Campus News

Ken Chenault ’73 Addresses Parents and Students at Sarah and James Bowdoin Day Celebration

Story posted October 15, 1999

American Express is one of the best-known financial brand names in the world. That recognition inspires confidence and loyalty among its customers, explained Ken Chenault ’73, the company’s president and chief operating officer. It is equally important for individuals to develop their own "personal brand," he said.

On Friday, Chenault told parents and students at the Sarah and James Bowdoin Day celebration what qualities he believes it takes to develop a personal brand, and why it is important to do so.

"Begin now to build your personal brand, your reputation for excellence and honesty," he said. "This can help you navigate through troubled times."

"It can help you inspire loyalty and trust, which is absolutely essential in times of change and the hallmark of a true leader."

Chenault said the most important qualities of a leader are:

() Intelligence, the ability to solve problems and analyze strategies; to seize and focus on the "jugular issues."

() Character and integrity: "Without it, you will not flourish."

() Commitment to excellence, the will to win. "But you must always treat people with respect and dignity."

() Courage, to take risks and be persistent; to give people real feedback, to tell them the truth.

() Confidence: "To succeed, you need a strong and healthy ego, but not be an egomaniac, by all means not arrogant. You must be sensitive to people’s feelings."

() Caring, "giving back in some area where you do not expect to get anything back of a material nature."

() Judgment.

Chenault is widely recognized for his own integrity and courage, as well as for his business acumen.

When he assumes the position of chief executive officer at AmEx in 2001, he will become one of only three African Americans to head a Fortune 500 company. Chenault will take over as chairman about a year after becoming CEO. This year he was named Corporate Executive of the Year by Black Enterprise magazine.

« Back | Campus News | Academic Spotlight | | Subscribe to Bowdoin News by Email