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 Joel Babbit, C.E.O. of Mother Nature Network, an environmental news and information Web site he founded with Chuck Leavell of the Rolling Stones.He says James Bond films taught him to enjoy himself while doing serious work.
Photo Credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times
Bryant: You’ve started three companies. What have you learned from the experiences?
Babbit: I’m not as focused on superficial things, which I was when I started out. Back then, the number of employees I had was a big deal. The more, the better. Clients? The more, the better. Now I realize how unimportant those things are in the scheme of things. I want fewer people, less management and process, and more actual work. That leads to greater profit, by the way.
Bryant: What do you consider the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?
Babbit: As absurd as it may sound, a lot of things I read and saw in my childhood really affected me in some way — including How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which I thought was just an incredibly great movie and play, and James Bond movies.
Babbit: I must have seen Goldfinger 100 times. And what I learned from that was, while he was working on very serious stuff like saving the world, he always enjoyed himself. He would have a drink every night and go out on a date and would make witty remarks to people in the midst of crises. I think that’s a very good business lesson.
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 with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.