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The wisdom of J&J’s Alex Gorsky

June 10, 2022, 11:01 AM UTC

Good morning.

Johnson & Johnson executive chairman Alex Gorsky met virtually yesterday with more than 100 Fortune Connect Fellows who are taking part in a four-week “learning sprint” on leading in a world of stakeholder capitalism. Gorsky drove the effort at the Business Roundtable to develop a new statement on the purpose of a corporation in August 2019, which was seen by many as heralding the shift to stakeholder capitalism.

Yesterday’s session was off the record, meant solely for the benefit of Connect Fellows. But Gorsky’s comments were so compelling that I asked if he would let me share them with CEO Daily readers. A few excerpts here:

“By and large, business is thinking, acting, doing things differently as a result of that [Business Roundtable] statement.”

“In today’s world, if you aren’t thinking more broadly about these issues of strategy and stakeholders, you are going to be severely challenged.”

“This is an and-and proposition. If a company only takes stands, but doesn’t also deliver on financial commitments, and isn’t disciplined in the way it manages business, it will not have credibility. It will lose its voice. However, done right, when you are able to achieve all of these goals, it then becomes a flywheel, a self-sustaining flywheel, that enables that kind of long-term performance for generations.”

“When companies can create an environment where employees feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves…where one plus one plus one equals five…it is absolutely a secret sauce.”

“I knew by the time I was in sixth grade I wanted to go to West Point. And the opportunity to go through that challenge, to learn a lot about myself but more importantly to serve my country, has been seminal in my development as a leader…When I went into my first unit in the Army, I was [in the] minority. And I had people from across a very broad range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and there was no way I could be successful as a young lieutenant if I didn’t connect with them at an emotional, personal, psychological level. You really come to appreciate our common humanity.”

“With all the dynamics going on in the world today, I would challenge everybody on this Zoom to think about the important role that industry and business in a free-market, capitalist-based system can have for this society…I mean you think about so many of the challenges we face, be it geopolitics, be it around climate, be it politics…I truly believe one of our greatest hopes, and what we are seeing more and more is, how does business engage in the appropriate way so that we can actually have more successful, more inclusive outcomes that help us navigate through some of these very issues.”

If you are interested in learning more about Fortune Connect, Fortune’s learning community for the next generation of business leaders, go here. Other news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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