CEO of USAA on Effective Leadership by Creating a Mission
Josue (Joe) Robles, President and CEO of USAA discusses how his experiences in the military have largely contributed to his leadership style. Robles explains, in the military one understands what it takes for your peers do things that are challenging, and often require their lives to be put on the line, and yet will tackle obstacles willingly for their nation. Exposure to such an environment allows people to learn about their levels of discipline and skills, that often civilian life does not offer. From Day 1 Robles says, you are faced with making impossible tasks possible, and require support from fellow soldiers.
What the defining factor was that caused everyone to work together, despite the risk of task, was the importance of completing the mission their superiors instilled in them. Robles saw how the creation of a mission gave everyone a goal to work towards, just as employees of an organization work towards common goals and achievements. Not only was the need for setting goals influential in his leadership style, Robles also learned that listening is a key ingredient in becoming a well-respected leader. Robles reflects back on using military radios that required soldiers to push a button to talk, which cut out the other end of the conversation, requiring you to wait to talk until the other person was finished speaking. This training allowed Robles to strengthen his listening skills, which he used by communicating with all employee levels of USAA for recommendations, insights, and feedback when the company underwent great cultural and structural changes.
With these two main factors at the forefront of Robles leadership strategy, the company was able to emerge from the 2008 recession with a AAA Credit Rating, and continues to financially strive. Robles is asked regularly “what is the secret sauce of USAA” and his response remains unchanged. He praises his employees who always listen to their customers, putting them first, and his customers for their continued support of USAA. Robles urges other CEOs to create missions they want their employees to achieve, and ensure they listen to their employees for inspiration and innovation. Watch the latest episode of The CEO TV Show here.