The Reardon file Featured

6:25am EDT September 28, 2007
Educational background: Bachelor’s degree, English, Notre Dame; master’s degree, taxation, Washington University School of Law; law degree, University of Cincinnati

First job: An engineering officer on a Navy ship

Whom do admire most in business and why?

I admire Warren Buffett because he clearly exhibits a sense of values. He invests in companies just like you invest in a department head, and then he lets them go do their jobs. He doesn’t try to lean in and micromanage them. He’s really a man for all seasons. When you look at his track record, not simply at the quality of his picks, but in terms of what he stands for, what he does, I think he really exhibits a magnanimity there that’s exemplary to corporate America.

Another person is Jerry Grinstein, the almost-retired head of Delta Air Lines. When he took over Delta, I’m sure the rest of the world was whispering, ‘Is this guy crazy?’ He certainly didn’t need to do it. I’m convinced that Jerry took that job out of a sense of duty. He refused to take a salary. Then, after the bankruptcy was complete, and the judge and everybody else wanted to give him his bonus, he said, ‘No, thank you.’

What is the most significant challenge a business leader faces?

There is a tremendous temptation these days to think short term and to hedge, to color this and color that because pennies per share per quarter have become, unfortunately, the order of the day. Long-term thinking is somewhat eschewed now. We’re all familiar with the takeovers and the quick turns, and consequently, those who think long term are, unfortunately, thought of in some of the so-called ‘faster circles’ as Neanderthals. I might fall into that category, and I kind of hope that I do. If I think long term about what’s going for this company and this industry, then that will be my reward.