Executive in Residence: "You are all leaders," says former GM CEO

“At the core of every successful company are strategy, execution, culture and leadership,” said Mr. Dan Akerson, the former CEO of the General Motors Company. 

Akerson kicked off the Laurie and John Andrews Speaker Series in Principled Business Leadership on January 26, meeting with faculty and students throughout the two-day engagement that included a Mason School community discussion on leadership.

Dean Larry Pulley, longtime friend of Mr. Akerson, introduced him, saying, “it is impossible to overstate how much I admire Dan as a person and admire him as a leader.”

Akerson stressed the importance and value of leadership with MBA , MAcc , and undergrad students, faculty, staff, and Executive Partners.

“Bringing GM into the 21st century and working to change the company culture was no easy task,” Mr. Akerson said. “We needed to create an owner’s culture. That this was our company, and we were going to make a difference, all of us. We had to infiltrate this idea deep into the organization that it wasn’t just the CEO that was the leader—we were all leaders.”

Among his top insights: acknowledge that life and business will get challenging at times. It’s how CEOs and company team members react to adversity that showcases leadership, and builds character and profit.

Mr. Akerson, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, worked his way up through the ranks to become Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of GM. He also served in a series of executive positions for large companies, including The Carlyle Group, General Instrument, MCI, Nextel and XO Communications. 

The next Laurie and John Andrews Speaker Series in Principled Business Leadership will feature John Campbell and Mark Dancy  held on February 11. Details will be released as they become available.