Corporate Leadership

Interview, Corporate Leadership

How Creative Destruction Transformed Telecommunications

Dan sits down with CEO Forum Magazine to discuss how the Internet and digital world were formed, as well as the direct impact this development will have on the telecommunications industry moving forward. The following was featured in the April edition of CEO Forum Magazine


Robert Reiss: Prior to becoming CEO of Sprint, you were CEO of AT&T Wireless and witnessed firsthand the formative years of digital. Can you share some inside-the-scenes historical perspective?

Dan Hesse: You mentioned AT&T. It was back in the early 80’s and our main business back then was voice telephony. That was the core business – remember “reach out and touch someone?” But during that period, we were given two new technologies to start using ourselves. One was email. This was long before the internet – an “intranet” called AT&T Mail. The second was voicemail, but not from the point of view of you call somebody, miss them, and get their answering machine.
The primary new application of voicemail was allowing the user to record a message and send it through the network. These new applications were moving us away from analog, using digital bits, both email and voicemail, to disrupt the core business. The first big “aha moment” was the ability to shift time. If I wanted to send somebody a message at midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning, I didn’t have to worry about waking them up. I could send and receive messages whenever I wanted to.
Time shifting is now a big deal in all types of media. For example, it has changed cable television. If you have a DVR or you get your programs over the internet or overthe-
top, you watch when you want to watch. You create your viewing schedule, not the schedule of the TV networks.
But what was so instructive for me very early in my career was the notion of “creative destruction.” Our primary business was real-time voice telephone calls. We were coming up with new concepts that were going to compete directly with the core business. What made these time shifting tools even more useful was mobility, where place, which had been so important in our landline world, lost relevancy. As soon as I got a car phone in the mid-80s, I learned how much more powerful voicemail could be because place was no longer important. I used voicemail to send and receive messages, while in my car (hands free, of course!). It used to be time and place were critically important. Now, time wasn’t important and with mobile phones, place wasn’t important either. The real game-changers I learned about early on were time shifting, place shifting, and the power of creative destruction.

Corporate Leadership

A New Year’s Resolution

Reposted from Dan Hesse's LinkedIn series on Executive Leadership and Corporate Responsibility. The following was published January 3, 2017. 

We all likely prefer the free market to regulation as a way to govern the U.S. economy. If we vote with our wallets, as consumers or investors, “just” companies, as described in this insightful article by Chris Malone, will be “justly” rewarded. 

As we think about our New Year’s resolutions, it might be a good time to consider which companies we choose to do business with.

Corporate Leadership, Interview

Why Excellent Customer Service Costs Less

Reposted coverage from Dan's career-spanning conversation with Fidelum Partners. topics focused on customer service goals for business. The following was published January 1, 2017.


When Dan Hesse joined AT&T as a 23-year-old management trainee 1977, he never imagined he was embarking on a career journey that would eventually lead Fierce Wireless to name him one of the five “Best Turnaround CEO’s of All Time“.  In addition, Entrepreneur magazine would recognize him as one of “10 Inspirational Leaders who Turned Around Their Companies“.  While his accomplishments at AT&T were substantial, including launching the Digital One Rate service plan in 1998, it was the remarkable turnaround Hesse led as CEO of Sprint that left an indelible mark on the wireless industry and business world more broadly. for full interview.

Corporate Leadership, LinkedIn Series

Recognizing America’s Most Just Companies

Reposted from Dan Hesse's LinkedIn series on Executive Leadership and Corporate Responsibility. The following was published December 9, 2016. 

Americans want “just” behavior from its companies. Forbes recently published a list of America’s most just companies after extensive survey work and data analysis by JUST Capital.

The inaugural report, the JUST 100 List, shows that Americans want companies to work for all stakeholders. This includes:

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Shareholders
  • Communities
  • The Planet

This report fills a gap, offering an easy-to-use reference guide in terms of overall performance, sortable by specific industry and score. Consumers, workers and investors can now access this information quickly and easily. The list is online now and will be featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine's December 20 Impact & Philanthropy issue. 

These companies deserve recognition. Capitalism is a force for good, but can become more so. I’m hopeful that this information will result in action that will make American capitalism even more responsible.

Corporate Leadership, LinkedIn Series

Consistency is the Key to Quality Improvement in the Digital Age

Reposted from Dan Hesse's LinkedIn series on Executive Leadership and Corporate Responsibility. The following was published May 12, 2016. 


The digital world, with its real-time customer feedback, the ability for consumers to share their positive and negative experiences with others, and customers with many competitive choices at their fingertips via their cellphones, even while shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store, make quality and customer satisfaction more important than ever.

But improvement in quality and customer satisfaction can only be accomplished with consistency of priority and strategy as opposed to a constantly-changing agenda and “program of the month.” Chaos is the enemy of improvement.

To learn more about consistency’s transformative role in business and learn why quality costs less, please see this round table discussion in Forbes (Quality Shifts From Measurement To Driver Of Innovation).

Corporate Leadership, LinkedIn Series

What CEOs and Presidential Candidates can learn from Ancient Greek Philosophers

Reposted from Dan Hesse's LinkedIn series on Executive Leadership and Corporate Responsibility. The following was published April, 7, 2016. 


Forbes interviewed me about my unexpected recommendation for leadership reading, which was also featured in a new book, The Books that Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and other Remarkable People. My choice was one I read in college (which I still refer to, full of highlighted passages and marginalia), The Republic, by Plato. 

The Republic contains great lessons about business and political leadership.  It’s a very early study on the subject (around 400 BC) about who should lead, and Plato and Socrates also observe that the same qualities that make a person just, and a strong leader, make the organization or state function well.  Women are as capable of ruling or leading as men if they are given the same educational opportunities. To lead a life in pursuit of “the good” (knowledge and truth) is worthwhile in and of itself (vs. to receive rewards on Earth or in an after-life), as only the good and just person can be happy. 

An organization should choose its “best” person (the most virtuous, just and knowledgeable) to be leader. Our founding fathers created our country on some of Plato’s principles, and they practically “drafted” George Washington to be our first President because they viewed him as the “best” person. The idea of open party conventions where the most virtuous, or best, is drafted is an interesting idea whose time may have come again. 

In this post: What CEOs And Presidential Candidates Can Learn From Ancient Greek Philosophers | Forbes, April 2016

Corporate Leadership, LinkedIn Series

Some Minuses, but More Plusses Emerge from our “Always On” Digital Lives

Reposted from Dan Hesse's LinkedIn series on Executive Leadership and Corporate Responsibility. The following was published March 7, 2016. 


I had the pleasure of sitting down with NPR’s Steve Kraske for 30 minutes to discuss a number of topics I’ve been exploring over the past eighteen months, including how the mobile internet is transforming lifestyles and industries (we discussed advertising and banking as examples). Interview audio available here

The mobile internet improves our economy and the GDP’s of countries around the world, and it’s democratizing education, but this “always on” world also brings with it new concerns in areas such as written and spoken language and threats to our “fast-twitch-wired” teens like cyber-bullying, texting, and cell phone addiction (FOMO).  Early mobile music devices required file compression and unfortunately, lower fidelity, but “missionaries” like Neil Young are bringing high fidelity to mobile music using new technology.

The “internet of things” will usher in the next wireless growth phase, and it will bring many new capabilities and advantages to our lives, especially as we age.  Smart appliances, sensors, mobile medical monitors, robotic personal assistants, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, social media, speech-to-text, and text-to-speech will extend independent life and make our senior years more enjoyable. 

But, all of the data about us being collected creates new privacy and security concerns.  Apple’s position vs. the FBI is timely in that we need to have an open and comprehensive national discussion and establish new laws to deal with the utility vs privacy and security trade-offs emerging as a result of technological advances.

Overall, it’s an exciting time, and in spite of the new issues and problems that come with our new digitally-connected lives, I believe we’re better off, especially if we’re vigilant about and openly discuss the changes our new digital lifestyles entail.  

LinkedIn Series, Corporate Leadership

Is Apple’s Stand on Phone Security Patriotic?

Reposted from Dan Hesse's LinkedIn series on Executive Leadership and Corporate Responsibility. The following was published February 23, 2016. 


As criminal and terrorist technical methods evolve, the tradeoffs between what it takes to keep us safe versus protecting our civil liberties and privacy bears vigilance. As my concluding quote in Friday’s Wall Street Journal article suggests, patriotic people who love our country and who have the values we hold dear are on both sides of this debate.  

As a former telecom CEO, I’ve been faced with this dilemma.  A CEO has to balance the interests of customers, shareholders, the public at large and the communities served, while upholding the law (which is not always crystal clear).  It’s important that US law be specific and evolve as technologies and criminal tactics do. If we’re to find a“Goldilocks solution” (getting it “just right”), it requires more trust and dialogue between privacy advocates and law enforcement than exists today.

LinkedIn Series, Corporate Leadership

The Kansas City Royals: A Model Team for the Post-Steroid Era?

Reposted from Dan Hesse's LinkedIn series on Executive Leadership and Corporate Responsibility. The following was published November 6, 2015. 


The Royals roster is a beautiful mosaic.  They’re a team with no superstars, but no weaknesses, on offense or on defense.  In Forbes magazine, I share my view that their incredible turnaround, from baseball’s worst team to its best team, might have more to do with common goals, a strong culture, and life-balance and support off-the-field than their talent. 

In this post: What CEOs Can Learn From The Royals - Kansas City CEO Dan Hesse Explains | Forbes, November 2015