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Former Chief Executive Officer at Sealed Air Corporation

IP Interview
Published on April 30, 2020

Why is this interview interesting?

  • Why being courageous, as a leader or employee, is so difficult
  • How to foster courage as a manager
Executive Bio

Jerome Peribere

Former Chief Executive Officer at Sealed Air Corporation

Jerome was CEO and President of Sealed Air Corporation, the global leader in food and protective packaging, from 2012-17 where he grew the business to over $7bn in revenue. He led Sealed Air’s transformation programme to regain position as industry leader and increased EBITDA margins from sub 10% - 15%. Jerome previously worked at The Dow Chemical Company for 35 years, one of the top 3 chemical producers globally, serving in a variety of leadership roles throughout the world. He spent most of his career in Dow AgroSciences, before serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of Dow Advanced Materials, a $12 billion revenue unit of Dow serving customers in more than 130 countries.

Interview Transcript

Why do you think it’s so hard for CEOs to listen, sometimes?

Because it’s so much easier to follow your own agenda. Remember, you are the CEO; you must be good. Therefore, you should know better. That’s an issue. There’s a great book, which is probably almost 20 years old. It’s from (Jim) Collins and it’s called, Good to Great. Every time I can, I recommend that book, because it is about humility, sustainability, of performance over time. It is about long-term value creation and it really is about how should behave, over time. You can be a hero for a week, a month, a year; that is not important. The important thing is, to be a hero for the long term.

There’s one thing which most people lack, in large companies. By the way, the larger the worse it is. This is about courage. In my mind, what distinguishes a manager from a leader, or an employee from a leader – because, as I told you, there are blue collars who are extraordinary leaders – is the lack of courage. If you have courage, you will think about what you can do better and you will try to convince others that things can be done better and you will carry out your ideas. When somebody in those town halls was suggesting something to me, that person would say, I would do this differently. Then my comment, immediately, would be, so why didn’t you do it? The systematic answer would be, the system would not allow me to do that. Or, because my boss would not allow me to do it.

I would say, so if you really think that this is a great idea or thing to change, why would your boss that it would not be right? First of all, you need to check that your great idea is definitely a great idea. For this, you need step one, to sell your idea to your peers and to your supervisor. Because if you can’t even sell that great idea to your peers and supervisor, it’s probably not a good idea. But if you can, then go ahead. Then, I disagree with you, when you make the comment that the system would not allow you. That’s not the reason. The reason is that, to carry on with things to change takes courage and will and additional workload. It takes courage, to come up and say, hey, I think we can do better. It takes will to carry on with that idea and sell it to others. Then it takes extra workload, because your boss will probably tell you, hey, by the way, go ahead and do all of this and let’s see if it works. Then the burden is back on your shoulders.

I would say to them, so you didn’t do it, because you didn’t think the system would not accept it. You didn’t do it, because you didn’t have the courage.

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