The Road to CEO

CareerCast - Life-long Career Development

Peter Browning Do you want to become a CEO? Are you looking to leverage this into corporate board positions? In this CareerCast, Peter Browning, ’76, former CEO of both National Gypsum Company and Sonoco Products Company (both multibillion-dollar companies), shares his lessons learned, practical advice, and perspective on running two multinational organizations. He also reveals how he leveraged his experience into corporate board positions for 11 publicly traded companies and a few private ones.

Aired June 21, 2013

As founder and managing director of Peter Browning Partners, LLC, a board advisory service, Peter Browning has a wide range of experience in business. Beginning as a sales trainee, he spent 24 years with the Continental Can Company, including president of two different divisions, last serving as executive vice president – operating officer. He joined National Gypsum Company in 1989, and in September 1990 was elected chairman, president, and chief executive officer of National Gypsum Company, seeing the company through and out of bankruptcy. In November 1993 he joined Sonoco Products Company (a $4 billion global packaging company), where he last served as president and chief executive officer before retiring in July 2000. In September 2000, he was elected to the position of nonexecutive chairman, Nucor Corporation, until May 2006, when he became lead director. In March 2002, he was appointed dean of the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte, where he served until May 2005. He is a native of Boston.

A 1963 graduate of Colgate University with an AB in history, Peter earned his MBA from the University of Chicago in 1976. The Harvard Business School prepared a case study regarding his success in effecting changes at Continental’s White Cap Division. A case study has also been written on his experience at National Gypsum for use at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. Since 1989, he has served on the board of directors of 11 publicly traded companies, two as CEO. In that time, he has also been nonexecutive chair, lead director, and chair of audit, compensation, and governance/nominating committees. In addition to serving as lead director of Nucor Corporation and Acuity Brands, Peter is also a member of the board of directors of EnPro Industries, Inc., and Lowe’s Companies, Inc. In January 2013, he joined the board of Equilar, the leading provider of corporate data, as leading independent director.

In the fall of 2004 Board Alert Magazine selected Peter as one of eight “Outstanding Directors of the Year” for his role in the successful CEO transitions at Lowe’s and Nucor. He is also the 2009 recipient of Boston University’s “Gislason Award for Leadership in Executive Development.” He was selected for the 2011 and 2012 “NACD Director 100 List” (the list of the most influential people in corporate governance in the boardroom). In April 2010, his chapter “Leadership in the Corner Office: The Board’s Most Important Responsibility” was published in the Jossey-Bass and Center for Creative Leadership book Extraordinary Leadership: Addressing the Gaps in Senior Executive Development.

In addition, Peter is a founding member of the Lead Director Network, a member of the faculty for the Conference Board’s Directors’ Institute, and a frequent participant in governance seminars, serving on panels addressing a wide variety of corporate governance and compensation issues. He is a lifetime member of the Council on Chicago Booth and served on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Manufacturers. Peter and his wife, Kathy, have four children and five grandchildren. His interests remain in outdoor activities—including cycling, climbing, scuba diving, and sea kayaking—and reading, particularly history.

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William N. Thorndike

The Virtual Executive: How to Act Like a CEO Online and Offline by Debra Benton (2012)

360 Degrees of Influence: Get Everyone to Follow Your Lead on Your Way to the Top by Harrison Monarth (2011)

CEO Material: How to Be a Leader in Any Organization by Debra Benton (2009)

Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO by Harrison Monarth (2009)

Your Next Move: The Leader’s Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions by Michael Watkins (2009)

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith (2007, 256 pages) or What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful—A Round Table Comic by Marshall Goldsmith (2011, 80 pages)

Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work by Marie G. McIntyre (2005)

How to Act Like a CEO: 10 Rules for Getting to the Top and Staying There by Debra Benton (2003)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)