For the past 30 years, Pete Selleck, has worked for Michelin (IW 1000/160), serving as plant manager and COO of Michelin Americas Small Tire operations, among other roles.

Now, as chairman and president of Michelin North America Inc., he oversees the operations of the company’s 18 facilities in the U.S.

After delivering a keynote address “The Michelin Manufacturing Way” at IndustryWeek’s 2013 Best Plants conference in Greenville, S.C., Selleck took time to share his thoughts on leadership with IW.

How does your West Point training impact your leadership style?

Quite a bit. West Point is probably, some people say, it’s the best leadership school in the world. Having had that experience and also having had the experience as a leader in the military, in the manufacturing environment, there’s a lot of carryover.

Obviously, it’s not exactly the same; there are many differences. But standing in front of people and leading them in a certain direction, it’s a very, very difficult skill and by getting a lot of practice, as you do in the military, that helps you as you move into an industrial environment. 

Most people learn leadership from trial and error. You go in front of a team, you do things, you see what works, you see what doesn’t work and then you make adjustments. The only way you can do that is to have experience, have practice at doing it.

How would you describe your leadership strategy?

I would say, first of all, it’s values based. You have to understand the values and also the culture of the organization you’re in and adapt your style to knowing how the company really does operate. The issue of culture and values is very, very important.

How does your style fit in with Michelin’s culture?

Well, it just happens that Michelin has hired a lot of people with similar backgrounds to mine. We also hire people with other backgrounds, but people coming into the company with military experience have tended to do well, not just in the United States but in other parts of the world as well.