Welcome to the Eccles Business Buzz Podcast. My name is Leentje Klingensmith, a fellow David Eccles School of Business alum, and your host for our podcast show. We know the Eccles community is only as strong as its alumni network and as I have built relationships with alumni across the nation, I’ve learned how truly remarkable our network is. Our goal is to share alumni stories, perspectives, and voices on topics that are driving conversations around the globe and within our school today. The core values of the Eccles community will underlie everything we discuss here: Entrepreneurial Grit, Continuous Curiosity, Empathetic Global Citizenship, and Impacting Your World.
In this third episode of Eccles Business Buzz, we welcome Greg Kennedy, who graduated from the Eccles School in 1987 and is one of our most dedicated Eccles advisory board members. Greg recently retired as Senior Vice President of Airport Operations at Delta Airlines where he was responsible for some of the busiest airports in the world including our very own Salt Lake International.
Greg walks us through his family story and his experiences growing up, wrestling to go to college, and how he ended up at the University of Utah and eventually, the Eccles School.
He narrates his extensive experience working in the airline industry, some of the ups and downs, dealing with major crises like 9/11 and COVID-19, and the importance of leadership through it all.
Greg shares his definition of empathy and how his perspective has changed thought his career. He also talks about the great attributes of a leader/mentor and the importance of having the right people to guide you in your journey.
Greg's definition of empathy - "It's the glue that holds relationships together. When I think about empathy, it is the ability to detect others' emotions and understand the perspective. And when people feel accepted and valued, it really builds trust."
If his perspective on empathy changed over the years - "It has definitely changed. As you take on more responsibility, your ability to have empathy or your need to have empathy increases dramatically. I believe it's one of the most important skills or attributes for leaders today."
On servant leadership as one of his core values - "When your corporate values align with your personal values, it makes for a very enjoyable and harmonized career. And that's really what I had. I think my colleagues if they were to define me in one word, I think they would use the word and the term servant leader. From day one and over the years, regardless of my title or responsibility, I stayed very connected to the frontline employees."
Attributes of a good mentor - "Mentoring is really important to me. I told my team and have always taught my leaders that your number one responsibility is developing and preparing leaders to take your place and finding and developing those who are smarter and ready to take on those responsibilities. I was serious about that because I think it's very important that you help develop others to give back. It's really a way of giving back as a leader."
Key ingredients in life - "Opportunities are often disguised as hard work. And that's why many people miss out on them because they're not willing to work hard. The second part was being nice. The rest of the universe was literally taught to be nice to people. You just got to get out there and take care of them. Work hard and be nice. To me, those are the two most important key ingredients; very simple terms, but very important."