Inside USD

Top CEO Shares Insights into Leadership and Success

Friday, February 22, 2008

While turning around a failing business is difficult, taking a successful company to the next level comes with its own set of challenges, a top CEO said at USD Feb. 21.

Patricia A. Woertz, a USD trustee and the chairman, CEO and president of Archer Daniels Midland Co., spoke before an audience of more than 200 at the 2008 Servant Leadership Breakfast hosted by USD’s Master in Executive Leadership (MSEL) program.

Woertz, who currently ranks number six on “Fortune” magazine’s list of the most powerful women in business, talked about two experiences – turning around a troubled division of Chevron Corp. in 2003 – and her more recent efforts to take ADM to the next level of success.

After putting the Chevron division on track, Woertz left the company and was chosen as head of ADM, an agricultural processor and a global leader in bioenergy, in 2006. “The challenge at ADM is how do you take a company that’s doing very well and make it even better. So, this is a story of changing to thrive — of seeing extraordinary opportunities and changing to capture those opportunities,” she says.

ADM has identified four trends it wants to capitalize on: food, energy, energy security and environmental improvement. Laying out a vision for success in an enterprise that is already doing well is even more important, she says.

“Painting this picture vividly is may be even more critical than in a change-or-die situation,” she says. “When you are asking people to change to achieve a better future, I think they really need to see that future as rich with promise – and not just for them but for their families, their communities – indeed for our world.

“I think that if you’re going to motivate or help people to change, they have to believe you care about them,” Woertz says. “But finding that channel to express our caring can be difficult,” especially in a diverse organization of different backgrounds, cultures and languages.

She says ADM is trying to get that message across in many ways including putting a priority on safety for all employees, emphasizing learning and development for every employee and reaching out communicate with a Global Townhall meeting conducted in nine languages, including sign language. In recognition of its record earnings and safety performance, ADM also gave each employee a cash bonus – the same amount for everyone in the company.

Woertz sums up her leadership insights as the following:

  • “Be – Be yourself and work from your values;
  • Know – know your job, your industry, your competition, and your market. Know people – learn what motivates and sustains them. Be endlessly curious and keep learning;
  • Do – Be biased for action
  • Care – When people know you truly care about them – you open up the wellspring from which all true change and success comes.”

At the breakfast, four students were presented with the USD Servant Leadership Scholar Awards which provide tuition scholarships. Ximena Mora from the Preuss School received the high school award; USD student Tanya A. Susoev received the undergraduate award; Michael J. Loarie from the USD School of Business Administration received the Executive Leadership award; and Elizabeth A. Castillo from the School of Leadership and Education Sciences received the Nonprofit Leadership award.

The Learning Moment was the title sponsor of the breakfast. Other sponsors were Wachovia, Mintz Levin, Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. and Elite Show Services, Inc.

For more information about the MSEL program, go to the MSEL Website.

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