Influential Lessons – Sigma Chi Magazine

Sixty-fourth Grand Consul Keith Krach, Purdue 1979, proves that there is no shortage of inspiration to further his personal growth and leadership abilities.

Story by Susan Lorimor.

As a successful entrepreneur, 64th Grand Consul Keith Krach, Purdue 1979, knows leadership lessons come from many places – whether from 52nd Grand Consul Gardner Allen, Emory 1928, or Krach’s five-year-old twins, J.D. and Emma. Krach is chairman of the board of DocuSign, which allows users to electronically sign documents, having served as its CEO for almost six years. He began his career in 1981 with General Motors, where he was a vice president and spearheaded the tech companies Rasna Corp. and Ariba. Below, Krach shares how Allen, whom he met when he was an undergraduate, impacted him, as did Krach’s Children. Allen called Krach and other undergraduates with whom he was close his little brothers, and as Krach explains, he had many little brothers, serving as their mentor.

As a young guy, did you expect to be able to develop such a close relationship with someone who at the time was a Grand Consul?

“… we looked up to [Allen]. He was just so comfortable in his own skin … all of a sudden, next thing [you know] you’re talking to him like he’s your best friend. And we told him everything. And he opened up with us. He had a lot of stories, you know, from the war, and all kinds of [lessons]. I think that was a huge part of his charisma, because he could really peel the layers of the onion and get to know people really fast. And he would let himself be vulnerable. And the next thing you know, [we were] vulnerable … and now you’re talking soul to soul.

And I’ll never forget … a few hours before he passed [away of a heart attack on Aug. 13, 1983, at Balfour Leadership Training] Workshop, I went into his room, because he was heading to an Executive Committee meeting. And … I don’t know why he said this – he must have had a premonition, but he said, Keith, you know, [if] something happens to me, there will always be a piece of your heart in mine, and a piece of my heart in yours.’

And what he taught me is your heart has an infinite capacity. He really had an infinite capacity … he really taught me the magic of Sigma Chi [which is giving back], and paying it forward.

What is it that you learned from him that you try to emulate?

Well, I think it’s living our [Sigma Chi] values everyday. I also learned that you don’t have to be perfect … which was kind of interesting, because he was never afraid to talk about his failures. That was a gift that he gave us because, first of all, it took all of the pressure off [of us] to be perfect. Second of all, it taught us not to be afraid to take risks.

How would you encourage an undergraduate to search for a mentor who would be really beneficial for them?

This is the magic of Sigma Chi – your natural mentors when you com [into the chapter] are the seniors. And, as you get to be a senior, a lot of times [they would be] guys who graduated from the [chapter].

Would you consider your dad your first mentor?

Absolutely. In many ways, he was like Gardner. He really modeled the way. He [was] a German guy, [with] a strong work ethic. He had a great sense of humor …

A big thing I learned from my dad is that a key leadership quality is range. I mean, is it better to be an autocratic leader or a consensus builder? Well, the answer is both. It depends [upon] the situation. I used to work in [my dad’s] factory in the summertime [when I was in junior high and high school], and everybody liked my dad, but he didn’t talk about that much. But we’re [out driving] and I go, ‘Dad, everybody just likes you. Why?’ And he pulled over … put on the brakes, and he looked over at me and [said,] ‘when you’re with a drunk, you drink, when you’re with the pope you pray. Everything in between goes, but always be yourself.’ So, basically he was saying [you should have] range, but always maintain your integrity.

Has there been inspiration that you drew in your life from someone from whom you didn’t expect to?

Oh, yeah, … from the last place you’d think to look – five-year-old twins. Actually, those guys are great leadership models. And the reason is because they never take anything personally … Sometimes they get into spats, but they love each other. But when they do [get into a spat] it’s a thermonuclear war. [Then] it’s over like that. And they also have positive intent. And they don’t live in the past, or in the future. They just live in the hear and now. If you just think about those three things, that will make you a better [person.]