HOW Conversations

The HOW Conversations video series brings together a varied group of experts and leaders to discuss timely issues of our reshaped world through the lenses of moral leadership, principled decision-making, and value-based behavior.

Moral Courage is the Best Defense to Fight Corruption

Jennifer Musisi has been threatened by men with machetes and once found a grenade under her car. Both encounters occurred while she was serving as the Executive Director of Kampala, Uganda, a position similar to a big city mayor. “It was scary, some of us were attacked, some of my staff were physically beaten up,” Jennifer Musisi tells Dana Born, HOW Institute Distinguished Fellow, on the latest episode of HOW Conversations. Jennifer was given a mandate to clean up corruption in Kampala and when she started modernizing the tax collection system she made some people very upset, “but it made me realize that if they’re willing to put up a fight this big, that means what they’re losing is also very big. So that even gave us more determination and made us resolute to fight for the benefit of the citizens.” Despite the dangers, Jennifer says she never thought of quitting, “when we’re entrusted with leadership, we’re entrusted with responsibility to make change where change needs to be made.” Jennifer served as the Kampala Executive Director for eight years and is now the City Leader in Residence at the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative at the Ash Center.

Moral Leadership Starts With Love

“We all are leaders, we can’t just criticize what’s going on out there without taking some responsibility for in here, in our hearts.” This week, Senator Cory Booker joined Dov Seidman on a new episode of HOW Conversations. It’s not often we hear the words ‘love’ and ‘politics’ in the same conversation but Senator Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, told Dov he believes leadership, in particular American leadership, is founded in love and love can help cure what ails society, “This world needs the best of what America is. Not a divisive cacophony of conflict but a country that finds common ground and stands together for our common values…. We need millions and millions of those moments where we stop and lead with love.”

Senator Booker and Dov’s wide reaching discussion explored how we can overcome political division through moral leadership, the importance of taking risks with humility and why Senator Booker thinks we need to refocus on long term economic goals, ” I think what we have now is a perversion of the ideals of capitalism and it has changed dramatically since the 19080s…very different than the capitalism of the past where people were looking toward long term growth, [asking] what is the real value that I am creating?”

Building Relationships That Radiate Trust

“Building relationships of trust over time is one of the most important things you can do as a leader.” Dr. Heather Wilson, the president of University of Texas, El Paso tells The HOW Institute Fellow Dana Born on a new episode of HOW Conversations. “Over time, those relationships of trust and that network of trust that radiates out from you is invaluable. Because when things get really hard, I don’t need anything else.”

Heather Wilson knows a thing or two about leadership, she’s had an incredibly varied and impressive career. Dr. Wilson graduated from the Air Force Academy and went on to start her own company. She has been an advisor to U.S. national laboratories on nuclear weapons and non-proliferation, a cabinet secretary in New Mexico’s state government, a U.S. Congresswoman and served as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force.

Watch HOW Conversations and learn why Dr. Wilson believes it’s important to be humble and take the time to listen to others, especially people with whom you might not see eye-to-eye. “You have to go into a conversation with the people you don’t agree with thinking, “you know something, I might be wrong.”

Leading via Decency…and Winning

I believe that businesses cannot prosper in a failing world,” Ajay Banga, the Executive Chairman of Mastercard, tells The HOW Institute Founder, Dov Seidman, on a new episode of HOW Conversations. Ajay explains why he thinks capitalism as we know it needs an overhaul and why the business of business is now about society. “This [wealth] inequality, this climate inequality, they don’t work for me, and they don’t work for my children, and they don’t work for you.”

Ajay, who is a founding Board Member of The HOW Institute, and Dov also discuss Mastercard’s decision to keep all employees on the payroll during the pandemic even though the costs hurt the company’s bottom line, “It’s a tough hit, but it’s the right hit for the long term, you know why? Because those very people are far more loyal today. And by the way, the skills they have is what’s made our company what it is.

Moral Leadership Means Always Focusing on the Greater Good (Part Two)

Angela Ahrendts believes success comes from putting others first, “My definition of moral leadership is always doing what’s best for the greater good of the whole, not yourself, not your boss, not your board.” Angela, a HOW Institute Board Member and the Chair of Save the Children International, spoke with Dov Seidman, Founder and Chairman of The HOW Institute, on the second part of their HOW Conversations.

Trust is the Ultimate Human Connector (Part One)

“Deep values help build deep trust. Deep trust empowers individuals. And it unites groups of people, ordinary people, to collectively do extraordinary things,” says Angela Ahrendts, a member of the Board of The HOW Institute and the Chair of the Board of Save the Children International. Angela spoke with Dov Seidman, Founder and Chairman of The HOW Institute, on this special episode of HOW Conversations.

Paul Polman Believes that for Great Leaders Success Comes from Serving Others (Part Two)

When leaders invest in others it drives their own success forward, says Paul Polman, member of the Board of The HOW Institute. Paul spoke with Dov Seidman, Founder and Chairman of The HOW Institute in Part Two of their HOW Conversations. If investing in others works for individuals then, “it must be true for companies as well, because companies are a collective of individuals,” says Paul. But putting others, not just shareholders, at the center of the company takes moral courage. Paul co-founded IMAGINE, an organization that is helping leaders be brave and work toward long term solutions for the challenges of sustainability and inequality. Watch the second part of this HOW Conversations and learn why Paul has hope for a better future.

Paul Polman Says We Are Short of Leaders and Trees and We Need More of Both (Part One)

“COVID has been a rude awakening for most of us. For the first time we have seen that our current system isn’t really working as well as we intended,” says Paul Polman a HOW Institute Board Member and the former CEO of Unilever. Paul spoke with Dov Seidman, Founder of The HOW Institute, in this episode of HOW Conversations about the challenges and the opportunities the pandemic has revealed. He told Dov that a greener more inclusive future is within reach but it will take moral leadership and courage from individuals plus strong public and private partnerships, “Business cannot succeed in societies that fail nor can business be a bystander in a system that gives them life in the first place.” In 2019 Paul co-founded Imagine, an organization dedicated to helping CEOs and businesses be sustainable, equitable and inclusive. Watch part one of Paul’s HOW Conversations to hear his solutions for a better, healthier post-pandemic world.

Moral Leaders Extend Trust to Others

Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark believes trust is the foundation for every successful relationship, “Most times, with few exceptions, people keep trust. Once you give it to them and you empower them with trust, they don’t want to lose it.” Along with learning the value of trust, Lt. Gen. Clark thinks young people become moral leaders by watching other leaders and learning from–and taking responsibility for–mistakes. He knows a few things about teaching leadership, he is the Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, CO where they instruct cadets, “what it really takes for someone to call themselves a moral leader and the characteristics they should exhibit.” Lt. Gen Clark spoke with HOW Institute Fellow Dana Born, who also graduated from the Air Force Academy, on this episode of HOW Conversations.

Redefine Failure So It Leads to Success

The first time Ellen Ochoa applied to NASA’s space program she wasn’t selected but she saw her rejection as an opportunity, “I didn’t really see it as a failure. I knew the odds were low, and I had the chance to go to Johnson Space Center to meet other astronauts and get some ideas of what might make me a better candidate in the future.” Not long afterwards Ellen was selected. She went on to become the first Hispanic, woman astronaut and flew four missions to space. Later, she took the helm of the Johnson Space Center as its director. “I think redefining failure is important,” Ellen tells Dana Born, HOW Institute Fellow, on this episode of HOW Conversations. When things don’t go right, Ellen says to ask yourself, “What can I learn even though I didn’t do as well as I had wanted?” Watch this episode to see why Ellen believes moral leaders need to be humble and curious. And find out how she and her crewmates repaired a torn solar panel on the International Space Station and turned what could have been a failure into a success.

The Power of Observation Illuminates the Path of Moral Leadership

“There’s no one right way to lead,” says retired General Janet Wolfenbarger, a trailblazing leader in the U.S. military. In 1980, she graduated from the Air Force Academy in the first class to include women and went on to become the first woman in the Air Force to receive four stars. Janet says although there are many paths to moral leadership, watching and listening to others guided her, “The biggest teacher for me of a good leader came from observing people in leadership roles. Understanding what approaches, character traits, and values were articulated, how they worked and, in some cases, didn’t work.” Janet spoke to HOW Institute Fellow, Dana Born, in this latest episode of HOW Conversations.

Moral Leaders Are Honest With Themselves First

“One of the things that I think is important to any moral leader is the ability to do self-reflection and be honest with yourself,” says retired Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth O. Wright. Kaleth was the highest-ranking enlisted man in the Air Force when he retired last year and is now the CEO of the Air Force Aid Society. He spoke with Dana Born, HOW Institute Fellow, about how his moral leadership journey led him to post a heartfelt essay on Twitter after the death of George Floyd. In the post Kaleth called upon himself to, “do better in ensuring every Airman in our ranks has a fair chance at becoming the best version of themselves,” and took responsibility for not doing more. Watch the full episode to learn why Kaleth wrote the essay and why he believes moral leaders need to be both courageous and vulnerable.

Moral Leaders Value and Commit to a Shared Purpose

Retired General Stanley McChrystal stresses that moral leaders must have a strong sense of purpose and must be willing to put personal desires aside to achieve shared goals. “Things only matter if they link to a purpose that we’ve all looked at and we’ve all accepted, and we are committed to. As a leader I have to keep pointing where we want to be going,” Stan told Dana Born, HOW Institute Fellow on this episode of HOW Conversations. Stan and Dana also spoke about leadership built on values and the importance of active citizenship.

We Must Rethink What Leadership Means in a Post-COVID World

Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation thinks “we’re never going back to life as it was in January 2020.” Darren, who is also a member of The HOW Institute’s Board of Directors, spoke with Dov Seidman on this episode of HOW Conversations. Darren says that in the post-COVID world, “moral leaders see themselves as part of something bigger than themselves.” And he believes that to meet the challenges of our post-COVID world, moral leaders will need a new set of skills including, “empathy, compassion, humility, curiosity, and grace.”

Moral Leadership Is Hard and it Is Lonely, But It Matters

Retired Air Force General David Goldfein says, “The higher you go in rank and responsibility the harder the decisions are, and they should be.” Dave spoke with HOW Institute Fellow, Dana Born, in the latest episode of HOW Conversations and he tells Dana he’s learned it can be lonely at the top because when it comes to making tough decisions, “some number of people are not going to like the direction you take, and so don’t take the happy road, take the right road.” Hear more from Dave Goldfein about why it is important to have a diverse team around you and why leadership is a privilege.

Moral Leaders Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect

Lt. General Nadja West, the recently retired Army’s top doctor, knows what it takes to be a successful moral leader. She was one of the first women to graduate from West Point and went on to earn a medical degree. Lt. Gen. West spent 37 years in the military rising to become a three-star general and the first black Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. In this episode of HOW Conversations, Lt. Gen. West spoke with Dana Born, HOW Fellow, about the importance of leading with dignity and respect, taking the time to be empathetic, and remembering your humility.

Moral Leaders Are Truth Tellers and Trust Builders

Admiral William H. McRaven advises leaders to ask themselves three questions before making tough decisions: is it moral, is it legal and is it ethical? “There are no perfect moral leaders,” but that shouldn’t stop leaders from working hard to be as moral as possible, says McRaven. The former Navy SEAL, Director of U.S. Special Operations Command and retired Navy Admiral spoke with Dana Born, HOW Fellow for this episode of HOW Conversations.

Moral Leaders Are Dealers in Hope

Admiral James Stavridis says when leaders set positive goals and visions people will stand and deliver—leaders need to be “dealers of hope.”   Admiral Stavridis is a member of the board of The HOW Institute and an Operating Executive at the Carlyle Group.  He spoke with HOW Fellow, Brigadier General Dana Born, in the first of a series of special HOW Conversations with military leaders.  Watch the full episode with Admiral Stavridis to learn more about the difference between leadership and character and which books every moral leader should read.

CEO Chip Bergh Admits Levi Strauss has a Diversity Problem but He’s Got a Plan to Fix It

On this episode of HOW Conversations, the CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. Chip Bergh tells Dov Seidman how difficult it was to learn only about 3% of Levi’s leadership management are black. And how he’s leading the plan to fix the problem. ‘A diverse organization at all levels will outperform a homogenous one every single time’ Chip tells Dov. They also discuss the hard choice Chip had to make to lay off staff during the crises and what Chip learned about leadership from the Army.

Moral Leadership Is Now a Survival Skill

Dov Seidman and Nancy Gibbs, Lombard Director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard Kennedy School and a HOW Institute Board member, have a wide-ranging conversation that touches on the many reasons that in this extraordinary moment where we, collectively, are facing so many simultaneous crises, moral leadership has evolved from a worthy pursuit to a critical survival skill for the future of society and humanity.