This week, Matt speaks with real estate leader Walt Rakowich, former CEO of Prologis and author of the new book, Transfluence: How to Lead with Transformative Influence in Today’s Climates of Change. In the interview, Walt tells his career story, interspersed with leadership lessons along the way. Walt’s true crucible as a leader came first when he was President and COO of Prologis and he found himself unaligned with the style and decision making of the CEO, leading to Walt’s resignation from the firm…and then rejoining the firm, just months later, to restructure and rebuild the business after a crash that he had essentially foreseen. In our conversation, Walt discusses these lessons in leadership but we certainly recommend that you take a deep dive into his philosophy and practice of servant leadership in Transfluence.
Prologis is a NYSE company and a member of the S&P 500. Prologis is a leading provider of distribution facilities and services with over $50 billion in assets and operations in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Walt was Co-CEO of Prologis and member of the Board of Directors from June 2011 through December 2012. He was CEO of Prologis from November 2008 through June 2011. He was a member of the Prologis Board of Trustees from January 2005 through June 2011.
Prior to becoming CEO, Walt was the President and Chief Operating Officer of Prologis from January 2005 through November 2008. He joined Prologis in 1994. From December 1998 to January 2005, he served as Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer for Prologis. Prior to this position, Walt was the Senior Vice President/Director of the company’s Mid-Atlantic region where he was responsible for expanding the reach of Prologis to the leading logistics markets in the Midwest and Atlantic states.
Prior to joining Prologis, Walt spent nine years as a partner and principal with real estate provider Trammell Crow Company in Los Angeles. Before that, he was a senior audit and tax consultant for Price Waterhouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Walt received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and his B.S., with distinction, in Accounting from The Pennsylvania State University.
Walt currently serves on the board of directors of Host Hotels & Resorts, where he is the company’s audit committee chairman and member of the governance committee; Iron Mountain Inc., where he is chairman of the audit committee and member of the governance and investment committees; and Ventas Inc., where he is chairman of the audit committee. All three are companies listed in the S&P 500. He also serves on the advisory council of Gender Fair. He has served as a member of the executive committee and the board of governors for the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT), the primary industry group for REITs in the United States.
Walt was appointed to The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees in 2014 and serves as chairman of the university board’s audit and risk committee. In 2010, the Penn State Alumni Association named Walt a Penn State Alumni Fellow, a lifetime designation and the highest award given by the association, recognizing outstanding professional achievement. He also has served on the real estate advisory boards of the Smeal College of Business at Penn State, The Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University and The Kellogg Graduate school of Management. In addition, he served on the Global Leadership Council at Colorado State University.
Walt currently serves as chairman of the board of Colorado UpLift and is a member of the board of the Alliance for School Choice in Education (ACE) and of PIVOT, three non-profits focused on educating at risk children in the inner city.
Walt Rakowich brings a real-world perspective to leadership that’s based on experience, not just theory. Walt was CEO of Prologis, the world’s largest owner of industrial warehouses and a critical partner to companies distributing products throughout the global supply chain. The company was near bankruptcy when Walt took over at the height of the Great Recession. While leading Prologis back to prominence, and in the years since, Walt realized leaders today must lean into timeless values and principles, but with a fresh perspective on the new realities of our leadership climates.
The modern leadership environment exists at the convergence of three distinct and dynamic climates: the climates of access, diversity, and acceleration. On their own or in the aggregate, these climates produce significant opportunities and tensions that will challenge leaders for generations. With a fundamental understanding of these climates, leaders develop a selfless approach that withstands the toughest storms.
Transfluence shows leaders how they can have transformative influence by overcoming their fears and pride, building transparency into their leadership, developing a strong core of authentic values, and passionately pursuing a meaningful purpose. When leaders do this, they seize opportunities, embrace challenges, and make their organizations and communities greater than ever. Learn more or order Transfluence here.