of Xerox. She also served as President of Xerox’s General Markets Operations, which created and sold products for reseller, dealer and retail channels. Earlier in her career at Xerox, which began in 1976, Ms. Mulcahy served as Vice President for Human Resources with responsibility for compensation, benefits, human resource strategy, labor relations, management development and employee training; and as Vice President and Staff Officer for Customer Operations, covering South America and Central America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Ms. Mulcahy was the U.S. Board Chair of Save the Children from March 2010 to February 2017, and was appointed as a Trustee in February 2018.
December 11, 2023
How Anne Mulcahy Turned Xerox Around – and What Came After
During the 2000s, Anne Mulcahy was faced with the seemingly unsurmountable challenge of saving Xerox, rising to the position of CEO after her predecessor had been unsuccessful. In this retrospective, Mulcahy discusses the leadership lessons she learned, the role she believes CEOs should play in today’s society, and how she’s defining her life post-Xerox.
Michael Miebach Bio
Michael Miebach is chief executive officer of Mastercard and a member of the company’s board of directors.
He is leading the company into a more digital world where the continued application of new technologies will further enable payments to become more seamless in the overall purchasing experience, while bolstering cyber services and data-powered insights.
His collaborative approach creates scalable and trusted solutions for the exchange of payments and data and can be seen in his leadership of the acquisitions of Vocalink and Finicity, as well as the pending transaction with Nets – each expanding Mastercard’s range of payment flows.
He is a member of the digital advisory council of Fannie Mae, which makes sustainable homeownership and workforce rental housing a reality for millions of Americans, and a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit Accion, which gives people across the world the financial tools and services they need to prosper.
Michael is also a board member at large for the Ronald McDonald House New York City.
December 18, 2023
Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach on Driving the Future of the Digital Economy
What’s really in a payment? During his career at Mastercard, Michael Miebach has strived to understand how payment solutions make a difference in people’s lives, even before his appointment as CEO. In this episode, Miebach explains how he thinks through powering the economy in an increasingly digital (if uncertain) world and the leadership required to do so.
Joe Almeida Bio
José (Joe) E. Almeida is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Baxter International Inc.
Every day, millions of patients and caregivers rely on Baxter’s broad portfolio of essential healthcare therapies and technologies, which can be found in patient homes, hospitals, physician offices and other sites of care worldwide.
Almeida assumed his current responsibilities at Baxter in January 2016. He is now leading the company through a period of dynamic evolution and innovation, powered by Baxter’s mission to save and sustain lives and vision to transform healthcare.
Before joining Baxter, Almeida served as chairman, president and CEO of Covidien plc from 2012 to 2015, and as president and CEO from 2011 to 2012. Prior to this, he held a range of senior leadership roles at Covidien and its predecessor organization, Tyco Healthcare, including president, Medical Devices, and president, International. A career healthcare veteran, Almeida also held leadership and management roles at multiple companies across the industry, including Wilson Greatbatch Technologies, American Home Products’ Acufex Microsurgical division, and Johnson & Johnson’s Professional Products division. He began his career as a management consultant at Andersen Consulting (Accenture).
February 5, 2024
As a veteran leader in the healthcare sector, José (Joe) E. Almeida, Chairman, President & CEO of Baxter, has made a lot of tough decisions. He led the successful turnaround of the Illinois-based multinational by calling on leadership lessons he gained from his family in Brazil. Almeida says courage is not the absence of fear, but the determination to press on when times are difficult.
More episodes will be announced. Please check back.
Professor Gulati has been ranked as one of the top ten most-cited academics in the fields of economics and business by ISI-Incite and has received similar recognition from
Professor Gulati studies how “resilient” organizations—those that prosper both in good times and bad—drive growth and profitability. His work bridges strategy (establishing clear strategic pillars for growth), organizational design (reimagining purposeful and collaborative organizational systems), and leadership (fostering inspired, courageous, and caring execution).