Steve Wynn Learned Something About Fear From Michael Jackson

The most-read blogs are the ones full of fast facts, tidbits of helpful information and quotes. Here are some great observations from yesterday’s closing session at the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles.

Panelists were Steve Wynn, Chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, Janet Napolitano, former head of Homeland Security and now President of the University of California system, and Howard Marks, Chairman of Oaktree Capital. Michael Milken moderated.

Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts
Wynn on leadership and taking risks: “I like the idea of pushing the envelope but I don't like being reckless.”

Wynn on taking bets: “When things get complicated I back off. I operate largely on instinct.”

Napolitano: “Everything you say and do should be an energy source for the people who work for you.”

Janet Napolitano, President, University of California system
and former director of Homeland Security
Howard Marks on investing and business in general: “Outperformance often comes from having a variant perception."

Wynn on failure: “You’ve got to give up the fiction of infallibility. When you fail, it's an opportunity to define yourself. That's leadership.”

Wynn: Leadership is persuasion. It’s about raising the self-esteem of the people you're leading and helping them feel good about what they’re doing. (paraphrased)

Napolitano: Taking risks is a way to exercise leadership. (paraphrased)

Napolitano said going from Homeland Security to the University of California was like going from defense to offense.

Wynn said he once had an intimate conversation with Michael Jackson, during which Jackson asked him a disarming question: “Don’t you ever get scared?” Wynn said by the time he breaks ground on a hotel, he’s vetted it thoroughly with everyone, over and over, reviewed and re-reviewed the economics, so he’s confident.

Napolitano said she didn’t have time to vet everything at Homeland Security, where decisions had to be made in the heat of the moment, often as a situation was unfolding. That demands a different type of leadership skill.

Only Steve Wynn calls Buzz Aldrin "Buzzy." They're neighbors in Sun Valley. Wynn said he told Aldrin next time he lands on the moon, get off first.

This was the 17th annual conference, which “attracts 3,000 leaders in business, finance, government, public policy, academia, philanthropy, law, science, news media and more. These individuals represent some of the world's top firms, organizations, universities and governments.” (from the web site)

Here's the playback.

I’ll share more from the conference in the next few days.

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