January 27th, 2010
05:58 PM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – They often say flight time is quality thinking time. That was my experience on the transfer from Riyadh to Davos last night. I had the pleasure of sharing that flight on the invitation James Turley the Global Chief Executive of Ernst & Young.

It was Turley’s first Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh and mine as well so we shared insights into the effort by King Abdullah to transform the Kingdom’s economy and its people. It was not his first visit to the Saudi capital. Like many smart, leading global chief executive, he spotted the opportunity early.

Since we had more than five hours together in our transfer from “Sand to Snow”, I took the opportunity to get his insights on leadership. Turley has spent 33 years at E&Y, the last decade as CEO for 145,000 people all over the globe.

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He is your classic Davos Man, on the road and in the air 75 percent of the time, spending as he noted more of his energies in the East than in the West because that is where the growth is. I asked how he avoids being caught in the CEO bubble, where the boss is insulated from information. The answer was quite simple, by traveling at 40,000 feet and getting insight from clients, government leaders and his employees.

Sometimes in this BlackBerry, all wireless-world, I wonder if values are lost along the way since leaders like Turley are moving so fast. But that concern was quickly wiped away. When asked what his most important leadership traits are, he listed three that drive his day-to-day life: Integrity based on a solid foundation, mutual respect with his employees and listening. He called the latter “vital” since one has to be open to ideas from the young talent rising through the organizations.

For Turley (and me) the quality time is over, as Davos just begins to rev up.

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