It is often said that good leaders are trailblazers, making a path for others to follow. Great leaders, however, inspire their people to reach higher, dream bigger, and achieve greater.
Offering insight into various aspects of leadership, ACA’s inaugural Leadership Conference was held at the Union League in Philadelphia, PA, on October 11–12. According to ACA president and CEO Andy Doyle, the objective of the conference was to bring together executives and business managers from a cross section of the coatings industry to hear from thought leaders on a variety of topical areas. Over the two-day conference, 67 industry executives participated in sessions led by authorities from such diverse areas as geopolitics, business, innovation, and economics.
The conference began with a presentation by Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of Business Development for Tesla Motors. O’Connell revealed that the central mission of Tesla is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. He traced the development of the company’s revolutionary automobiles and predicted how they might ultimately shape the next generation of autonomous vehicles.
Following O’Connell’s opening talk was a session on Geopolitics led by Kurt Volker, former ambassador to Hungary and NATO, and Dave Des Roaches, associate professor and senior military fellow at the National Defense University. Ambassador Volker remarked that the successes of companies like Tesla are most attainable in countries that experience continuing freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law. A leading expert in U.S. foreign and national security policy with more than 30 years of experience, Ambassador Volker outlined some of the more pressing challenges to U.S. freedoms, namely those posed by Russia, ISIS, and China. The response of the United States to each of these geopolitical challenges could be very different, and he discussed the need for clear strategies for each, and the necessity to work with allies with shared values.
Continuing with the geopolitical focus was Dave Des Roches. His impressive background includes serving in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD), as the DoD liaison to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, senior country director for Pakistan, NATO operations director, and the deputy director for peacekeeping. An airborne ranger in the U.S. Army Reserve, Des Roches was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan. Introducing his presentation, he enumerated key strategic interests of the United States, including energy security, freedom of navigation, non-nuclear proliferation, and countering violent extremism. He noted that the future focus for U.S. interests could pivot from Europe to Asia. Des Roches offered insight into the Arab view of the United States, and described possible long-range effects resulting from shifts in worldwide oil dependence.
The next session shifted to the topic of Innovation. Heather Yerko, Cisco Systems’ senior manager for Service Logistics + Operations Systems, spoke on “Building a Culture of Innovation.” According to Yerko, an organization is made up of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices. She maintained that successful companies have a cultural strategy that is cultivated throughout the organization. She noted that, in the United States alone, the cost of employee disengagement totals more than $300 billion per year in lost productivity. She discussed methods for achieving a corporate cultural transformation that can lead from idea germination and incubation to ultimate innovation.
Leading a session on Peak Performance, Scott Bornstein, CEO and chief memory training expert of Memory Power, amazed the audience with his formidable recall skills. Bornstein spoke to the business advantages to be gained by improving memory. He provided a quick and effective exercise that helped audience members begin to develop the skills needed to improve their recollection of business-critical data.
On Weednesday, participants enjoyed a breakfast presentation by featured speaker, Dr. Leroy Chiao. A U.S. astronaut and International Space Station commander, Chiao is one of the most accomplished astronauts in the history of NASA. He enthralled the attendees with his photographs of space as he detailed his recent experiences as commander and NASA science office of the Expedition 10 aboard the International Space Station. According to Chiao, leaders engage people; they do not just build processes. He spoke to the qualities needed by good leaders, including character, vision, and the ability to communicate effectively.
Switching to the topic of Economics, Tim Quinlan, a director and senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities, led the next session.He provided a detailed analysis of the current economy, focusing on the gradual recovery being experienced by the United States. He predicted a continued, but gradual, recovery in homebuilding. He noted that most areas of the economy continue to see cyclical improvement, but progress related to automotive and student loans has stalled. Following his presentation, Quinlan answered questions from the audience on the international economic environment, the implications of Brexit, and other factors that could impact the United States economic progress.
The final session focused on Politics, as Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt offered his take on the “Post-Election Landscape.” Stirewalt shared his views on the then-upcoming U.S. presidential election. He offered interesting insights into how the results of the election might affect the political future of each of the two primary parties. He concluded his presentation with a lively question and answer section.
Following the success of its inaugural Leadership Conference, ACA plans to host a Spring and a Fall Conference. Andy Doyle notes, “In April 2017, the program will focus on issues directly related to the paint industry, including regulatory and legislative developments and industry trends. In the fall, we will again address industry concerns but also mix in topical speakers on public policy, economics, leadership, and general business.” Those who attended this first conference were pleased with the range of topics and quality of the speakers.
To learn more about these programs, check www.paint.org for updates.