Born: Lafayette, Ind.
Education: Purdue University, bachelor’s degree, civil engineering; master’s degree, industrial management
First job: I was a janitor at the high school. I still hold the world record for washing windows in the high school. My team and I set a world record that’s never been beaten.
What leader do you admire most?
A guy named Sandy Nelson, who was my mentor when I started working at Alcoa. He’s a tremendous leader who I look up to and have modeled myself after.
What do you enjoy most about leading a company?
Interacting with the customers and the employees
What do you enjoy the least?
Interacting with the investors; not because it’s a bad thing, frankly, sometimes good comes out of it, and I learn something talking to these guys, but it’s a distraction from creating value with the company. You create value with the customers and the employees. You don’t create value while you’re talking to Wall Street. You might create short-term value if you say the right thing, or you might destroy it if you say the wrong thing, but the real value you create for the company happens with the employees and the customers.
How do you deal with people who resist your changes?
After awhile, it becomes apparent to not just me but [to] everyone who’s pulling their weight and who’s not pulling their weight. It also becomes clear who the concrete heads are. You get to the point where you try to break the concrete, but if you can’t break the concrete, you get rid of the concrete head.