Lessons in Leadership c/o David Rubenstein


  • I spent this morning listening to David Rubenstein share his thoughts on leadership.  Best known as the co-founder and co-chief executive officer of The Carlyle Group, a global private equity investment company based in Washington, D.C., today’s post paraphrases a few key takeaways.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Being in a cult has its perks.  The cult?  Leadership Greater Washington.  Today’s perk?  A morning spent with one of the more philanthropic business leaders in the United States, David Rubenstein.  With the gentle prodding of Richard Bynum, President of Greater Washington & Virginia at PNC, David shared his self-deprecating wit and humor with 100+ of my LGW contemporaries.  Personally, three “don’ts” accentuated his morning remarks.

Don’t hire geniuses

David co-founded The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, in 1987.  While the firm now manages $174 billion from 31 offices around the world, he spent his early days on the road “begging for money.”  As the company grew, he looked for humility, a strong work ethic and reasonable intelligence in new hires. When pressed on this last point, he laughed and said managing a genius proved impossible.  Far better to attract talented workers with an appetite to work, learn and make money for “the right reasons” than hire someone who required extraordinary management.

Don’t die the richest man in the cemetery

When Bill Gates conceived the Giving Pledge as a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic pursuits, he found an early supporter in David.  Explaining his decision to make this pledge in 2010, he shared that some of the happiest people he knows have the least, while some of the most lonely and unhappy count billions in the bank.  He realized he has no interest in dying the richest man in the cemetery — subtly challenging all in attendance to lead by example and do something more then just making money.

Don’t forget your Mom

How do you know you’re a success?  When your Mom calls and thinks you’re doing something right.  Call it the “Mother’s Test;” for David, his mom never called about the millions he made, but about the millions he gave away.  I’m sure David won’t mind me borrowing this mantra for my own future use.


*Thanks to Doug Duncan and his team at Leadership Greater Washington for putting together this morning’s inspirational program.  In addition, thank you to Richard and his colleagues at PNC for sharing their 12th floor with the cult!

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