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7 Questions on Leadership with Donald E. Staniszewski

Name: Donald E. Staniszewski

Title: President

Organisation: Pillar Logistics LLC

Don Staniszewski has been in the transportation business since 1980. He holds a BA degree from Illinois State University and an MBA from Illinois Institute of Technology. He is the President and owner of Pillar Logistics, a nationwide provider of last-mile delivery services to major retailers, and is also the founder and Chairman of the National Home Delivery Association, comprised of the largest last-mile delivery providers in the United States. Currently, he resides in Gallatin, TN with his wife Elisa, and they have two grown children Heather and Kevin. While busy with his family and career, he has also maintained an active lifestyle, having completed numerous marathons, bike races, and Ironman Triathlons. In fact, since living in the Nashville area for the past 7 years he has learned to play guitar, and holds bi-monthly acoustic jams at their home! (If you don't do something in music in Nashville they kick you out!).

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Donald's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

I think the most challenging part of being a leader is to try to keep an even keel and stick to your plans and objectives. The world of last-mile delivery logistics is a rewarding business but requires a lot of management interaction and involvement at all levels, and every day is a busy one. It is easier to just deal with issues every day as they come up, but setting goals and plans must be prioritized. While it is exciting to be hands-on in many aspects of the business, you must "see the forest for the trees!"

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I came up in the "trucking" business and experienced almost all of the business functions required in supply chain management and logistics. I was genuinely excited to learn more and more about the business and read most of the logistics publications I could get my hands on. I was blessed to have a few good mentors who insisted that "you can't do wrong if you do everything right" without taking shortcuts - a; nd "people were always the critical key." I started through the ranks after college at Leaseway Transportation, one of the largest logistics providers in the 1980s. I loved working in the last-mile delivery sector while at Leaseway, and I also pursued an MBA degree at night and on weekends. In 1990 I went to work for American Delivery Service providing dedicated last-mile delivery services and moved up to become President. I later went to Menlo Logistics, where I learned a great deal about "complex" logistics systems and solutions. Then in early 2000, I joined a premier provider of last-mile delivery solutions, where I would soon become President and a major owner (Pillar Logistics). During this time in 2013, I brought together a working group from our industry ("friendly competitors") to discuss mutual issues and concerns. It was so successful, that we formed the National Home Delivery Association, a much-needed association for our industry that has since become the most influential venue for the last mile industry!

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I get up early most days (something I had to do when I trained for the Ironman Triathlon) and don't even need an alarm! Although I haven't done an Ironman in a few years, I still get up early and exercise before starting each day, whether running, swimming, or biking. I eat some breakfast and then get to work on my computer if at home or the office to get the gist of what the day has to offer. I write down a "to-do" list of things I want to accomplish every day, with stars as the items to prioritize. If you don't write it down, you often don't do some things! Of course, it is easy to get sidetracked by things or calls that come up daily - and sometimes items get carried over to the next day's items! This is a pad of daily to-do lists that I keep and sometimes refer back to. My days are pretty structured, and the pandemic has brought in the era of Zoom or Team calls throughout the day. At the end of the day, I like to eat dinner, watch some TV, relax, and often practice guitar playing. I always take our two little dogs for walks each day too - this is where I seem to meet most of the people in my neighborhood! I try to get to sleep by 9 or 10 most every night.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

One very important thing I just learned to analyze problems and issues is to ask the "7 whys!" First, you identify the problem, and then you drill down to ask at least 7 times "why it is that way, and why it cannot be accomplished or resolved." It's amazing - it is so simple but the structure of this makes you think about it better!

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

There is an old book I really liked called "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun" by Wess Roberts (very funny too!). I also liked the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey.

I always liked these books because both books lean on principles of fairness, integrity, people, and positive attitudes. That was a guiding principle of doing an Ironman Triathlon - most people get caught up in the enormity of the event (or life issue) and often just give up. Patience and staying in the moment are important. You have to be positive and not quit before you start.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Be excited about what you do! Fear of failure is a motivating technique for many, but that is also a difficult way that produces anxiety and stress and can be avoided. Just remember, those who genuinely try may fail at times, but they move on, learn, and ultimately succeed. Those that don't try fail all the time, and never grow. The world is full of great people who may have failed at times but become great people.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I always admired people I thought were great leaders and mentors. It wasn't until later in life that I realized these leaders were just ordinary people like you and me! They weren't as "special" for the reasons I thought (gifted, talented - although they may have had some of that too) - they were special because they "put themselves out there and tried!" They did not back down, and maybe failed at times, but they did it when others might not have even attempted. Steven Jobs was fired by Apple, came back, and rescued the company 10 years later! Michael Jordan missed the game-winning shot 26 times and lost almost 300 games. "Every single day, in every walk of life, ordinary people are doing extraordinary things." - Bob Williams, Olympic pole vaulter. "If everything seems under control, you are not going fast enough!' - Mario Andretti

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