A definition of great leadership

Dan Hilbert, former director of global talent management for Valero Energy, wrote a compelling article on what constitutes great leadership. Needless to say, there have been thousands of books written on this subject, and I would argue very little ‘new’ material, just material presented in a different way. However, the recipe he offers, is one which brought him and his company great success. It bears consideration.

  1. Take care of employees like family. This means stock options, great (not marginal) health care, generous bonuses and retirement, and no layoffs. Everyone takes pay cuts to protect against massive layoffs. Thank you notes and emails for individual and collective success. Genuine and frequent gratitude to employees and their families for their work and contributions.
  2. Employees take care of the community. Encourage and give time off for volunteerism. (At Valero this was over 1 million hours per year!). Encourage monetary contributions to the chosen company charity. (At Valero, this was United Way, and they gave the highest employee contributions in United Way history!).
  3. The community takes care of the company. Through this model, the communities they served came through for Valero in spades. They had three stock splits in just as many years, and reached Fortune 10 status.  The environment within the company, and between the company and community was magical. People wanted to give. People wanted to contribute.

The record of Valero is astounding: the 3rd fastest growth rate in American economic history, $3 to $92 billion, 3000  to 28,000 employees, 1 to 28 countries, 100 retails stores to 5000, and a low performing stock to the fastest energy stock all in the period between 2004-2006.

Sure, economic times were different then (and this IS an abnormal growth trajectory); however, arguably these principals may resonate when community may be the single deciding factor for sustainable success during and post recessionary times.