Kenneth Chenault

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I want to win the right way. I’m very competitive. I’ve got a strong will to win, but I want to win the right way. That’s my focus.

Kenneth Irvine Chenault (born 2 June 1951) is an American business executive who has been the CEO and Chairman of American Express since 2001. He is the third black CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Quotes[edit]

A Principled Leader (2004)[edit]

We believe that the Statue of Liberty is an important symbol of freedom for our country.
Quotes of Chenault from the interview "A Principled Leader", in Bowdoin magazine, Vol. 75, No. 2 (Winter 2004)
I think, at the end of the day, that it is a mistake simply to pursue a job. Instead, you should pursue a way of life.
I was a history major at Bowdoin and as I looked at different movements in different stages in history, it was clear to me that it was important to have some segments of any particular group work within the system. These people could bring an enlightened view or a different set of perspectives.
  • We believe that the Statue of Liberty is an important symbol of freedom for our country. And as [film director] Martin Scorcese, who is involved in the Statue’s latest fundraising campaign, said, what is most impressive is not just what the Statue of Liberty represents for Americans but really what it represents to the whole world.
  • After 9-11, I told our senior management team that this was a tremendous leadership challenge that each of us was facing and I wanted them to be courageous. I wanted them to be decisive, to not shirk away from taking tough actions. I also told them to be compassionate. If the organization believed that they were not compassionate, particularly in these times, they would lose their privilege to lead. I wouldn’t be the one to take away their leadership – the organization – the people — would. Compassion can be offered without sacrificing a sense of urgency or a strong will to win. That’s one of the values I believe in very strongly, and I talk about it in the organization. I want to win the right way. I’m very competitive. I’ve got a strong will to win, but I want to win the right way. That’s my focus.
  • I think, at the end of the day, that it is a mistake simply to pursue a job. Instead, you should pursue a way of life. The opportunity for me is to make a fundamental difference in people’s lives, both inside and outside the company. To lead a very successful enterprise that is not just focused on achieving business success. That’s a consequence of doing the right things for our employees and our customers.The challenge of operating a global company is a terrific, terrific opportunity. You cannot be successful as a CEO in the short, moderate or long term if you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing. Because the challenges and the issues are so substantial that if you don’t have that passion, you’re going to wilt. Fortunately, I think I’ve got that passion.
  • I was a history major at Bowdoin and as I looked at different movements in different stages in history, it was clear to me that it was important to have some segments of any particular group work within the system. These people could bring an enlightened view or a different set of perspectives. I thought to work totally outside the system was destructive and counter-productive in the long term. … what I think was unique about Bowdoin — and maybe it was the size of the school and its environment — is that you couldn’t isolate yourself. We had real discourse, real debate on the issues. At the same time, there was also respect. As a result, people saw you on a personal level, not just as a representative of a certain group or of certain ideas. And I think that was quite important.
  • I found that Bowdoin had some exceptional black graduates. It was incredible reading about their trials and tribulations and successes coming into an environment that was sometimes hostile, or at the very least mixed in its reception. I also learned that there were a few people in the local community and faculty members who played important roles for these individuals. Writing that paper gave me a sense of awe at the level of talent that had come to Bowdoin over the years.
    You asked me how I ended up at Bowdoin. Frankly it is far more interesting to find out how these people wound up at Bowdoin and what sustained them, what got them through. What Bowdoin can be, and should be proud of, is that it had some incredibly illustrious and impressive blacks who went there during some very challenging times. … The College’s breadth and depth of talent and its very history were impressive. Also, the fact that the Afro-Am was a site for the Underground Railroad was very poignant and very meaningful to me.

Quotes about Chenault[edit]

  • Ken says in his interview something that we have heard from other Bowdoin graduates — that Bowdoin provided not only a challenging academic environment amid some great natural beauty and interesting colleagues, but that it was also quite simply a good place to think. Suggesting that pure reflection has that kind of power and value is, in this world of perpetual stimulus, surprising.

External links[edit]

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