Louis Chenevert: What Makes a Successful Leader

Louis Chenevert made Strides at UTC with his Leadership Skills

A person can have the best training in the world, the best education, and a brilliant mind, but it still will not make them a great leader. Leadership is not something that can often be taught. Many times you either have the ability to lead others or you don’t. Whether you are a head coach of an NBA team, a CEO of some major company, or managing the local Dairy Queen, each of these will ask something different from their leader.

One of the main qualities of a great leader is their ability to earn respect. Many bosses tend to try demanding respect from their employees. Respect is not something you can command. It takes time and dedication for people around you to figure out just what type of person you are. Just because a person is in management or in a leadership position, it does not guarantee them respect. A quick look at the politicians in our society demonstrates this point. They are some of the least respectable people around. A person earns respect from their actions, not by being a punchline to a joke.

Louis Chenevert started off as a production manager and raised through the ranks and displayed leadership at all levels. He worked 15 years at General Motors and eventually became a production general manager. Next, he joined the aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. After only six years there, he became the new president of Pratt & Whitney. Pratt & Whitney was a subsidy to a much larger company known as United Technologies Corporation (UTC). UTC has many industries that they are involved in. They do aerospace engineering, HVAC, and have numerous military contracts. Chenevert made his presence known through his leadership skills at Pratt & Whitney. UTC was definitely taking notice. By 2006, he was elected the president and CEO of UTC. They have consistently been on the Fortune 500 list as one of the most profitable companies in the United States. Chenevert experienced a quick rise to the top.

Chenevert retired a wealthy man from UTC in 2014. He definitely has his own views on what makes a great leader. What better person to learn from than someone who has experienced it themselves. He offers many key tips on improving leadership skills.

Chenevert preaches to take risks. Often times, the bigger the risk, the more it can pay off. However, don’t take irrational risks. Do your homework and research the matter. It would not be rational to quit your job and go search for gold in the river down the street from your house. Leaders take risks, but they don’t do so blindly.

How often have you approached your boss about a problem you are having on the job only to have them totally ignore it? It’s one thing to do this if the person with the problem complains often, but it is quite another if you have never made a complaint in your years of service there. Leaders listen to their employees, no matter how big or small the problem is. They take on the jobs and concerns that their people are worried about. If your boss leaves you hanging just once, it is not something that is easily forgotten. Remember this when you are leading others.

Being a leader means more than sitting in meetings all day. We have all had our bosses that tend to sit in their office each and every day without once taking a step outside of it unless it was time to go home. These types of people are definitely bosses and not leaders of any sort. Leaders communicate with their employees. Chenevert was always sure to speak with the people on the front lines. They were the people who knew what the real problems were, and often the solutions to fix the problem. The only difficulty is getting those solutions in place without having a leader behind them. Many times, being a leader just means you have to back the people underneath you.

Chenevert says that one key aspect to being a great leader is to hiring the right people. Do not be afraid to hire people who are much smarter than you are. Many bosses are easily intimidated by those that are more intelligent. But once again, those are bosses and not leaders. Leaders will use this knowledge for the benefit of the company. Secure leaders are not concerned about the strengths of the people below them. In fact, they use these strengths for a purpose. Knowing your personnel is an important aspect of being a great leader.

We all know the people who show up to work each day dreading their work. They go to bed at night and toss and turn in their sleep knowing that they have to go into their job the next morning. They constantly keep one eye on the clock each day, counting down the minutes until they can pack up and leave. It may be surprising to discover that many of these people are the bosses. A true leader will motivate and inspire their employees. They will create reasons for each person to be excited about coming into work each day. Chenevert says a leader will go into work each day acting like it is their first day on the job. This means that they will go above and beyond and have their positive attitude on display for everyone to see.

These are all great tips to follow if you are in a leadership position. Everyone is always capable of improving their own skills. Or if you are working underneath someone in your current job, and you are not that happy about their performance, quietly take this article and slide it underneath their door. There is a chance that they will read it and it could actually make a difference with their own leadership ability. There is also a chance that they will be offended, have the piece of paper dusted for fingerprints, and then track you down.


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