In this episode of The Indispensable Conversation:

Is there a place for decency in top leadership? Or, is it just about driving up stock prices and generating more revenue?

Our guest is former CEO of Baxter International, Harry Kraemer, Jr.

Harry Kraemer, Jr. retired as chairman and CEO of Baxter International Inc., a multi-billion-dollar global healthcare company. Today, he is a professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. As you might guess, he teaches in the MBA and the Executive MBA programs.

Harry is also an executive partner with Madison Dearborn Partners. MDP is one of the largest private equity firms in the United States. He consults with CEOs and other senior executives of companies in MDP’s extensive portfolio.

This resume makes Harry the perfect guest to explore our question for this week’s The Indispensable Conversation.

Decency in Leadership Can Be Elusive

Bill Boulding, head of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, wrote about the Decency Quotient a couple years back, but, didn’t really give much guidance, describing it as “being showing value, respect and care for others.”

I think Harry Kraemer, Jr. gave us the makings of a Decency Acid Test  that resolves the issue. You see, Harry was asked by a reporter about how he sleeps at night after having to do layoffs at Baxter. Harry suggested that he asks himself these two questions before going to bed. If he can answer YES to both, he can sleep:

  • Did I do what I thought was right?
  • Did I do my best?

I discuss leadership decency in this episode of The Indispensable Conversation on LinkedIn Live.


Please be sure to let us know if there were any “A-ha” moments for you.

By the way, my 6th book: Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without (Humanix, February 2021) is available for pre-order. It provides dozens of examples from industry-leading companies like Amazon, BMW and Apple to reinforce its key points. Each chapter helps you to learn how visionary business leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon are already applying these ideas in today’s business world.