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Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan says leaders should look ‘out-in’ - here’s why

Chairman and CEO of Bank Of America, Brian Moynihan photographed for the Finanical Times in New York City.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. Image: Bank of America

Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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  • Subscribe to Meet the Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud and Acast.
  • The World Economic Forum has launched a bi-weekly podcast featuring the world’s top changemakers, showcasing the habits and traits effective leaders can’t work without.
  • This week's podcast features Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan discussing the ESG metrics, long-term change and how he leverages curiosity.
  • Find other World Economic Forum podcasts here.

Long-term change doesn't just happen. It takes a combination of vision, focus - and the creativity to adapt as new solutions take shape.

Brian Moynihan uses these traits in a number of ways as the CEO of Bank of America, but also in his recent work driving the creation of the ESG metrics, a special set of metrics related to environmental, social and governance issues that help companies measure how they're doing well for society.

This effort was led by the World Economic Forum's International Business Council, of which Moynihan is the chair. With the help of the big four accounting firms, the effort converged existing standards to outline a universal set of nonfinancial metrics to gauge how companies are addressing problems like gender pay gaps and environmental protection, and help make progress against the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Developing a baseline set of metrics marks a milestone in the implementation of "stakeholder capitalism," an approach to business that prioritizes people, prosperity and the planet.

“What we're trying to do,” says Moynihan, "is to help implement and solve the great problems the world faces.”

Moynihan, as the leader of a large public company, knows the impact companies can have on social change. “Capitalism can solve these problems,” he says in the podcast. “And if we don’t aim capitalism at them, they’re not going to get solved.”

Moynihan discusses the ESG metrics and the traits and habits that help him lead that work in Meet the Leader, a new podcast from the World Economic Forum. Hosted by editor Linda Lacina, these bi-weekly interviews dive into the habits and qualities leaders depend on the most - the ones that truly underpin great change.

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Highlights of this episode

A habit he swears by: Moynihan recommends that leaders look “out-in.” He says it’s important for leaders to consider what’s impacting those doing certain projects and how to remove barriers from their work. Such an approach was behind the company’s moves during the pandemic to offer paid childcare to parents balancing remote work and homeschool.

“Don't think about what you're doing,” says Moynihan. “Think about what the person actually doing the work in an organization is doing and how do you make it the easiest for them to do that.”

A book everyone should read: A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.
This book by Hollywood producer Brian Grazer shares how curiosity has opened doors in his own life. The entertainment executive has regularly conducted what he calls curiosity conversations with people in fields outside entertainment to learn the "secret" to their process and way of thinking and in his work to move projects forward. Those conversations helped inspire him as a storyteller but also help him as a manager. Asking what Grazer calls “genuine questions” helps build collaboration and trust.

Moynihan is a big believer in curiosity and how it underpins great problem solving: “I think that's the issue even in times of stress. How do you ask the next question? How can you try to find the next point?”

Moynihan recommends the book widely, especially to people starting out in their careers. “It’s a wonderful, fun read.”

More on the ESG Metrics:

Subscribe to Meet the Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud and Acast

Listen to Meet The Leader's sister podcasts World Vs Virus, about the global pandemic, and The Great Reset, on the efforts to 'build back better' here.

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