Ex-CEO of Continental gives leadership advice
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 23:01
Rice students got a lesson in leadership Tuesday night as they listened to Rice Trustee and former CEO of Continental Airlines speak in a talk organized by the current residential college presidents.
Kellner focused on six “p-words” – plan, priorities, people, passion, perception and principle. He illustrated many of these points using examples of the successes and failures of Continental Airlines during the 1990s. He said planning and flexibility in planning are essential to success.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” Kellner said. “You [have to] have a plan. [That] doesn’t mean the plan can’t change; [it] doesn’t mean you can’t fine-tune the plan, but you [have to] have a plan.”
Kellner said in addition to forming plans, leaders should select the right people to execute the plans.
“Having the right people doesn’t just mean having great people; it means having great people doing the job they’re well suited for,” Kellner said.
Kellner also gave advice on leadership, expressing his opinion on what makes a good leader.
“You need to be passionate about what you do,” Kellner said. “You [have to] believe in it, people can tell the difference between a leader who doesn’t care and a leader who does care. If you find yourself in a job where you say you hate coming to work every day, get a new job. Get out of that job.”
Jones College president Julian Castro said one of the goals of the college presidents was to increase professional development opportunities. After the college presidents had dinner with multiple Rice board members last fall, Kellner offered to give a talk, Castro said.
“He offered to talk about professional development and … his experience as CEO because that’s his background,” Castro, a senior, said. “That’s his specialty, so we just thought it was a great idea to host it in a college because it brings him closer to the students and it provides more of an intimate setting.”
Three students from each college and one Student Association representative had the opportunity to speak with Kellner at a reception before the talk, Brown College president Ivan Huang said.
Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said he thought the talk taught Rice students an important lesson.
“I think the opportunity to hear about the successes and failures and the variations in the plans that people have is a great lesson for students who are aspiring to great things,” Hutchinson said.
Martel College junior Kenneth Misner said Kellner’s message of communication was a key point of the speech.
“The most important thing I got was his explanation of how he communicated with others and how communication is so important,” Misner said.
Huang said he hopes this talk can be the first of many.
“I think a few of the presidents were hoping this could kick off a series where residential colleges can invite entrepreneurs throughout Houston and board members as well to come talk,” Huang said. “I think it supports the residential college system. It also allows students to have other resources to develop themselves professionally. It bridges the gap between the board of trustees and the students. Anytime you can bring them a little closer, that’s good.”