Retired Lt. Gen. Gus Pagonis Shares Thoughts on Corporate Leadership and the Supply Chain

Transportation & Logistics

By Andrew DiLuciano

Gus Pagonis was the featured speaker at Schneider Downs’ “Leadership of the Supply Chain” event for transportation and logistics industry professionals in October, 2010. Mr. Pagonis is currently the Vice Chairman of the Board at GENCO, the former Head of Supply Chain for Sears, Roebuck and Co., and a retired Lieutenant General with the U.S. Army. He is widely recognized for his logistical achievements, particularly during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. As General Schwarzkopf’s logistics commander, he functioned as the single point of contact and was responsible for all logistics (food, shelter, fuel, ammunition, transportation, contracting) for the Gulf War.

Mr. Pagonis is a dynamic presenter and he shared his array of experiences and stories - from having dinner with the king of Saudi Arabia to his organizational discussions with warehouse employees at Sears - providing insights and recommendations that were relevant not only to logistics professionals but to all business leaders. Our event, which happened in both Columbus and Pittsburgh, was well attended by members of many different industries, all of whom were interested to learn from an accomplished general how to make a business more efficient through effective leadership. If your schedule did not permit you to attend, I’ve outlined some important points.

From a logistical standpoint, one of the main things he focused on was the importance of having a single point of contact (SPOC) for logistical information. He discussed how he was the SPOC for all logistical operations during the Gulf War, which helped facilitate the activities, because one person could give directions and make decisions with all of the relevant information, and one person could communicate that information up the ladder to the relevant parties.

Leadership skills were a big focus of the presentation. He discussed skills of a good leader and discussed the differences in being a leader versus being a manager. He touched on how good leaders need to be innovators who think long-term and challenge the status quo. This is different from a manager who administers rather than innovates, thinks more short-term and accepts the status quo.

He shared some good leadership techniques and tools for organizational communication that he has used in his various positions, such as holding “stand up” meetings to receive departmental updates. He holds regularly scheduled meetings where anyone from the organization can attend. Everyone stands for the duration of the meeting and they give their organizational updates focusing only on essential information. This helps keep the meetings short and effective and allows everyone to know all the issues. He also talked about encouraging people to only include in email correspondence what they could fit on a note card to be short and to the point. He discussed how individuals use matrix papers to communicate issues to him. The papers are limited to one page with a brief background of the issue, list three positives and three negatives and other key points, and give a conclusion on the issue. He touched on how a good leader needs to know his or her own weaknesses, be themselves, and be cognizant of not only their verbal communications but what they are communicating through their body language.

These are just a few of the main takeaways from Mr. Pagonis’ presentation. Hopefully we can all use some of these techniques to benefit from his insight, innovation and experience. 

If you'd like to view the materials from the presentation, please contact Sean Smith.

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