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Speaking to Kellogg students on Feb 5, Danaher vice president Dan Daniel outlined what he believes are critical skills for general managers.

Danaher VP touts value of candor, persuasion for managers

Dan Daniel shares general management strategies during Kellogg visit

By Aubrey Henretty

2/6/2008 - When Dan Daniel graduated from business school in the late 1980s, he watched his classmates flock to Wall Street. But Daniel didn’t want to be an investor. His calling was general management, so he packed his bags and set off for a different destination.

“I went to Lauden, Tennessee,” he said. “To make mufflers.”

Now the vice president of Danaher Corp.’s motion platform, Daniel said the two months he spent on the production floor of that Tennessee muffler plant taught him valuable lessons about group dynamics and leadership. After 19 years in the automotive industry, he joined Danaher, the Washington, D.C.-based diversified industrial manufacturing and technology company, in July 2006. His Jan. 4 address in the Donald P. Jacobs Center was sponsored by the Kellogg School’s General Management Club.

“The leadership of the General Management Club thought it will be great to have someone with Mr. Daniel’s position and experience deconstruct critical skills and qualities that characterize successful general managers,” said club vice president for speakers Anand Lal ’08 after the event. Daniel’s remarks did just that.

“There are people on my staff who have the ambition to be general managers, but they don’t have some of the qualities we’re going to talk through,” he said. In addition to essential traits like passion and team spirit, Daniel added to his list the abilities to persuade and compromise. A successful general manager must know how to communicate and solve “significant conflicts” with engineers, marketers and finance officers when each group’s short-term goals don’t line up.

“You’ve got to be not only honest, but candid,” he said, adding that candor does more than paint a realistic picture of company progress. It also builds trust. “Regardless of what the org chart says, regardless of what your title is, these are the things you have to pay attention to,” he said.

Daniel also emphasized the importance of living a “balanced life” and honoring personal commitments along with professional ones. “You can’t value what your team values unless you’ve got a balanced life yourself,” he said.

While confidence ranked highly on Daniel’s list of qualities, he advised students to remain humble. “We know we’ve got competition out there,” he said. “We have to have a healthy degree of humility and to go out there and do it better.