The BYU Marriott School of Business and Brigham Young University honored John E. Waldron with the 2023 International Executive of the Year Award. Waldron is the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, a member of the Goldman Sachs Management Committee, co-chair of the Firmwide Enterprise Risk Committee, and chair of the Firmwide Reputational Risk Committee.
Waldron received the award during BYU Marriott’s annual National Advisory Council conference held in October. BYU president C. Shane Reese and BYU Marriott dean Brigitte C. Madrian presented the award, and first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, introduced Waldron as the keynote speaker.
Established by BYU Marriott 40 years ago, the International Executive of the Year Award is the most prestigious award given by BYU Marriott and is designed to honor outstanding executives who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and high moral and ethical standards. Previous recipients include Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross; Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and CIA director; and Jim Turley, former chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young.
During his acceptance remarks, Waldron said that “BYU’s positivity represents the very best of our next generation in America and in the world.”
Current events can make it easy to become pessimistic, explained Waldron. “It’s rare that I go visit a client these days and find they are upbeat about the world.” But he shared reasons to be optimistic about the future, such as decreased extreme poverty rates, increased life expectancy and literacy rates, and consequential achievements in healthcare and technology.
“Leaders overcome negativity and divisions by responding and reacting to the world around us with equanimity and balance,” he said.
Waldron saw examples of positive leadership during turmoil in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I felt fear and uncertainty permeating our people as we sent everyone home,” he said. “The people who inspired me most were my colleagues who led by example, transitioning to a sudden work-from-home situation without complaints and proceeding to juggle their work and family responsibilities.”
To illustrate the importance of equanimity from leaders, Waldron shared his experience on September 11, 2001: “I remember the fear in the eyes of our people at Goldman Sachs as the World Trade Center buildings came down and the plumes of smoke billowed through the downtown streets. I spent that day submerging my fears by trying to calm the people around me, walking around the building to offer a calming human connection to my colleagues amidst a chaotic and dehumanized day.”
In addition to his role at Goldman Sachs, Waldron sits on the Executive Committee of the Institute of International Finance, on the International Advisory Council of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, and is a member of the US-China Business Council. He also serves on the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Throughout his career, Waldron has focused on serving others in his leadership roles. “We need to cultivate the concept of ‘servant leadership,’” Waldron said. When it comes to business, “it means putting the needs of your client above your own.”
Closing his remarks, he noted that the world needs to strive for empathy, humility, and integrity. “We need to be more focused on human connection and acts of kindness,” he said. “To get to that world, we need to engage with one another consistently, even when we disagree."
The BYU Marriott School of Business aspires to transform the world through Christlike leadership by developing leaders of faith, intellect, and character. Named for benefactors J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, the school is located at Brigham Young University. BYU Marriott has four graduate and nine undergraduate programs with an enrollment of approximately 3,300 students.
Written by Jake Holt