SAP Co-CEO Jennifer Morgan, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, and Synchrony CEO Margaret Keane joined Great Place to Work Chief Executive Officer Michael C. Bush as Summit Executive Co-Chairs this year.
SAP Co-CEO Jennifer Morgan was a keynote speaker at the 17th Annual Great Place to Work For All Summit held last 3 to 5 of March 2020 at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco, USA. The recently concluded summit’s theme was “For All Leadership” highlighting leaders of today that are adept at fostering genuine human connections, enabling team members to reach their maximum potential, and able to solve multi-dimensional problems.
Aside from showcasing main stage keynotes and tactical focus sessions, panel discussions hosted by Fortune editors and workplace culture experts from Great Place to Work were also featured in the Summit.
Morgan spoke with Ellen McGirt, Senior Editor at Fortune Magazine during the keynote session. The SAP Co-CEO emphasised how leaders of today faced with rapid change have to be “obsessed with learning” and need to stay humble and open to foster a strong workplace culture. She also talked about her insights on women in leadership.
SAP Veteran Morgan described her becoming a co-CEO as humbling and shared to the audience the importance of seeking out continuous learning. She said:
“Early in our careers, we think that everyone in a leadership role has everything figured out.”
“But as you progress, you realise how much more of a student you need to be,” Morgan added.
Together with her co-CEO Christian Klein, Morgan believes that they bring a deep and complementary knowledge of the business that informs a shared vision for SAP’s future. She stated:
“We have a very common vision for the company and where we need to go.”
“And having been an operator in the business, it gives you real insight into the challenges and opportunities you have,” she further stressed.
Trust and unity alongside shared aspirations for the company are critical among leaders. Morgan explained that leadership takes time.
“In companies today, people have to come together not just at the leadership level, but across all parts of an organisation,” the SAP co-CEO said.
SAP has been known in the industry as an initiator of integrations as seen in the company’s large acquisitions in recent years. According to Morgan, successful integration requires a different approach to communications. She said that more often than not, leaders are focused on the “what” rather than explaining the “why.” This becomes a hurdle for employees to understand and align with transformation.
Morgan explained why communication is critical especially when leaders have to make organisational changes to achieve business goals. She quipped:
“Just telling employees the ‘what’ without the ‘why’ in today’s world undermines what you’re trying to do.”
About Women Leaders
McGirt and Morgan also discussed how a female CEO can help shift the beliefs of men making better leaders than women, a timely topic for the upcoming International Women’s Day.
Fortune’s Senior Editor McGirt mentioned a study recently released by the UN Development Programme. The first gender social norm index analysed data from 75 countries found that almost half of people feel men are superior political leaders and more than 40% believe men make better business executives. SAP operates in many of the countries surveyed in the study.
Addressing the delicate balance needed for women to be good leaders and role models, Morgan shared how important it is to for her to be recognised for her leadership and not for her gender. She mentioned:
“At the same time, I underestimated how many younger women and underrepresented minorities look to people like me who are in these positions.”
For the SAP co-CEO, leaders like them bring hope and inspiration to people that success is real and actionable. She also recognised the role of men in advancing women in leadership, specifically in countries where gender norms are deep-rooted.
“I make sure that men are part of these conversations. Men do want to be part of the solution, so we need to pull them in and say it’s okay to help advocate,” she said.
The 3-day summit was organised by Great Place to Work, a company that researches, assesses, and ranks companies based on factors like diversity and inclusion, culture, trust, and region. This year’s summit aimed to educate participants on innovations in leadership, partnerships, and technology that enable organisations to create great places to work for all.
DJ Paoni, President of SAP North America and Morgan received leadership awards from Great Place to Work honoring their efforts to create a first-rate company culture.
Dr. Judith Williams, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Head of People Sustainability at SAP, also spoke at the event.