Q&A with Jon Slangerup, 2018 Most Admired CEO

Atlanta Business Chronicle — Atlanta Business Chronicle just named our list of Atlanta’s Most Admired CEOs of 2018. They are scheduled to be honored on Aug. 23 at an awards event at the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta. Here’s a Q&A with one of the honorees, Jon Slangerup of American Global Logistics.

Q: You’ve been named one of Atlanta’s Most Admired CEOs of 2018. How can other CEOs win such great admiration from their stakeholders?
A: The successful CEOs I have come to know are those who consistently practice what they preach. Of those, the ones that I admire the most – and strive to emulate – are leaders who are givers; ones that consistently demonstrate selfless commitment to their stakeholders. My job is to provide others what they need to be successful, whether they are co-workers, customers or partners, and it’s a balancing act that is rarely easy. Nevertheless, I always try to put others first, understand things from their perspective, and trust my instincts.

Q: What are the keys to CEOs building a high level of trust in their organizations?
A: My team and I have worked to create an environment where people feel safe and encouraged to be open and honest, and contribute to solutions. This is particularly important during times of challenge and stress, and is something that must be modeled and facilitated starting with the CEO on down through the leadership ranks. I believe that trust and confidence in the CEO and executive team are earned – not bestowed – from others through the consistent demonstration of leadership that reinforces the organization’s core values. Trust is fragile and is quickly compromised by hypocritical behavior.

Q: Please tell us what leadership and being a leader means to you.
A: Being a leader requires a commitment to serving others and an ability to subordinate self-interest for the advancement of the mission and team. I view my job as bringing out the best in people while sustaining a culture that is customer-driven, teamwork-focused, and encourages givers, not takers. While being a manager requires competency across a learned set of skills, leadership is a higher level calling to inspire others by example to deliver discretionary effort.

Q: Who is a favorite leader you admire, and why?
A: While there are many leaders I admire from history, Fred Smith, founder and chairman of FedEx, is a living embodiment of what it means to be a servant leader – and someone whom I was privileged to work with for more than 20 years. Fred remains an enduring icon of our industry, having invented the express logistics industry and established FedEx as one of the world’s most respected brands. His vision, commitment to excellence and ability to inspire hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide is unmatched by anyone I personally know.

Q: Please explain how you and your organization make tough decisions.
A: We continually engage as a team to make decisions, usually with unanimous agreement. When there is failure to reach consensus, I make the call and we move forward together. We have made it a priority to create an environment where everyone in the organization is encouraged to speak freely and contribute to the solution, but always with respect for the views and ideas of others. We use a variety of tools to facilitate brainstorming and problem solving, but at the core, we rely on open conversations to lead to positive solutions and results.

Q: Please give some details about one of your top accomplishments of the past year that you are most proud of.
A: During the past year, we engaged a comprehensive strategic overhaul of the business focused on implementing a diversified product portfolio and significantly expanded marketing and sales. Our goals are to deliver triple-digit growth over the next three years while significantly increasing the Company’s visibility as an industry leader. To date, we are tracking ahead of expectations on our goals, but what I am most proud of is how the leadership team and Company as a whole has positively embraced and adapted to the many changes we’ve had to make in a short time.

Q: How is your organization changing or adapting to prepare for the future?
A: The strategic process described above has a number of features that help us remain agile in the face of a dynamic marketplace and capable of better anticipating future trends. For example, our strategic plan is a rolling three-year plan wherein each quarter we revisit external macro market drivers and assess the progress and current validity of our vision, mission, goals and objectives. As circumstances warrant, we don’t hesitate to make incremental adjustments to our plan in order to stay relevant, competitive and fluid.

Q: What top piece of advice would you share with other CEOs?
A: I wouldn’t give unsolicited advice to a peer, but if I could take my own advice, what’s most important is encouraging a work-life balance for those I work with, and to the extent possible, do my best to be an example. Business is typically a marathon, not a sprint, and I always want to be sufficiently capable, both physically and mentally, to give love and support to my family and others closest to me. And sometimes, receiving needed support in return.

Q: What is one of the best books you’ve read recently, and why?
A: The best books I have read so far this year are:

  1. Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson – seeking inspiration for innovation but surprised that the Master rarely finished what he started due to a highly impatient mind.
  2. Neuro Tribes by Steve Silberman – seeking to learn more about Autism and the extraordinary capabilities of those affected, including a young family member who suffers with the condition.
  3. Never Give In!: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches by his Grandson, Winston Churchill – seeking inspiration on how to “weaponize” words to motivate others to endure difficult changes
  4. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek – impressed by Sinek’s thoughts about the Millennial generation, I enjoyed his reinforcing views on caring leadership and giving back.

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