Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell Share Crisis Leadership Experience at Deloitte’s 15th Annual CFO Vision Conference

Sarah Woodman, Global events journalist
January 10, 2012 /

During Deloitte’s 15th annual CFO Vision conference, held recently in Washington, D.C. global luminaries shined the spotlight on crisis leadership in today’s business environment.

Featuring keynote addresses by former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell, and renowned author Malcolm Gladwell, perseverance amid difficult times was a common theme throughout the two-day event.

“The foundation of this conference is topics that are most important to CFOs today – jobs, regulation, politics and the economy,” Joe Echevarria, chief executive officer, Deloitte LLP, said in his opening address.

“While the United States faces quite a few short- and long-term issues, this country has overcome every significant challenge it has ever faced. I personally believe America’s best days lie ahead.”

The 135 chief financial officers from the U.S.’s largest and most influential companies attending the conference heard Madeleine Albright’s and Colin Powell’s current views on U.S. and global developments.

In a session moderated by Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large for Fortune magazine, they discussed international issues, provided an intimate look at their decision-making processes, and shared their wisdom on effective leadership.

When making a decision Albright says she always says to herself, “‘make sure that the eggs get broken.’ Unless you feel free to explain your views, and you hear somebody argue against them, it is not a fair process.”

Powell adds, “Everyone comes in with a grand idea, but you really have to think through the consequences, and what comes next, and what comes after next, and once you have an understanding of that, you go and do what’s necessary.”

In addition to keynote presentations, CFOs were invited to choose from a variety of breakout sessions tailored to their industries and interests, led by subject-matter specialists ranging from Deloitte partners to finance professors. These sessions provided an opportunity for CFOs to network and gain the insight of peers who are experiencing similar challenges.

A panel on the economic landscape featured Carl E. Steidtmann, Deloitte’s chief economist, provided insight on economic conditions in the United States and Europe.

Author Malcolm Gladwell discussed the changing social contract between employers and employees.

Linking this shift to the present pattern of wealth distribution in the United States, Gladwell said, “One clear lesson from the economic literature is that when economic inequality becomes extreme, it begins to severely constrain economic growth, and we are clearly in that extreme moment right now.”

In his annual regulatory update, Robert J. Kueppers, vice chairman and deputy chief executive officer, regulatory affairs, Deloitte LLP, spoke about the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and his expectations for the “super committee,” the 12-member panel charged with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in debt savings over a 10-year period.

Reflecting on the conference, Sanford Cockrell III, national managing partner, CFO Program, Deloitte LLP, said, “The role of the CFO continues to grow and evolve, and this is just one venue Deloitte provides them to gain insights toward being more successful. We look forward to continuing our strong tradition of bringing leading voices together to discuss today’s critical business issues.”

The CFO Vision conference is sponsored by Deloitte’s CFO Program. Deloitte’s CFO Program harnesses the breadth of Deloitte’s capabilities to deliver forward-thinking perspectives and fresh insights to help CFOs manage the complexities of their role, drive more value in their organization, and adapt to the changing strategic shifts in the market.


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