HOUSTON — Author Thomas Fellows, explains how he was deeply moved by a recent LinkedIn interview where former President Barack Obama was interviewed by LinkedIn Editor Daniel Roth on the value of work and how it has changed and will change over the years because of technology.
Here’s what he had to say about the interview, “Although I lean a little to the right politically, I’ve always admired President Obama’s leadership ability. The way he led reminds me of Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan. It is important to note that Obama is consistently rated as the 9th best president of all time. For those who think those rankings have a liberal bias, Ronald Reagan is ranked No. 8.
One of the reasons he was so effective in his leadership was his ability to grind. In the interview, he told Roth, ‘Michelle and I always tell our daughters, some of the work is just a grind. You are doing something that is useful to your employer, the person who is paying you, and it may not be fun, and that’s okay because that’s what it means to be a grown-up.’
Fellows says, “I completely agree; in fact, someone who certainly grinded was my mentor Bill McDermott, who is the former CEO of SAP and present-day CEO of ServiceNow. In his 2014 memoir “Winners Dream: A Journey From Corner Office to Corner Store”, he explained that he would wake up at 5 AM every single day in his first year at Xerox and because he did, achieved over 1000% of his quota. Success is not handed on a silver platter; it’s the product of countless hours of relentless hard work and dedication. The most accomplished individuals know that the grind is inevitable, and they embrace every challenge as a stepping stone toward their dreams.”
What did Fellows learn from the Obama interview? “I thought Obama was right when he said, ‘The most important advice I give to young people is just learn how to get stuff done. What I mean by that is I’ve seen at every level, people who are very good at describing problems, people who are very sophisticated in explaining why something went wrong, or why something can’t get fixed, but what I’m always looking for is no matter how small the problem is or how big it is somebody who says, let me take care of that. If you project an attitude that is whatever it is that is needed, I can handle it and I can do it, whoever is running that organization will notice, I promise, which is why for young people you don’t always need to be so impatient asking for the plum assignment, a lot of times the best way to get attention is assigned to you, you are nailing; you are killing it. People will notice, ah, that’s somebody who can get something done.’ During the past several years, that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do, keep nailing the assignment that is handed to me.”
I then asked Fellows what exactly he meant by that. He quipped that consistency in excellence is a beacon that invariably attracts the attention of those at the top. When you repeatedly excel in your tasks, it creates a pattern that upper management can’t ignore. As you consistently outperform and deliver, it becomes inevitable for leadership to recognize and reward your dedication and skill. That’s exactly what Bill McDermott has done throughout his career at Xerox, SAP, and ServiceNow, and people are starting to notice.
With all that he has done in the past years, I asked Fellows if ever thought about political office. He gave me a bit of a coy response, but here’s what he had to say, “I established residency in Texas in August of 2020, so I would barely be eligible to run for Lieutenant Governor in 2026, but I am definitely measuring a potential run at this point.”
I then asked him if he would run as a Republican or Democrat. His answer surprised me: “I would run as an Independent, but don’t get the impression that I’m a moderate. If anything, I’m a little too bold; after all, one of my favorite quotes is from a book called ‘Time Enough For Love’ when he says, “Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.”