L-3 chief Strianese: “I was not born a CEO”

December 15, 2009

The Chief Executive Officer of L-3 Communications says he’s a “city kid” from New York who worked his way up from loading trucks in the Bronx as a college student to being in charge of  a large U.S. defense contractor. AERO-ARMS-SUMMIT/

And so he takes exception when people demonize CEOs just for the sake of it.

“We went though a period of time where CEOs were cast as the villains of the earth,” Michael Strianese said in an interview at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit.

“And I found that very troubling since I worked my entire life from loading trucks in Hunts Point in the Bronx when I was in college, to doing my homework on the subway. ”

“So I was not born a CEO, I worked truly from the ground up in this company, and I’m very proud of that accomplishment,” Strianese said.

Strianese made the transition to CEO, of what is now the Pentagon’s 8th biggest supplier of prime contracts,  from chief financial officer after the death of Frank Lanza, one of the company’s founders, in 2006.

“Do I like it better? I can’t say it’s not without more stress,” he said with a hearty laugh.

Strianese said he had worked with Lanza for about 17 years and was very close to him, like family, so “they were certainly big shoes to fill.”

But their CEO styles are different, perhaps a nod also to the different times the company is operating in.

“I do have my own style and it’s different and I think that everybody’s adjusted to it very well, including me,” he said.

“I’m much less autocratic and more collaborative with my management team, I like to hear everybody’s views.”

Photo credit: Reuters/Molly Riley (Strianese)

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