What does Menlo Park resident Greg McKeown have in common with the likes of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page, and British Prime Minister David Cameron?
McKeown joins these and other influential world figures on the World Economic Forum’s list of “Young Global Leaders (YGLs).”
Drawn from a pool of several thousand candidates from around the world each year, YGLs are chosen by a selection committee. The 2012 committee was chaired by H.M. Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), a total of 192 leaders from 59 different countries were bestowed with the honor of being named YGLs this year. Those in the 2012 group “comprise respected international leaders from business, government and media,” said a statement released March 6.
The WEF’s biggest hope for the YGLs is for them to collaborate and “engage in initiatives that address specific challenges of public interest with the objective of shaping a better future.”
“The world has seen the biggest recession in almost a century, and we now face daunting global challenges,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF. “Recovery and innovation will require new, unique ideas and an environment where the best minds, ideas and leadership can thrive. The Young Global Leaders represent the voice for the future and the hopes of the next generation.”
“I am particularly proud of this year's honorees, whom I believe will address the challenges we face in a meaningful way through fresh thinking and true multi-stakeholder engagement,” Schwab continued.
A leader who trains leaders
Though McKeown said he feels like “the most unqualified person in the group” compared to all past and present YGLs, the nature of his job seems a natural fit with the mission of the WEF and its Young Global Leaders.
McKeown is the founder and CEO of THIS, Inc., a “leadership and strategy design agency” headquartered in Silicon Valley. McKeown’s clients – major Bay Area companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel, Salesforce.com, Symantec, Twitter, and VMware – send him all over the world to train their executives and turn them into global economic leaders.
Therefore, McKeown is constantly country-hopping, which puts him in the perfect position to meet with YGLs from all over the world and share tips and best practices on how to build their respective companies and industries in order to help strengthen the world’s economy.
These days, whenever McKeown travels for business, he makes sure to try and hook up with YGLs in the area and meet with them.
“They’re immediately available and wanting to chat,” he said.
For example, McKeown just returned from six weeks of global travel in which he hit four different continents, visiting countries like Bulgaria, Singapore and Tanzania, to name just a few.
Before that, he was in India and Japan, where he said he met some of the most impressive YGLs so far.
“The YGL from Japan I met, Lin Kobayashi, told me all about how she is starting a leadership school – a boarding school - for the children of elite families in Japan,” he described. “She’s trying to introduce them to some real, cutting-edge leadership thinking, trying to transform these young leaders into the people who can lead Japan into the next generation.”
He said he had an amazing meeting in India as well.
“They were very impressive people, really wanting to do interesting things,” McKeown said.
When asked what he talks about with his fellow YGLs, he said, the number one thing he feels is important to do, is just to get to know them.
“I start just by asking them about their stories – literally, the day they were born to the day of our conversation. Where we're from, what we're interested in,” he explained. “I think it's so easy to be in business with people for years and not know anything about them. You meet, you share a couple pleasantries, and get on with the business part of the conversation.”
How he thinks the YGL program can change the world
McKeown said, he thinks the core idea behind the YGL program is for it to be a “peer group” of sorts, who can support each other.
“We can give each other feedback, challenge each other's thinking, and all with people you can trust,” he said. “I don't think it's just a network. I think they really want it to be a community. You can push each other to really make a contribution.”
So, how can YGLs help shape the future of the world? McKeown answered, “My conviction is, we actually can, by design, organize more intelligent organizations and institutions. Honestly, we're an intelligent world. There's so much of what we have that exists by default. And if we want to make it more intelligent, we have to make it by design. And I think that's what this group is about.”
McKeown is currently preparing to travel to Puerta Vallarta in Mexico next month for an annual YGL conference in which he will meet with several hundred past and present YGLs.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the Young Global Leaders community. I’m looking forward to learning from exceptional people from many different disciplines,” he said. “I certainly feel very humbled about being able to just learn and challenge and figure out these people.”
“Leadership matters, and we just may be able to create a force for good in the world.”
For more information, visit www.younggloballeaders.org.