Arrow Electronics CEO Advocates Shared Leadership
Analyzing professional ups and downs can lead to better people skills and business practices.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—When Bill Mitchell assumed the CEO position at Arrow Electronics in 2003, he was the fourth CEO in eight months. Facing a daunting task, Mitchell built a strategic framework based on performance leadership and transformed the company into a people business.
"By and large people want to do a good job," he said. "As CEO, your job is to unleash that."
At a recent Dean's Seminar, Mitchell drew from his 30 years of experience, including three CEO positions, to counsel 20 Ross School of Business students on the qualities of being an effective CEO.
Arrow Electronics is a major global provider of products, services and solutions to the electronic component and computer product industries. In addition to supply chain solutions, services and financing capabilities, Arrow Electronics provides design and technical support to small and medium-sized businesses.
Mitchell began the seminar by drawing a journey line reflecting his personal life and professional experience. He plotted highlights of his life on the timeline and then graphed the ups and downs. He encouraged students beginning their business careers to do the same exercise.
Mitchell received his bachelor's degree in engineering from Princeton University and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received his master's degree in engineering from the U-M and began his professional career at the Raychem Corp. before "catching the CEO bug" and accepting an opportunity at the Nashua Corp.
Although he rated this experience as a failure on his journey line, Mitchell noted, "You learn a lot more out of failures than successes." He assumed he had all the answers and people would simply do what they were told. When he was proven wrong, he learned how to be a better CEO.
Arrow's strategy is based on four pillars: growth, operational excellence, financial stability and shared leadership, with shared leadership being the key to success, Mitchell emphasized.
"Alignment is not agreement," he said, but through shared leadership, "people participate, are heard and make a difference."
Mitchell engaged the students by asking where they were from and taking questions. When asked about Arrow Electronics' international strategy in booming markets such as India, Mitchell said it is important to learn how to do business locally to fully capitalize on these opportunities.
"You can't do business in Ann Arbor without being able to discuss the U-M football team," he concluded.
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