Sherwin-Williams CEO headlines Goodyear-sponsored forum at UA, addresses students

04/01/2014

Christopher M. Connor, the much-admired and long-serving chairman and CEO of The Sherwin-Williams Company, was at The University of Akron on March 11 to serve as keynote speaker of the 2014 Goodyear Executive Leadership Forum, sponsored by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

Christopher M. Connor

Connor spoke in the Student Union Theater on the topic of leadership, addressing a near-capacity crowd comprised primarily of students enrolled in UA’s College of Business Administration. In his lecture, titled “Leave a Wake,” Connor encouraged students to make their presence in the business world undeniable, to make an impact and leave a wake. Through the use of the ZIPS acronym, he also shared his characteristics of a true leader:

  • Z – Zealous appetite for the toughest assignments. Connor encouraged students to search for these opportunities and to have the confidence to be successful.
  • I – Importance of servant leadership. Connor stressed that giving credit to one’s team comes before taking credit as the leader and cited his Jesuit education, which emphasizes being men and women for others.
  • P – Personal character. According to Connor, the best leaders can make business mistakes but must always possess the highest level of morality, integrity, and ethical decision-making.
  • S – Speed. Great leaders are decisive, Connor remarked, and counted on to get things done.

Relaxed and clearly pleased for the opportunity to address students, Connor took questions from the audience following his talk – and commented that some of the queries were among the toughest ever posed to him.

He also spoke lightheartedly about being the keynote speaker at a forum sponsored by Goodyear, since his father had been an executive with Firestone. Connor then relayed that as a child he and his family often joked how Firestone had great years and fantastic years – but never a 'good year'!

A native of Pensacola, Fla., who was raised in Akron and graduated from Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Connor attended The University of Akron for a semester in 1976 before earning his degree from The Ohio State University. He joined The Sherwin-Williams Company in 1983 as director of advertising for the Paint Stores Group and held a number of increasingly important assignments prior to being named CEO in 1999 and chairman in 2000.

Connor addresses students as keynote speaker of the 2014 Goodyear Executive Leadership Forum.

In many ways, Connor’s leadership style is reflective of the culture of excellence at The Sherwin-Williams Company, which has been recognized by many business publications for its financial excellence, integrity of business practices, and strong track record of dividend payments. What’s more, Fortune magazine has – three times – named The Sherwin-Williams Company one of the nation’s top 100 employers.

Prior to his closing remarks, Connor read the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling (explaining he had given a copy of the poem to each of his children at their college graduation), and he commented on the amazing transformation of UA’s campus since his days as a student, praising the work and vision of President Luis Proenza, who was on hand and had introduced Connor to the crowd.

In addition to The Sherwin-Williams Company Board of Directors, Connor serves on the boards of the Eaton Corporation and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. His many civic and community board engagements include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Playhouse Square Foundation, University Hospitals Health System, United Way Services of Greater Cleveland, Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, the National Association of Manufacturers, and The American Coatings Association. He also is chairman of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

About the Goodyear Executive Leadership Forum
The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company established the Goodyear Executive Leadership Forum through The University of Akron College of Business Administration. The forum, which hosted its first speaker in 1991, enables students, faculty, and the community to interact with individuals of national and international stature. The Goodyear Executive Leadership Forum is designated to showcase the special knowledge and insight of leaders in business, politics, and society. Past speakers have included Roger S. Penske, J.D. Power III, James C. Perkins, Stanley C. Gault, Hiroshi Okuda, W.R. Timken Jr., Glen A. Barton, Chris Jones, Joseph M. Magliochetti, Andrea Jung, David Oreck, Richard K. Smucker, Robert J. Keegan, David A. Daberko, Carl T. Camden, Walter W. Bettinger II, Jim Clifton, and Anthony Alexander.

About The Sherwin-Williams Company
The Sherwin-Williams Company is a $10 billion global leader in the paint and coatings industry. It operates more than 3,450 paint stores in the United States, owns many of the paint and coatings industry leading brand names, including Sherwin-Williams, Dutch Boy, Krylon, and many more; and sells products in more than 100 countries around the world.

About the College of Business Administration
The College of Business Administration is a professional college of The University of Akron that is dedicated to teaching, business research, and public service. The College offers programs of study in accountancy, business administration, finance, management, marketing, international business, and sales and is accredited at the highest level for both undergraduate and graduate programs by AACSB International – the mark of excellence in education for business schools worldwide. In fact, less than 2 percent of business schools in the world have achieved this accreditation. The College also is consistently ranked as a top business school by The Princeton Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, and U.S. News & World Report and has recognized programs in professional selling and direct marketing.