Business titans meet with students as part of pilot course

William Weldon
William Weldon

March 28, 2013 - Some of Quinnipiac's top School of Business students are learning leadership strategies from four highly successful corporate executives as part of a pilot course.

Robert Castrignano, principal of Sandler O'Neill & Partners in New York, spent more than three hours on Feb. 27 speaking with students about what he has learned throughout his career. The class, "CEO Lessons in Leadership," was introduced this spring.  

"All of this revolves around the mindset of what you want to get out of life and what you are willing to do to get there," Castrignano told the students. "Each of you will face situations that are not pleasant. What matters is how you will react to them."

The students were advised to remain positive and go the extra mile. "I always look people in the eye, offer a firm handshake and write personal notes," Castrignano said. "You are sowing the seeds of what may be your future successes every time you go out of your way for someone else."

Castrignano told the students that the people they encounter today could become a colleague, competitor or client in the future - and that relationships are the key to success. "You cannot be an effective leader unless you are informed," he said. "You need a strong skillset."

William Weldon, immediate past CEO of Johnson & Johnson, encouraged the students to lead by example. "You are going into a world that is much more challenging than the one I entered," Weldon warned the students on March 27. "You have to be true to yourself."

He cautioned that one poor decision could destroy the reputation of one's company and one's self. "Do not ever compromise yourself," Weldon advised. "Have the courage to stand up and disagree."

He warned that while disagreeing with a group or employer is not easy, it is essential to grow and do well. "Too many people today are risk-averse," Weldon told the students. "It's really important that you lead in a way where you are able to say, 'I have the facts and this is the right way of doing this.' "

Weldon encouraged the students to consider what he called the "newspaper test." "If you read about it in the newspaper, will you be proud of your actions," Weldon asked. "You must be willing to make tough decisions to preserve your dignity and ethics."

David Darst, managing director and chief investment strategist at Morgan Stanley, encouraged the students to find a mentor. "It's very important to find someone interested in your business career and development," he told the students on March 13.

It is important to value every person the same, he said. "Everybody is worth the same - from the CEO to the person sweeping in the parking lot," Darst said. "We need to treat everybody with dignity and respect. There are no little people."

Darst reviewed a number of earnings statements and reports with the students.

"Attention to detail is the message of today," Darst warned.

Peter Goode, a senior majoring in economics and finance, said he is finding the experience to be very informative. "There's no substitute for real-world experience," he said. "It's a fitting capstone to my business education."

Another student said she felt that the experience is preparing her for life beyond Quinnipiac. "As a senior getting ready to enter the business world, it's helpful to better understand what helped to make him successful," said Dayna Guest, a senior finance major. "It's great to hear a leader share his success stories and learn how he overcame conflicts."

Matthew O'Connor, dean of the School of Business, said he makes it his mission to enable students to interact with industry leaders. "There's nothing more real-world than discussing real business problems with high level people in the business world," he said.

Susan McTiernan, associate dean for graduate programs in the School of Business and associate professor of management, is the faculty instructor for the course. "We are very pleased to have these highly successful executives involved in the leadership course," she said. "Our students benefit greatly from the insights that they share."  

Don Weinbach, vice president for development and alumni affairs, was instrumental in securing commitments from the executives to participate in the course, McTiernan said. 

James McGlothlin, chairman and CEO of The United Co., is also scheduled to address the class.

Weldon is a Quinnipiac graduate and, like Darst and McGlothlin, is a member of the University's Business Leader Hall of Fame.

View photos from the lectures on Facebook.