Executive Insights

Goldman Sachs' CEO, who earns R526m a year, says people want to work for leaders who are relatable

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MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 15: Goldman Sachs CEO, D
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Vox Media)
  • Millennials want to work for leaders who are relatable and authentic, according to Goldman Sachs' CEO.
  • People don't want to see CEOs as just "hard-nosed decision makers," David Solomon told Time. 
  • The evolution in what's expected of leaders is healthy, but there is still a need for hierarchy, he said. 
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

People want to work for leaders who are relatable, authentic, and not just "hard-nosed" decision-makers, according to Goldman Sachs' David Solomon. Yet the CEO remains unmoved concerning his decision to call employees back to the office. 

Solomon was responding to a question over whether he felt pressure to change the way he leads in order to attract more Gen Z and Millennial workers in an interview for TIME's Leadership Brief, published on 13 March.

He acknowledged that workers are demanding more transparency, purpose, and authenticity from their bosses.

"They want leaders that are relatable," Solomon said.  "If you think about when I was in my 20s, the CEO of a big organisation was like up in an ivory tower – untouchable, inaccessible. You really didn't know a lot about them. You can barely get near them, right?" 

But Solomon doubled down on his calls for Goldman workers to return to the office fulltime, having previously referred to remote work as an "aberration." 

Solomon has previously spoken of his efforts to modernise Goldman Sach's corporate culture

Wall Street firms are among those to have taken a harder line when it comes to returning to the office. Amid what has been dubbed as the "Great Resignation," or "Great Reshuffle," this has lead to questions over their ability to attract and retain staff.

Solomon, 60, has been with Goldman Sachs since 1999 and earned $35 million last year (about R536 million), the majority in the form of performance-based stocks. Outside of work he produces music under the name DJ D-Sol.  

He's previously spoken of his efforts to modernise the bank's culture, including by boosting pay and relaxing dress codes. 

However Goldman's culture came under fire last year after a leaked internal presentation, created by 13 junior bankers during the coronavirus lockdowns, described their working conditions as "inhumane." They said they worked an average of 98-hour weeks, and slept five hours a night, which had started to affect their mental wellbeing and personal relationships.

In response, Solomon promised stronger enforcement of rules which discourage bankers from working between 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Sunday.

Solomon doubled down on the Goldman Sachs' office return policy

Solomon said that CEOs are much more visible "with the transparency of the world, with social media, with access, with communication," and that employees were demanding authentic leadership.

Millennials are "demanding," he said, "They want to understand that they're working for a company that has a sense of purpose. They want to see that they're working for someone who's a human being, that they can relate to."

He said the that the way the world has evolved in regards to what's expected of leaders was a "healthy thing."

But, he added, "that doesn't mean that there's not hierarchy in organisations. That doesn't mean you don't have to work hard and earn your way and prove yourself. All those things matter for professional success in life," he said.

Regarding this hierarchy, Solomon was clear that remote work is not the future for Goldman Sachs.

"There might be businesses that work that way, but ours is a collaborative, team-oriented apprenticeship business. And we bring people together," he said. 

Bringing all his employees together might be not be as easy as Solomon hopes. After reopening its New York headquarters to staff last month, Goldman Sachs told Fortune that weekly in-person attendance averaged between 60% and 70%.

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