Thomas H. Lane, Retired, Dow Corning Corporation, Past President, American Chemical Society
Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it.” I could not agree more; leading with inspiration over rigid directions will always yield better outcomes. In my opinion, leading with inspiration requires the mastery of the seven C’s (competency, communication, collaboration, courage, commitment, creativity, and competition).
My parent’s leadership style was more directive than inspirational, but the skills they taught me allowed me to find and develop my own leadership style. I may need to offer a little background. I am one of seven children, six boys and a girl (I was number five), who grew up poor. Neither of my parents completed high school, and both had to work to make ends meet. I learned so much from them about the skill sets required to be a productive contributor to society. I learned how to be courageous, committed, and how to develop competence from my father. He taught me how to work hard and never give up. My mother taught me the importance of effective communication, collaboration and creativity. She taught me about the importance of people and how to care about everyone.
I learned about being competitive mostly from the dinner table! Mastery of these skills have served as the bedrock for my leadership style (coaching/affiliative), which has proved effective during my professional career.
Christina Bodurow, Vice President, Global Regulatory Affairs, Data Sciences, Safety & Regulatory, IQVIA
My father was an immigrant to the United States after WWII, and my mother was first-generation. They both had incredible, high work ethics, and a strong commitment to family, country, and education.
My father rose through the ranks of the Ford Motor Company, and in 37 years he went from sweeping floors to running one of the largest car plants that Ford had. He taught his children about the importance of having goals, working hard, and most importantly, taking care of the people for whom you are responsible. As hard a driver as he was, he was always talking with people about how to advance themselves or their careers. When he retired, 3,000 people showed up for the party. That was the kind of leader he was.
Richard Cobb, Retired, Eastman Kodak Company, ACS Rochester Section
I grew up in rural Pennsylvania – in a small town and in a family where my dad worked at a local tannery until it closed, and then at Corning Glass. My mom worked in a dry cleaning establishment and then became a cook in our high school cafeteria. We did not have a lot – but we had everything we needed! We grew up realizing that we alone were responsible for our decisions. We grew up respecting authority and each other. We were also taught to work hard, be reliable and be willing to stand up on our own two feet.
Kevin Edgar, Professor, Virginia Tech Department of Sustainable Biomaterials
My Dad lost his Dad when he was about 11; they didn’t have much money and he had to work from that age onwards. He was drafted out of high school, flew 52 missions over occupied Europe, came home and finished high school at night, then thanks to the GI bill was able to go to college for his engineering degree at night, all while working during the day to help support his Mom. He would never speak of his war experiences; I think they were just too difficult to explain to his family who had not endured such horrors. But he did leave a detailed diary, which his sons treasure.
I always think that the first mission must have been hard enough, terrifying; but how those guys then got up for the second mission, the tenth, the fiftieth, now knowing what awaited them over Europe; it’s a level of courage I don’t pretend to be able to comprehend. He set an example of quiet strength, kindness, decency that is an ideal to strive for. His ability to quietly influence those around him was nearly magical; again, something to strive for.
All I have relies on his sacrifice; that’s something never to forget. Seems to me that selfishness has been on the rise the last several decades; it is time for us to dedicate ourselves to working together towards larger principles and causes, as his generation did.
Beth Lorsbach, Crop Protection Discovery Chemistry Leader, Corteva AgriscienceTM
My parents, both retired now, had very successful careers. My dad was an internal medicine physician with his own private practice and my mom was a high school English teacher. I definitely got my drive and goal setting from my father. After medical school, he set out to grow his practice and be one of the most successful doctors in the area. I also got his determination and desire to always keep learning. The problem solving and diagnostic skills he had as an internal medicine doctor were examples for me and he helped me be successful in applying these traits in my career. One additional trait that I got from my dad is my competitive nature. One vacation, my brother and I entered into a competition to see who could tread water the longest, with my Dad as the official timer. I wish I could say we were kids, but we were well into adulthood, and yes, I won (of course my brother might disagree)! As a woman in science and as a leader, I think this competitive spirit has been particularly helpful.
My mom stayed at home early in my childhood but went back to work when I was in middle school. She was my first role model on how to balance a career and family. She also set an example by making the most of every situation, teaching me that every opportunity, no matter how small, is what you make of it and can lead to something bigger. When she went back to teaching, it was on an interim basis, filling in for a teacher on maternity leave. She approached that position with the goal of establishing herself as an invaluable member of the faculty and when a full time position opened up, she was their first choice.
I still have this as my focus, approaching every opportunity with the goal of making it my own and focusing on the possibilities rather than on what it isn’t. My mom was also a no-nonsense teacher, with a bit of reactive nature. I definitely inherited these traits from her and have had to learn when (and when not) to use them in my career.
Lynn Andrews, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, CoorsTek
In my case it seems that engineering was inescapably genetic – my Dad is a geophysical engineer – and much of my pragmatic, left-brain thinking I inherited from him. I learned diplomacy and mediation from my Mom. Both my parents firmly believe in the power of education, each earning graduate degrees in their respective fields, and they sacrificed a lot for my sister and I to receive a good education. They have taught me that learning is a life-long process. My parents have been very influential in my leadership style as role models in integrity, determination, hard work, volunteerism, and humility.
Matt Grandbois, Lead Market Manager, DuPont Electronics & Imaging
I cannot even begin to describe how much my parents have impacted my leadership style, let alone my life, but there are a couple of things that I see in them that I continue to aspire to and ultimately have helped me in my leadership development. I am so grateful for their continued love and support in all the things that I do.
I recently took a leadership style assessment that characterized me as “outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited, and lively”, which I felt was a fair summary in describing how I engage with others while leading, but did not address what I thought I also try to embody in an eagerness to lead by example while in ambiguous situations.
I have found myself in more and more of those situations as my career has progressed, so rolling up my sleeves and jumping right in to wrestle with the challenges alongside my team is an approach that I have continued to embrace. To do this, I feel that I learned a lot about working hard, taking on situations as they come at you, and doing your best to overcome them from my father, as I have almost never heard him complain about hard work being done in the pursuit of a good cause and benefit of others.
The “outgoing and enthusiastic” part would definitely come from my mother, as there is hardly a time we can go to the grocery store together for a loaf of bread without her stopping to talk to, at a minimum, three people about different projects they are working on in their personal lives that she is interested in and hopeful that they will find success. I find myself doing this a lot as it is my instinctual way to build up relationships and cultures across my teams.
Dorothy Phillips, Director-at-Large, 2014-2022
My father was a Sunday school leader, as well as the school’s superintendent, before becoming a minister. When he served in that role and later as a minister he always led from a base of knowledge. He received an Associate degree in pastoring after being called to the ministry. He encouraged and considered a high priority that we got the best education available. Hence, he supported my transferring to Vanderbilt University.
My mother led from her strength to gain consensus and established relationships through her faith walk. She chaired church and community organizations. My leadership style is based on knowledge, a compassion for people, and my faith.
Katherine Lee, Senior Director, Head of Scientific Planning and Operations, Inflammation and Immunology Research Unit, Pfizer
This is an interesting and personal question. I take after my dad in that I like to have the spotlight on me (for example, I love to give presentations) and thrive on positive feedback. My mom has given me empathy, listening skills and creativity. My mom and dad were easygoing in raising me and my sister; we are both self-motivated.
What does this all have to do with my leadership style? I want my teams to be successful, and I tend to lead in a positive and upbeat manner. I realize that we are all different in what makes us tick, and to understand what motivates people requires listening and asking the right questions. Also, I try not to take myself too seriously, and I like to foster some fun at work.
Elsa Reichmanis, Anderson Chair in Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Lehigh University
My parents believed in the value of education and hard work. And if I ever had a problem I couldn’t solve on my own, I could always ask them. They wouldn’t solve the problem for me, but they’d offer suggestions and guidance, for me to solve the problem. I think that set the stage for me to try to guide those I work with, but at the same time encourage them to be independent. I also encourage them to develop their own networks to get answers to questions they might have.
Perhaps from my Bell Labs experience, I’m also a strong proponent of an ‘open door’ policy, and everyone around me knows that if my door is open, I’m there and I’ll stop what I’m doing to chat. As long as I’m not traveling, my door is typically open.
My parents stressed the importance of education, self-reliance, and weighing the consequences of important choices in life. They did not teach me about probabilities, uncontrolled variables, and random effects. I learned about that later in school and life.
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