Lloyd Blankfein said that one important lesson he learned from the financial crisis is realising what people are made of and what he’s made of.
The Goldman Sachs CEO said that there were “manly men” and “world class athletes” that basically curled up in the fetal position during the downturn.
“You learn that people and the loyalty that people have and work ethic that people have and the sense of belonging and ownership that people have is hugely important. And I think is a big takeaway with myself and people in this room is that you can’t do things by yourself. You also learn in a crisis, what people are made of. There are people at Goldman that I work with — world class athletes, you know manly men, strong women…And when the crisis happened, people metaphorically curled up in a fetal position. We had people who worked for us who didn’t look like they could climb a flight of stairs.”
He continued that during he crisis, he learned a lot about himself and how he can handle difficult situations.
“The most important lesson…is you learn about other people and people learn how you act in a crisis, but you learn how you act in a crisis. It’s very important to know who you can count on and who you can trust. The most important is you learn the stuff that you yourself is made of. That’s what either erodes your confidence or creates greater confidence in yourself… If you’ve gotten through something that’s really really hard, you’re not going to be daunted the next time you face something that’s really really hard. But if you crumbled, your knees are going to knock together.”
So when it comes to business, you have to be tough.
“You have to have thick skin. You don’t buy a thick skin…It gets punctured. You realise what you’re made of.”
Blankfein is one of two remaining U.S. bank CEOs still at the helm following the 2008 crisis.