Leadership in the energy industry

Peter Bogin Spencer Stuart and the Council on Business & SocietyPeter Bogin, senior consultant at Spencer Stuart’s Global Energy Practice, focuses on potential senior-level applicants to the energy consulting sector.

Founded in 1956 and privately owned, Spencer Stuart is one of the world’s leading executive search consulting firms, often cited as the adviser of choice for organizations seeking guidance and counsel on senior leadership needs. Spencer Stuart works across a range of industries, from the world’s largest companies to medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurial startups and non-profit organizations.  Peter Bogin’s specific practice – Global Energy – works with clients with a vested interest in energy such as financial institutions, large industrial concerns and the oil, gas and utilities industries.

The challenges involved for executives

‘Energy sector companies have a large technical component with technical skills are very pertinent even at the executive level,’ states Peter Bogin. ‘The challenge is finding people whose leadership talent is equal to their technical talent.’ This is true in every role where there is a managerial or leadership component and includes CEOs but also CFOs overseeing a large finance division, or a Chief Legal Officer overseeing a large legal division. The dearth of good talent at the intersection of leadership and technical/execution skills is a significant challenge for companies and an opportunity for those who excel at each. ‘If business schools could supplement their teaching in one area,’ says Bogin, ‘leadership would not be a bad choice.

‘Another challenge the energy industry faces is diversity,’ declares Peter Bogin. ‘It compares poorly with other industries in its promotion of females and non-Caucasian males. There are significant exceptions but overall the record is far from stellar.’

A third challenge the energy industry faces is in its ability to compete for talent, not least born of the fact that the industry has not always excelled in portraying itself as an attractive career. Oil and gas is perceived by many young graduates as an old and dirty business, while utilities are in some cases viewed as sleepy or even boring; even the solar sector is increasingly viewed simply as an installation business. There is not one energy industry, there are many. ‘Yet,’ states Peter Bogin, ‘some form of cooperation between the different branches of energy is required to highlight the attractiveness of, and the opportunities in, the sector.

Things have changed and are changing

glass globe business. Global Market

glass globe business. Global Market

‘A major change we are witnessing in our industry is the growing role Private Equity has in the formation of companies and in the selection of leaders,’ maintains Bogin. PE firms have a preference for executives, whatever the position, to have a firm grip on financial performance and metrics, and an understanding of the economic drivers. There is also a focus on doing more with less, and some executives struggle with the move from large organizations with large support structures, to those where they are doing much more of the tasks they previously delegated to assistants and back offices.

For those who are attracted to the energy industry: make yourself a better candidate

Peter Bogin finishes by providing five tips for leaders in the energy sector:

  1. Think broadly: be familiar with all parts of the energy value chain.
  2. Think ahead: the industry will be different in 10 years. How are you preparing for this?
  3. Be a better leader. Are you motivating your people? Do they want to come to work in the morning and perform? Do they feel a stake in the company’s success? Do they see themselves as cogs in a wheel or as an essential component of the organization’s success? Ensure that they will be rewarded when success is achieved.
  4. At the more senior level, is your succession a priority? Are you building talent, creating a bench? Do you hold your direct reports accountable for creating their succession, their bench strength?
  5. How do you answer the question, “What have you done to make your current company a better place than when you arrived?”

Read more about Peter Bogin

Visit the Spencer Stuart Research & Insight pages

Visit the Spencer Stuart website

Read more on the Council on Business & Society’s 2015 Forum: Energy, Business, and Society

Edited by Tom Gamble, the Council on Business & Society from the 2015 Boston Forum speaker notes kindly provided by Peter Bogin of Spencer Stuart.  

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