Keynote speaker Bob Nardelli, CEO of Cerberus Operations & Advisory Co., formerly CEO of Chrysler Motors LLC and The Home Depot Inc. was joined by his friend and colleague, Andrew Liveris, president, chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Co to discuss their histories and paths. As they did, four key pieces of advice became clear:
1. Learn everything you can. Nardelli advocated jumping at every opportunity for growth throughout your career, including horizontal promotions and “enhancing experience[s] to broaden [your] base.”
2. Go above and beyond. Nardelli asked MBA students to “stretch objectives.” Thoroughness is the key to success, according to Nardelli. “Just when you think you’re done, go back and look at that report one more time,” he said.
3. Know yourself. Nardelli’s frank evaluation of his career includes a recognition that there are trade-offs with many high-level positions. He urged the students to understand themselves and their limitations before taking on such assignments.
4. Know the company. Nardelli’s final piece of advice was directed at job-seeking students. Candidates should research the company and the interviewer to be able to ask “penetrating questions” during the interview. According to Liveris, the extra effort indicates you are prepared to “put in the perspiration.”
Bob McDonald, chairman of the board, president and CEO at Procter & Gamble, closed the conference with his own advice. McDonald detailed the 10 fundamental beliefs which drive his decisions as he leads P&G:
• A purpose-driven life is more favorable than a life without purpose.
• Companies should do well by doing good.
• Everyone likes succeeding, and success is contagious.
• Putting people in the right jobs is one of the most important jobs of the leader.
• Character is the most important trait of a leader.
• Diverse groups of people are more innovative than homogenous groups of people.
• Ineffective systems, cultures and strategies are likely the bigger barriers to achievement than the performance of an individual.
• Some people in the organization will not make it on the journey.
• Organizations have to renew themselves.
• The true test of the leader is the performance of the organization when he or she is absent or after he or she departs.
This enumeration illuminated the necessity of MBAs to find their own beliefs before entering the workforce. These beliefs, he argued, will help students select a company to work for and will help shape their decisions as leaders in that company.
As McDonald said, “Leadership is storytelling.” He urged students to “be more deliberate about the stories you tell.