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Schwab CEO Says Good Leadership Depends on Trust and Reputation

May 10, 2019, 4:07 PM UTC

When Walter Bettinger talks about his leadership beliefs, it’s all about strong values, trust, transparency, and reputation. While many business leaders commonly use this language, for Bettinger, CEO of the Schwab Corporation, it goes deeper than that. For him these are deep beliefs inculcated in him by his father.

Bettinger talks about important advice he received from his father just days after he graduated from high school in his hometown of Ada, Ohio. “You have one reputation. Almost everything in life can be bought and sold except for your reputation,” Bettinger says his father told him. “Guard that reputation with just a tremendous intensity. Do the right thing. Believe that every action you take is transparent and seen by all other people and nobody should make decisions in your life.”

Bettinger was only 18 years old at the time, but he clearly got the message. Know what you stand for. Know your priorities. There are no trade offs.

Those words from his father have guided Bettinger’s decisions throughout his life, especially when he became CEO of the giant brokerage firm and he had to deal with the repercussions of one of the worst financial crises in American history.

“I think the two most important things in leadership whether it’s in a time of crisis or even if in wonderful times, come down to transparency and vulnerability,” says Bettinger. “Transparency is scary because it means that you’re going to share with everyone everything that you possibly have around information, good and bad, and you’re going to leave them up to judge whatever they would take from it. You’re not going to spin things, you’re just going to be transparent. That transparency and vulnerability were key points in that time and they’ll always be key from a leadership standpoint.”

Watch the video above for more from my interview with Bettinger.