The Best Executives Are the Ones That Put Family First, with Bill McDermott

The CEO of SAP discusses leadership ethics and why never missing a Little League game is good for business.

Bill McDermott is the CEO of SAP, a multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software to manage customer relations and business operations. McDermott is also the author of a new book, Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office, which tells the story of how he went from 16-year-old delicatessen owner to one of the most respected executives in the world.


A huge key to McDermott's success is the value he places in achieving the ideal work/life balance. Being a CEO of a major corporation comes with the expectation that you're always on call, always in work mode. But McDermott believes friends and family should always be prioritized over the bottom line. How you are as a person, he says, will be what people remember you for after you're gone:

"What would you want them to say about you when you’re not around? I don’t think it’s that you always got in first and left last and missed everything that really mattered in life. So I’ve always tried to prioritize my marriage, my children, my family above everything else because in the end those are the things that will be here when everything else is long gone."

While some CEOs would argue that an employee's work responsibilities are separate from his or her duties at home, McDermott sees them as virtually interwoven. A worker who excels at home will likewise excel on the job. Being a good spouse, parent, and sibling contributes to you being a good worker. That's why you should never miss a birthday or Little League game or funeral. The office will be able to fill the gap.

"I think there are just certain things about how you live your life and the character and the integrity by which you live your life that will endure all the business stuff. And that’s part of being a winner and that’s part of living the dream."

Watch the following clip from Bill McDermott's Big Think interview for more on achieving the optimal work/life balance:

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