Thank You Ivan Seidenberg: A Corporate Leader Retires

by Denny Strigl

At the end of this month Ivan G. Seidenberg will retire from Verizon Communications after forty-five years in the business world.

I worked with him, and directly for him, for almost 20 years.  I’ve come to know him as more than a savvy business leader, but also as a devoted family man.  I have seen, up close, his unwavering commitment to Verizon…and I know him as a true patriot.

Ivan is a humble man with a remarkable story – a story he never tells.

He grew up in the Bronx, entered college right after high school, but left college before graduating.  In 1966, he took his first job with New York Telephone.  He started at the bottom as a cable splicer’s helper, climbing down into manholes and up onto telephone poles.  Shorty after beginning his career with New York Tel he was drafted into the army where he served two years.  He fought in Vietnam, was wounded at Khe Sahn and returned home in 1968.  He resumed his work at the telephone company and while working days attended night school for 14 straight years to earn his degree.  He has a bachelors degree in mathematics and a masters in business administration.

After graduating from college, Ivan’s career progressed quickly—one management job after another, ever increasing roles including operations, marketing, engineering and government relations.  He moved from New York Tel, to AT&T to NYNEX to Bell Atlantic where he was appointed chairman and chief executive officer in 1995.  In June of 2000 he became co-chief executive officer of Verizon Communications when it was formed as the result of the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE.  In 2002 he became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon.  He started at the very bottom and rose to the very top!

Here are some of the many things I have come to respect about Ivan’s management style and skills:

  1. He never gives up.  The word lose can’t be found in his vocabulary.
  2. He has always been willing to out think, out maneuver, and even out-wait every competitor we took on. He truly has the “patience of a saint.”
  3. In mergers and acquisitions he was always the acquirer.   He once told me “losers get acquired.”
  4. He is an excellent strategist – I’ve never seen anyone like him.  It’s why Verizon is the strong company it is today.
  5. Finally, in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? I discussed how to use the “Shadow of The Leader” to build accountabilityIvan has always been a master of casting a positive leadership shadow, building accountability in the people he worked with and giving them the tools and support they needed to produce results.

Under Ivan’s leadership Verizon Communications has grown to well over a $100 billion company.  He has always been committed his customers, his shareholders…and always to his employees.

He once told me he had an obligation to build Verizon into a company which will survive and thrive long after he retired.  He has done just that

It has been my pleasure and an honor to work with Ivan Seidenberg.

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