Fred Hassan (chairman of Bausch & Lomb) in “The Corner Office”

HassanAdam 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 Fred Hassan who is chairman of Bausch & Lomb and a managing director at Warburg Pincus. He says that by making front-line managers feel like ambassadors, not shop stewards, “it totally changes the productivity of the whole organization.”

To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

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Bryant: What were some early leadership lessons for you?

Hassan: My parents sent me off to learn engineering in Britain. One company I worked for had a tiered system. I would get my paycheck out of one window, and the guys who were in lower middle management would get their paycheck at another window. We would sit in separate cafeterias. I never forgot that, and wherever I’ve been in a position to make changes, the first thing I’ve always done is to get rid of any barriers that separate people.

Bryant: Other early lessons?

Hassan: A very important thing I learned from my parents was to get your hands dirty. Just go in there and do a good job, always focus on the next mile, and things are usually going to break your way.

Bryant: What did your parents do for a living?

Hassan: My dad was a civil servant. He was proud of what he did, and he worked very hard. Seeing people around him do well was the big thing he was proud of, and that’s something that’s very deep in my DNA. My mother was a politician for a while. She also sponsored an organization for women’s rights. She was a person who didn’t want to play a traditional role, and yet she did it in a very careful, calm and peaceful manner.

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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 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 with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.

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