American Express CEO Kenneth Chenau Burberry Outlet lt
Gerstner, Jr., who later went on to become CEO of RJR Nabisco and then IBM.
not take this job, Lou told me over and over, Chenault, now the chairman and CEO of American Express, said during a recent Wharton Leadership Lecture. I said, I want to take on a challenge. I never shied away from taking a risk, and I felt this was the way I should go. My view is often to take on the assignments that no one else wants, particularly early on in a career. Everyone wants to be in the glamorous part of a business. I wanted to learn. takes many forms, but one thing that is most important is to realize that change is inevitable, especially in the age we live in now, and that you always have to be adaptable to change, noted Chenault. Fargo and John Butterfield founded to move freight. Burberry Outlet freight [was] not a business with a lot of glamour, he said. they instituted core values that we still hold 163 years later in our day to day operations integrity and customer commitment It is pretty extraordinary that a freight company founded in 1850 established a brand that remains relevant in 2013 in the digital age. took over as CEO in 2001 after a series of jobs that he held for 20 years at the com Burberry Outlet pany. It was unusual for an African American to reach the top of an American corporation, but Chenault has never felt his race either qualified him for a position or prevented him from getting it. He said he just had confidence in himself as a leader and went about his work methodically, never back biting and always seeking advice even from executives who might have been competitors.
really did not focus on becoming a CEO until around 10 years before it happened, but I worked with people who could be viewed as competition and worked well with them, he stated. had straightforward conversations with them and said, us focus on what is best for the company. I thought by doing that, everything would work out for the best. When he became CEO, the top 10 executives in the 70,000 employee company all stayed on although over time, some left for other positions.
Chenault described his leadership style as both simple and complex. The simple part, he said, is that he feels he has kept his integrity, that he has never tried to fool anyone and that he has been consistent in his goals: to serve that traditional triumvirate of customers, employees and shareholders.
Chenault oversaw a restructuring of American Express business in 1995 as vice chairman. When it became clear he would have to eliminate nearly 16,000 jobs, he said decided to tell people up to 18 months before their actual departure date so that they would have time to adjust to the layoffs. do what you can to be compassionate, even when the news is bad, Chenault said, which Burberry Outlet leads to another of his leadership principles that the leader himself has to be a team player. point is not to just be a nice person, but be effective, too. Chenault said he does not devalue intellect after all, he went to Bowdoin College, one of the nation best liberal arts schools, and Harvard Law School what he values more than IQ is EQ Executional Quotient. good leader wants to get it done, he said. is the most important thing to have the focus to get whatever the job at hand is completed. believes leadership can, indeed, be taught, and while American Express does not have formal leadership training, Chenault hopes to teach by his own example. For instance, he likes to not only get consultations from his higher executives, but values feedback from every part of the company. That creates a positive attitude about the company. Several times a year, he will go to different parts of the country and world and hold brown bag lunches with about 25 employees, none of them senior executives. physical presence of a leader is important. It shows the organization, no matter how large, cares about its [employees].
ask them only one thing, that when they leave the meeting, tell 20 people about it, he said. don care if they say, is a jerk, because at least it brings a connection. Role Models
Chenault admires a number of leaders, but pointed to two favorites: Nelson Mandela and Warren Buffett.
The most important thing he has learned from Mandela is that even when you are in a crisis, you have to think about the future. was someone in prison who came out a stronger person, noted Chenault. was not just about survival.
being a team player is using what I call constructive confrontation. Chenault
He said he doesn admire Buffett just because he owns 14% of American Express through Berkshire Hathaway. is someone who has an intellectual curiosity and is also incredibly genuine as a person, said Chenault. He has a nice swift way to say, not in a harsh way, but [in a way that] does not waste people time. favorite quote about leadership is one he attributes to Napoleon: role of a leader is to define reality and give hope. It is really difficult, he said, to find out the facts of a situation and to understand the ultimate implications. have to be open and honest to find reality, to get the right answers to your questions. But then you have to tell the people you lead what the reasons are to be hopeful, to tell them why you should inspire them.
Intriguing retrospective on a remarkable career.
Warren has always spoken fondly of Kenneth during shareholder meetings. He refers to him as an manager noting his execution and long term total returns in a similar manner as Warren refers to Tony Nicely of GEICO.
I particularly fond of Kenneth approach to spreading employee to employee connections across an organization:
“I ask them only one thing, that when they leave the meeting, tell 20 people about it. personally like to hear Kenneth describe a time in his career when he was at conflict with his own EQ (desire for execution). A time when his hands were tied, either due to circumstances inside or outside of his control. How did he break the cycle and move forward? Inevitably this will occur for many of us in the course of our careers. The inspiration would be invaluable.