Fisher students, faculty, staff and members of the business community received first-hand lessons about principled leadership in the face of extreme adversity from an individual who knows all about professional highs and lows.

Walt Rakowich shared insights from a storied business career in which he helped build Prologis into one of the world’s top logistics real estate and supply chain companies — and then rescued it from the brink of post-recession bankruptcy. Rakowich’s talk was part of The Ohio State Center for Real Estate’s “View from the C-Suite” speaker series.

Rakowich spoke of the tenets and principles that helped him climb to chief operating officer at Prologis from 2005 to 2008, where he helped the company grow and increase its stock value to more than $70 a share. Differing opinions on the long-term vision of the company and its principles prompted Rakowich to step away in 2008 and, as the Great Recession hit, Prologis fell victim. Its stock became the third-worst performing stock on the S&P 500, as the per-share price fell to nearly $2 in just 10 months.

A leadership change brought Rakowich back to Prologis as its CEO and, over the next four years, the company rebounded and became a post-recession success story. The adversity he faced in rebuilding the company — laying off workers, closing facilities and exploring bankruptcy — helped Rakowich refine his leadership style to value transparency and vulnerability.

Walt Rakowich 2
Students, faculty and members of the real estate community gathered to hear from Walt Rakowich as part of The Ohio State Center for Real Estate's "View from the C-Suite" speaker series.

Borrowing from other successful leaders, Rakowich developed a personal philosophy called the 3H-Core — a specific focus on humility, honesty and humanity. That philosophy helped refine his belief that effective leaders know their limitations, and they empower others to lead in adversity.

“Leaders are symphony conductors, not the soloists,” he said.

For Josh Liebes-McClellan, hearing from Rakowich expanded his understanding of leadership.

“His emphasis on servant leadership opened my eyes to the mindset of great leaders,” said McClellan, a finance student. “Great leaders think from the perspective of the group that they are leading. Understanding and assessing what impact the leader’s possible actions would have on the group is critical to choosing and handling decisions that are made by leaders.

“To have the opportunity to learn from someone with his background was a truly phenomenal experience. What I was able to take away from Walt’s lessons, illustrated with detailed stories from his past experiences, benefited me tremendously in my growth as a leader and as a professional in general. Meeting Walt was a unique and extremely beneficial experience, I am truly appreciative of his time and efforts provided.”