In reading various historical accounts of Chuck's tenure, I was reminded of how the foundation of Goodyear's leadership — in the tire industry, in the business world, and in Akron — solidified under his watch. To me, four things stand out as the cornerstones of Chuck Pilliod's leadership.
The first cornerstone was vision. As Goodyear's president in 1972, he laid out a long-term plan for the company's success, which included a commitment to be the first American tire maker to convert to radial tire manufacturing. He dedicated company resources to advanced technology long before it became today's driving force. Chuck also took special care in building long-lasting relationships with Goodyear dealers.
Consistent with his embrace of technology, Chuck's second cornerstone was innovation. As he saw it, innovation wasn't only the responsibility of engineers. In 1977, he encouraged all Goodyear associates to contribute new ideas, writing, “It's time to make sure every Goodyear employee knows how important innovation is.”
One year later, he announced plans for the Goodyear Technical Center — now known as our “Innovation Center” — in Akron. Many of Goodyear's innovative breakthroughs, including the industry's first gas-saving tire and first all-season tire, were developed under Chuck's watch. None of them happened by accident, as he aligned Goodyear's R&D organization with the company's emphasis on innovation and technology.
The third cornerstone was a global mindset. Though he was native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a community outside Akron, Chuck was a “citizen of the world.” After serving as a pilot during World War II, he held management positions for Goodyear's businesses in such places as Panama, Colombia, Brazil and Great Britain.
Soon after being named chairman, he accelerated the globalization of Goodyear's operations. He believed by “cross fertilizing” research and development in the U.S. and around the world, the company could “use all the best brains we had on both sides of the Atlantic.” I'm sure it came as no surprise when Chuck became U.S. Ambassador to Mexico after his retirement from Goodyear.
Even with Chuck's global focus, his fourth cornerstone was always the Akron community. Though he didn't seek credit and often worked behind the scenes, he was very involved in Akron's community programs. He was the first of Akron's leading chief executives to serve as chairman of the annual United Way campaign and established a program for his peers in the community to follow in the same position. With an eye toward helping tomorrow's business leaders, Chuck established chairs of free enterprise at the University of Akron and Kent State University, helping develop courses to foster entrepreneurial spirit, combat economic illiteracy and initiate discussions on current business topics.
According to a Greek proverb, “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Though Chuck Pilliod lived to the age of 97, he planted a great many trees as a young man. They took root during what was arguably Northeast Ohio's greatest era of industrial strength. Today, in the shade of those trees, Akron is a vibrant and growing community. Goodyear is a strong company, an innovation leader and a valued corporate citizen.
In many ways, we are still executing the plans Chuck Pilliod laid out for our business more than 40 years ago. We're a global company that operates from our home in Akron. We're developing industry-leading innovation. We're making a difference in our communities. But more importantly, we are called on to follow his example of forward-looking leadership and plant more trees for the next generation.
Richard J. Kramer is chairman, CEO and president of Akron-based Goodyear.