Seaports Magazine - Spring 2014 - (Page 26)

» GUEST VIEWPOINT The Changing Paradigm of Transportation Executives By Tim C. McNamara Managing Partner Boyden global executive search T he old adage "any port in a storm" is altogether irrelevant when it comes to the selection of executive talent in the transportation sector, particularly in today's highly competitive war for talent. Traditionally, in the U.S. public seaport and airport sectors, there has been a constant rotation of executives among different ports throughout their careers. Likewise, even within the carrier domain executives would typically circulate among different lines, whether through lateral moves or promotions. The transportation industry fed upon itself, in a sense, creating a very predictable "gene pool." Today our industry has become increasingly sophisticated in determining the optimum set of experiences and skills needed to succeed in a more complex and global landscape. This has been driven in part by the desire to ensure an excellent cultural fit exists between the executive and the client organization as historically, when we look at failure in the executive ranks, it is most frequently a cultural disconnect between the executive and organization that sets the stage for an executive exit. We are experiencing a greater openness on the part of public sector organizations to seek non-traditional candidates for executive roles in the transportation industry, meaning the individual does not necessarily have to possess direct industry experience, though frequently tangential industry exposure is preferred. In the private sector, clients are more willing to take risks and look outside the box to aggressively pursue senior level talent. If one looks at just a few recent examples of seaport CEO hires in the U.S. (Charleston, Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa and Norfolk) the trend toward non-traditional thinking is very apparent. In each of these cases, the CEO originally hailed from outside the seaport sector. We also have great examples on 26 AAPA SEAPORTS MAGAZINE the carrier side where senior executives are succeeding without having direct shipowning experience, including Niles S. Andersen, Group CEO of A.P. Moller-Maersk, who was formerly with the Carlsberg Group, and Sam Woodward, CEO of Horizon Lines, who was formerly managing director of a middle market investment bank focused on transportation transactions. The new CEO of Edmonton Airports is Tom Ruth, a U.S./Canadian citizen who commenced his career with Northwest Airlines and later moved to Livingston International, a Canadian-based logistics firm prior to entering the aviation/airport sector. According to a November 2013 report from Bloomberg, U.S. corporations are switching chief executive officers at the fastest pace in five years. We have seen significant port leadership change in recent years and the trend line for future change is strong. Today senior executives are required to master a broader range of skills than in the past, when top executives might have been selected or promoted for having strength in a single discipline. In a November 2011 study undertaken by Accenture, it was found that more than 55 percent of workers in the U.S. report they are under pressure to develop additional skills to be successful in their current and future jobs. In a 2013 Accenture study, companies noted leadership, creative thinking, problem solving, communications, and people management among the skills most needed in the executive suite. Employers are seeking executives who can create a vision, as well as develop and execute a strategy, and who have lots of energy and passion for the role. Being comfortable in a leaner structural environment is also key, and having an ethical approach and respect for others is a given. In partnering with transportation clients around the world, there is a strong focus on ensuring that candidates are client-centric and have a good mix of commercial and financial acumen. Possessing superior communications skills, both up and down, is an imperative and having the ability to partner with the organization's governing body is an absolute must. Transportation clients within both the public and private sector are seeking executives who are creative decision-makers who know how to differentiate the organization in an environment that is increasingly being viewed at as a commodity vs. a value-added partner. The U.S. port sector is facing many new global challenges, including the potential for regional consolidation and privatization of ports to achieve better economies of scale and superior return to stakeholders. These and other potential changes are likely to dictate a transformation in future structure and governance. This new paradigm will dictate that a new breed of executive be developed to take U.S. transportation infrastructure to the next level. When organizations determine that a change must be made in the executive ranks to cope with the challenges of our time, a strategic investment decision must be made to compete for talent, and public sector transportation clients must realize that they are no longer merely competing among themselves, but waging a war for talent that includes the private sector. Likewise, transportation management professionals need to be aware of and address the multitude of skills now required for senior management roles. ● Tim McNamara, managing partner at Boyden global executive search, leads the firm's global transportation and infrastructure executive search practice headquartered in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at or (202) 536-5168.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Spring 2014

AAPA Headquarters
From the President’s Desk
Public Sector Agencies with Private Sector Expectations
Welcoming Veterans to Port Ranks
Working with Stakeholders: The Buck Stops at the CEO’s Office
Words of Wisdom from Long-Standing Port Executives
PPM® Certification Readies Executives for the Top
Facing Challenges Head On
Ports are Critical to U.S. Economy’s Health
The Changing Paradigm of Transportation Executives
Port and Maritime Environmental Compliance Planning Starts at the Top
Comprehensive Records Retention Plan a Must for Ports
Saint John Brings the Port to the Classroom
Barbados on Track for Record Cruise Growth
Santa Marta Focuses on the Environment, Community and Operational Efficiency
Northwest Ports Partner to Further Cut Diesel Emissions

Seaports Magazine - Spring 2014