The Wisdom of Four Higher Ambition CEOs

Chrissy Couglin, founder and host of Nature of Business interviewed four higher ambition CEO role models in July and August 2012: Dick Gochnauer, former CEO of United Stationer’s, Inc, Ed Ludwig, former CEO of Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), Doug Stotlar, CEO of Con-way, Inc, and Doug Conant former CEO of The Campbell Soup Company and best-selling author of Touch Points: Creating Powerful Leadership in the Smallest of Moments.


United Stationer’s Dick Gochnauer on Loving Your Business, Team Listening, and Catching A-Players

When Dick Gochnauer joined United Stationers in 2002, the US's largest wholesale distributor of business products was struggling. His first act as CEO was to launch a full court press to change cultural habits that were holding back the company’s revival and its growth potential. Gochnauer shares his cultural turnaround tactics — teaching his employees to fall back in love with the core business, setting new standards for recruiting employees, giving middle managers the best office space, and giving up his heated parking spot, and more. Listen here.


Campbell’s Soup’s Doug Conant on the Sacred Task of CEO Communication

As CEO of Campbell’s Soup from 2001 to 2011, Conant literally walked his talk. Donning sneakers and a pedometer, he strode through halls and crashed meetings and tastings to continuously talk to employees about what they were doing for the company and for themselves. Under Conant’s leadership, Campbell’s recovered from a slump, sustained higher earnings every year, and today boasts among the highest employee engagement rankings in its industry. Conant shares the ups and downs of his tenure, including the thousands of thank you letters he wrote to employees and the thousands he received in return following a near-fatal car accident. Listen here.


Con-Way’s Doug Stotlar on the Role of Personal Gains and Losses in Business Leadership

Doug Stotlar, CEO since 2005 of Con-way, Inc., a $5.29 billion freight transportation and logistics services company based in Ann Arbor Michigan, talks about the impact the loss of a child has had on his work and family life,  how values from his parents guide his leadership, and the extraordinary steps he had to take to move a company in a state of dysfunction to one functioning beyond expectation.  Listen here.


Becton Dickinson’s (BD) Ed Ludwig on Earning Respect and Trust By Owning the Unvarnished Truth

When Ed Ludwig took over as President of BD in 1999 and became CEO in 2000, the then 100-year old medical technology company was full of promise, but had lost a great deal of credibility, particularly on Wall Street. Well aware that some of his own decisions prior to becoming CEO contributed to problems the company now faced, he acted boldly to take ownership of his mistakes. Ludwig appointed an internal task force (no outside consultants) to hear firsthand what was broken in the company and start to fix it. Listen here.

Related Resources

The Thought Leader Interview: Douglas Conant by Art Kleiner, August 28, 2012

“How an Abundance Mentality, and CEO’s Fierce Resolve Kickstarted CSR at Campbell Soup” by Nina Kruschwitz, Sloan Management Review, August 14, 2012 

“United Stationers: Enabling Our Partners to Succeed” by Michael Beer and Russ Eisenstat, Harvard Business School, October 26, 2011

“Becton Dickinson: Opportunities and Challenges on the Road to the ‘Envisioned Future.’ ” By Russ Eisenstat with Michael Beer, Harvard Business School October 27, 2011. Revised March 7, 2012.

 “Turnarounds Start with the Truth,”, September TK, 2012



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