T-Mobile’s CEO tells young people he ‘can summarize everything you need to know to lead a major corporation’ with 2 pieces of advice

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere speaks at an Un-carrier event in 2015.
Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere likes to make a scene, whether he’s calling out Verizon and AT&T for being “dumb and dumber” or hamming it up on Facebook Live for “#SlowCookerSunday.”

But his antics have always been part of his vision for T-Mobile as the scrappy disrupter among the US’s four biggest mobile carriers.

Over the past four years as CEO, he took T-Mobile past Sprint to the third-largest carrier, more than doubled its customer base, and made T-Mobile a leader of change in the industry with initiatives like the removal of traditional service contracts.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Legere said his long career has taught him two basic truths about leadership that he shares with business-school students:

“It’s kind of fun at my age to go back and talk to business-school people. I tell them, ‘I can summarize everything you need to know to lead a major corporation. Are you prepared to write this down?’ And then they get all ready. I tell them I can summarize how I succeed as a leader: Listen to your employees, listen to your customers, shut the f— up, and do what they tell you.

Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Now, anyone who has seen Legere at a T-Mobile event or in an ad knows that he’s not the quiet type. When he’s advocating keeping one’s mouth shut, he’s talking about his approach to strategy. The reason he’s so noisy on social media in the first place is to see what customers are saying and demanding, he said.

Recently, he modified the T-Mobile One unlimited plan by adding the option of paid 24-hour HD streaming upgrades and improved default hotspot capabilities after customers on social media complained.

That leads to the next piece of advice he gives business-school students:

“Then I say that the genius of the marketing strategy that we’ve had in every company that I’ve ever been in is that if you ask your customers what they want and you give it to them, you shouldn’t be shocked if they love it.

“I think this job at T-Mobile has more than anything else helped me really see and understand how to set a strategy, communicate like crazy, and then passionately lead from the front of it.”