As president and chief executive officer of Manulife Financial, the second largest public company in Canada and one of the most profitable life insurance companies in North America, Dominic D’Alessandro knows a thing or two about leadership.
So, when the subject came up during the June 11 event to announce D’Alessandro as the recipient of the 2007 International Distinguished Entrepreneur Award (I.D.E.A.), the well-respected business leader had many valuable insights to share.
“Leadership matters a lot, and it starts with ambition,” he said, addressing the group of business students, university representatives, and media attending the event held in the Drake Centre. “Some are natural leaders - some are tall, athletic and good looking - but those of use who don’t fall into that category need desire. You have to want to achieve.”
D’Alessandro also pointed out that those who have the desire and ambition to succeed in the business world are willing to forfeit a portion of their personal life, suggesting that those who punch out at 5 p.m. every day and wonder why they aren’t CEOs probably aren’t aware of the commitment that CEOs make.
D’Alessandro quickly added, however, that successful business leaders shouldn’t earn their success at the expense of those waiting for them at home.
“At the end of the day, family is far more important than any business deal that you may or may not have enjoyed,” he said.
D’Alessandro, a 2003 Order of Canada recipient, was formally awarded the 2007 I.D.E.A. at a black tie dinner in Winnipeg on June 11. He was selected by the Associates of the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business for his exceptional leadership and visionary skills, and for his contribution to economic life in Canada and abroad.
“The Associates are delighted to honour Mr. Dominic D’Alessandro for his entrepreneurial, business and economic spirit,” said Arni Thorsteinson, Chair of the I.D.E.A. Award Committee and President of Shelter Canadian Properties Limited.
D’Alessandro has led Manulife Financial since 1994, leading the company to 13 consecutive years of record financial performance. In 1999, D’Alessandro pioneered Manulife’s successful demutualization and conversion to public company status, which set the stage for it to become an industry world leader. Five years later he made Canadian history when he managed the largest cross-border transaction with a merger with John Hancock Financial Services, simultaneously creating the second largest life insurance company on the continent and the fourth largest in the world.
University of Manitoba president and vice-chancellor Dr. Emőke Szathmáry said D’Alessandro as this year’s I.D.E.A. Award recipient is a coup for the university and the Asper School of Business.
“Dominic D’Alessandro lives and breathes success, excellence and acute business sense,” Dr. Szathmáry said. “As much as the Associates, the Asper School of Business and the University of Manitoba wish to recognize such an outstanding leader with this honour, he will be honouring us as one of Canada’s most recognized business leaders, mentors and innovators.”
“Dominic’s well-read, highly intelligent skills make him a great business strategist,” added Arthur R. Sawchuk, chairman of the board of Manulife Financial. “Together with his strong personal work ethic and focus on consistent operational execution, he is the CEO that boards of directors pray for. He is sensitive to societal issues and is a proud Canadian.”
The annual I.D.E.A. Dinner, established in 1983, is widely known for honouring internationally-renowned entrepreneurs such as Israel Asper, Richard Branson, award founder Albert D. Cohen, Paul Desmarais, Akio Morita, Ross Perot, Heather Reisman, Dame Anita Roddick, Gerald Schwartz, Martha Stewart, and W. Galen Weston.
Each I.D.E.A. recipient is presented with a custom-designed pure gold medal struck specifically for the award by the Royal Canadian Mint. Every year the dinner attracts national business attention due to the high profile of honorees and attendees. This year’s event included a performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
The Associates is an organization of senior business leaders dedicated to making the Asper School of Business a top Canadian business school. Every year the Associates support and promote interaction between business executives, faculty and students, culminating with the I.D.E.A. award presentation in June.
Homepage photo: Dominic D’Alessandro examines the newest addition to the I.D.E.A. Commemorative Wall at the Asper School of Business. Photos by Dale Barbour.