Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of David S. Schwartz, CEO of Restaurant Brands International. To read the complete interview, check out other articles, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times
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When you think about your leadership style today, do you see their influence?
Probably the biggest influence they’ve had is about always being very respectful of other people. Neither of them led teams or organizations, but there was always this emphasis on kindness and manners and just being a good person.
I always have that in the back of my head, regardless of who I’m talking to. The world’s a small place, life’s short, and so you should only be nice to people. I don’t raise my voice at work. I don’t have tantrums.
Did you know what you wanted to do when you went to college?
I kept an open mind early on. I took some pre-med classes, life-science classes and also business classes. I started reading a lot of books about business and Wall Street, and I really liked Finance 101. I decided to go into investment banking.
I took some extra courses so I could graduate in three years. Once I decided what I wanted to do, I wanted to start quickly. After a few years, I joined 3G Capital, an investment firm. They have a culture of making bets on people who they think have potential and who can grow over the long run.
What was your first management role?
I joined 3G when I was 24, but I didn’t really have much of a management role there. I became C.F.O. when we acquired Burger King, so that was my first time managing people. I had just turned 30.
Alex Behring, who heads up 3G, gave me some great advice early on. He said that you have to manage the people, not the business. When I first arrived, I was trying to do a lot myself and it was a little overwhelming. And then I remembered what he said and started letting the people manage the business, and I managed the people.
What were other early lessons for you?
If you want to change something or if you want to really influence or impact someone, you need to be in that person’s market and be with them face-to-face. You can’t run a multinational business from your desk. You can’t just get on the phone and tell the people that you need to do things differently.
If you make the trip, that’s a big investment of time for you. People appreciate that, and they’re going to be more open to your feedback. You’ll also have more credibility because you’ve seen their business and been in their market.
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews of hundreds of business leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.