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B-Time with Beth Bierbower

Nov 6, 2020

I was fortunate to have Ron Williams, the former Chairman and CEO of Aetna on the podcast in Episode 12.  During that episode, Ron shared his leadership journey as well as how he was able to lead one of the largest turnarounds in the healthcare industry. 


Ron has also authored a book titled: Learning to Lead and this book should be on every professional’s physical or electronic bookshelf.  This primer is divided into three parts which offers every professional – whether he or she desires to be a leader or individual contributor – pertinent information on how to approach his or her career.  In Part 1, Leading yourself, Williams suggests readers take initiative to better understand who they are, what they want to do and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t want to do.  This section also helps people reframe their thinking (particularly as to how they view themselves) and encourages them to be viewed as the individual willing to take on the tough assignment. 


For professionals who do want to become people leaders, Part 2 provides a wealth of practical information such as getting to the truth by asking the right questions, understanding important versus urgent matters, and building a high performing team.  Williams’ “Two up, Two down” system is an effective tool for staying in touch with what is really happening within an organization.  Even if you are currently a people leader, Part 2 will serve as a good skills refresher. 

Finally, Part 3 offers a glimpse into the role of the CEO and what it takes to get and stay there.  Ron is honest about the time and effort it takes to succeed.  He also writes with humility and conveys clearly that you are always able and need to keep learning.

Anyone who knows Williams will hear his steady, calming voice throughout the book as he freely shares his wisdom.  As a colleague in the same industry, I was easily able to reconcile Williams words with his actions.  Williams has mentored and shaped the career of many individuals including several females who are now CEOs at other organizations. 

No matter where you are in your career, Williams’ advice will resonate.  I also recommend that this book be shared with individuals who are jus starting their careers.  If I had the benefit of Williams’s wisdom from the start, I would have saved myself and others the pains of making the mistakes of a young leader.  This book will be on my recommendation list for those next generation leaders who want to take on the world.