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Top 50 CEO Speaks To Students About Leadership

The Macklin Business Institute strives to be more than a typical business program; it is an experiential learning program for business students. To that end, the MBI Distinguished Lecture Series featured Larry Culp, recognized as one of the Top 50 CEOs in the world by Harvard Business Review. Culp’s lecture, Reflections on Leadership, focused on the lessons he learned in his 14-year tenure as CEO and president of Danaher Corporation, during which time the company increased revenues five-fold to $20 billion while increasing shareholder returns to five times that of the S&P index.

He spoke to a standing room-only group of MBI scholars and other interested students on February 8 at the Rockville Campus.

Now a senior lecturer at Harvard’s Business School, Culp gave the audience the same advice he provides to his students: First, he said, “Be nice to everyone you meet because you never know when you are going to see them again—and chances are, you will.” Second, “Find opportunities to connect with people (find a common bond).” Last, he said, “The people in the room may be the best friends you have in life.” He summed up this portion of the lecture by noting that the “bow that ties it all together” is people. “Who you hire, who you fire, who you work with, and who you work for—or who you don’t.”

Larry Culp speaks to studentsHe encouraged the students to have high expectations—for themselves, their team, and their business. He expressed the importance of being willing to fail because people learn from their failures; and he stressed the value of problem solving, both for internal business issues and for customers. He cited Toyota Motor Corporation’s “5 Whys” technique, a process which requires repeating the question “Why?” five times to determine the root cause of a problem.

Culp wrapped up his 50-minute speech by stressing the importance of substance over superficiality in leadership. He cautioned the audience about using PowerPoint presentations to try to sell or explain something because most people will not ask questions. He suggested social media runs a similar risk. He said that managing substantively, with facts rather than opinions, really getting into specificity, “will get a company from point A to point B.”

After a 15-minute question-and-answer session, Culp joined the audience members for a light reception. Dr. Amy Gumaer, manager of grants and sponsored programs, said Culp’s authenticity and genuineness really struck her. “What resonated with me most was when he spoke about his commitment to continuous improvement and his overarching motto as Danaher Corporation’s CEO: ‘common sense, vigorously applied.’”

Bigami Beli, a student at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus who is interested in studying business, said Culp’s speech made quite an impression on him. “It got me thinking that I need to be a man of action and a man with a plan,” he said. “Leadership requires a lot of self-reflection, teamwork, and compromise.”

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