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  • This fortnightly podcast from the World Economic Forum features the world’s top changemakers, showcasing the habits and traits effective leaders can’t work without.
  • Hans Vestberg, the CEO of Verizon, shares how he sharpens his leadership skills and why he's dedicated his life to bridging connectivity gaps.

How will you make an impact? That's a key question Hans Vestberg asks himself in his role as Verizon's CEO, a company that employs thousands and effects even more as a telecommunications provider.

The answer, for Vestberg, is in improving his leadership. He sees leadership as a profession, with skills and approaches he can constantly improve on and adapting to new needs.

digital, COVID-19, EDISON Alliance

What is the Forum doing to close the digital gap?

COVID-19 has exposed digital inequities globally and exacerbated the digital divide. Nearly half of the world is still not online.

With more basic services moving online and the pandemic highlighting affordability challenges in wealthier nations, these deep digital gaps are exacerbating inequality and preventing the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At The Davos Agenda, the World Economic Forum launched the EDISON Alliance, the first cross-sector alliance to accelerate digital inclusion and connect critical sectors of the economy.

The EDISON Alliance will prioritize digital inclusion as the platform of platforms for partners with a common purpose for achieving the SDGs. Its vision is to ensure that every person can affordably participate in the digital economy.

This starts with focus. He uses spreadsheets to help track his mood and his time. These spreadsheets - dating back to 2009 - help him ensure that his focus is applied to the correct company priorities. They track time by the month and quarter and demonstrate how his priorities have shifted to meet various needs.

"I spent time on my leadership because it's so important," says Vestberg. "That's really what I can contribute to this organization."

He adopted some of these tactics when became CEO, learning he needed to change how he worked to fit the scope of the new role. "I cannot manage Verizon today as I did Ericsson in 1994," he says. "That would be disaster. You need to adapt to leadership."

These strategies, ultimately, are designed for impact. Vestberg understands how his actions can shape lives for both his staff and the communities Verizon serves. "We have a huge responsibility as private companies. My employees probably listen more to me than to many other stakeholders in our society."

Vestberg's life's passion is connectivity and he has worked for years to ensure that broadband and technology can help close digital gaps for jobs and education. "It doesn't really matter where a born and where it come from," says Vestberg. "You should have an equal chance. We're far away from that."

Vestberg was one of the first members of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Broadband Commission for Digital Development. He was also an author of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals and even advocated for connectivity as an 18th goal. He currently serves as the first chairman of the Edison Alliance, a World Economic Forum initiative dedicated to bringing affordable broadband to more than 3 billion people.

Says Vestberg: "The most scalable and most sustainable solution in order to close the gaps we're having in our society and supporting all the 17 SDGs is actually using technology."

World Economic Forum podcast Meet the Leader caught up with Vestberg ahead of this year's Global Technology Governance Summit. The wide-ranging conversation covered how time as a professional handball player shaped him as a leader to how he learns from world leaders and other CEOs. He also shares how he first realized connectivity would be his life's passion - and what he thinks is needed next to progress towards that goal.

Listen to Meet The Leader's sister podcast Radio Davos (on understanding the world's biggest challenges).

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