HP Federal president explains the challenges of leadership during the pandemic

Todd Gustafson, president of HP Federal and Head of US Public Sector, joined Aileen Black on Leaders and Legends to talk about leadership and the challenges of leadership during the pandemic.  He provided insightful, sage advice for leaders regardless during times of stress or prosperity.

His purview extends to K-12 and higher education, state and local government customer segments, and federal systems integrators. The responsibilities range from P&L ownership, strategic financial plans, product and technology strategies, to sales force strategy and structure, and customer and partner relationships.

Starting in 1987, Gustafson’s 33-year career at HP has encompassed many jobs. He said he was fortunate to join HP right out of college and loves the people there because they gave him a chance and believed in him. According to Gustafson, his career at HP gives him great challenges and is very rewarding.

Gustafson shared his perspective that great leaders stress the importance of results. A leader he admires is Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, who led his team to incredible achievements despite overwhelming odds. According to Gustafson, Belichick has shown that great leadership leads to success, and it starts with building a team which is exhaustively prepared but still able to adjust in an instant.

“Results are clear and results matter. You need to prepare your team to be successful. Show them the metrics that count for success and work with them as team to prepare and be ready to achieve success,” he said. “Really good leadership means caring about everything going on in the lives of your people. Leadership that provides clear goals and that cares about their people will build a winning culture.”

During the interview Gustafson shared some of his most challenging leadership experiences during the pandemic and how he was able to successfully lead his team.

“First you need to be aware of what is going on with your team, as a person, what is going on in their lives and be supportive for the stress they are facing at home. You also need to listen two times more than you speak and reach out. HP founders established a culture with the core elements to respect each other but stretch everyone that is why HP has had such a long successful business,” he said.

Gustafson stressed it is also important to give back to the community. The avid cyclist participates in the Pan-Mass Challenge, a fundraising bike-a-thon started in 1980 by Billy Starr to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute via the Jimmy Fund. It raises more money than any other single athletic fundraiser in the country. Every first weekend of August,  riders take on routes from 25 miles to 211 miles long, and Gustafson proudly participates in the longest ride with his son.

Gustafson closed the show with some advice for the next generations.

“Always find a mentor that is willing to invest in you. Also invest in yourself; I invest in a private coach. Make sure you stretch yourself. Sometime you have to zig before you zag, you need to stretch and take chances,” he said. “At the start of every year, I write down and map out goals for the year. This will provide you the mental fortitude to stay on track and be sure to share your goals.”

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Leaders and Legends

Leaders and Legends

Host Aileen Black interviews federal leaders who have left their mark on government and made a lasting imprint on the nation. Hear what goes on behind the scenes in the nation's capital and why working for the federal government is so unique. Subscribe on PodcastOne.

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