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Humility

Jerome Peribere
Former Chief Executive Officer at Sealed Air Corporation

Learning outcomes

  • The traps of having all the answers as a CEO or leader
  • How to cultivate humility and the importance of life at home as a leader
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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.Read more

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Interview Transcript

How do you foster that humility, as a leader?

Humility is about accepting that you don’t know everything and that you can either not know or have taken views that are wrong and that you are going to be able to come back and say, maybe there is a better way. There is an issue; you are now an executive or you are now the CEO of a company and you can’t stop yourself from thinking that I must be somebody. I must be really smart. The trap is, you forget what you had to do, in the past, to become an executive. What you had to do in the past, to become an executive or to become the CEO, is to listen, to make compromises, to ask open questions. Also, to engage people, so they tell you what you don’t know.

The problem with becoming, all of a sudden, the boss, is that there is a tendency to say, well now I’m the boss, I know better. This is really the trap into which you should not fall. Let’s be honest, everybody, to a certain extent, falls into it. We’re all human. I must be good, if I have been appointed a division president, a CTO, a CEO; I really must be good. But you need to really make sure that you have the humility to accept that, because you are at the top, you don’t know it all. The information is down in the fields. There is too much information today, to process, for you to know it all. Therefore, you need to go and ask the questions, so people come up with the information. You have to have listened to other people’s input and your team’s input, and you can take the responsibility for making the difficult decisions.

What practices or procedures did you have, to ensure that you stayed humble, when you became the CEO?

That’s a very good question, because you should ask my wife. My wife, when I came back from work, from time to time – and sometimes I was travelling for a week, or something like that – all of a sudden, I come back home and you tend to behave as the boss. Coming back home is really a great time for you to know that, no, you are not the boss. People don’t have to suck it up. You become like you have always been.

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