The Ryan File Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2009

Born: Uniontown, Pa.

First job: My first job was as a laborer at a surface coal mine.

Education: J.D., Duquesne University School of Law, 1984 (cum laude); B.A., St. Vincent College, 1981 (with highest honors)

What has been your greatest leadership lesson?

I believe that my greatest leadership lesson is simply the importance of carefully listening to those most knowledgeable before responding to a situation.

Whom do you most admire in business and why?

The person that I admire most in business is Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway. The reason why is Mr. Buffett’s refusal to make important decisions based on short-term returns and his uncanny ability to turn a problem-plagued environment into a tremendous opportunity for long-term wealth building.

What song best describes your company?

Tom Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’

Ryan on making promises: Do not ever overpromise. I think that is a very big mistake that leadership can make. You really learn not to do that. We’re not politicians; we’re business leaders. I don’t like to underpromise either. I would like to be realistic and tell people the basis, the assumptions upon which this statement is being made, and then revise it as we go.

People are smart; they will remember what you said. You’re going to destroy (trust and confidence); you’ll undermine it by overpromising. Without that, you are going to constantly be called on things and you are going to get distracted by being challenged every step of the way. Once you get that trust and confidence engendered, things are a lot smoother.