"Business Ethics and Business Leadership" a Topic for Discussion presented by Tom J. Usher, Chairman of Marathon Oil Corporation, Retired Chairman, U.S. Steel Corporation as one of Chester Engineers CEO Leadership Series Speakers
On September 12, 2011 Chester Engineers welcomed Thomas J. Usher, Non-Executive Chairman of the Board Marathon Petroleum Corporation as its CEO Leadership Series Speaker. As an invited guest, Mr. Usher shared with Chester executives, community and business leaders his thoughts about corporate leadership. As a Pittsburgher, Usher grew up in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania and attended Wilkinsburg High School. After living in the city most of his life, Usher says that he had the good fortune to be involved with many of the big companies and organizations in the area including the Allegheny Conference where he interfaced with a lot of people to help shape policy in the region.
Usher began his career with U.S. Steel in 1965 in its industrial engineering department and eventually elevated his position to become the companies Chairman. Currently Usher says he is spending a majority of his time in Florida, but he is delighted to get back home to Pittsburgh to participate in Chester's Leadership Series where he could share his thoughts about leadership.
When it comes to the topic of business leadership, Usher said he often finds himself on the wrong side of the discussion because he feels business ethics is no different than ethics. "Ethics is doing what is right and what is wrong. When you get into a business environment, you cannot allow situational ethics to take over your mind. There is what is right and there is what is wrong, and I encourage all of you before you can decide what is right and what is wrong, you have to have some kind of a value system against which you judge these things. For me it is the Judeo Christian value system and the 10 commandments. This is what you do, this is what you don't do, and it comes down to treating people the way that they should be treated. I think sometimes we've gotten lost in talking about is this the right thing to do. If you are a thief, you are a thief. It doesn't matter whether you are a business, or you are just stealing money out of your wife's purse, that is a bad thing to do," said Usher.
Usher went on to recommend to the group to not get sucked into all these discussions about business ethics, instead, he says to be a good leader you should treat people fairly because it's a good thing to do and from an ethics standpoint he feels it is very important that you first have some kind of a value system in which you judge things against and live your life accordingly.
According to Usher, not everybody is born to be a leader and he feels you can't make leaders by teaching them a skill set. "There's a premise that everybody should be a leader, and unfortunately we can't all be leaders. If we were all leaders, nobody would follow us." Usher says throughout his career he has had the pleasure of observing leaders in action, and he often ponders what makes a great leader. " But if you are a leader and you have a natural tendency towards leadership you probably already know this, and there are things you can do to become a better leader, but just saying you want to be a leader doesn't make you a leader. Selecting people to be leaders is a difficult thing, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, what are the characteristics that a good leader shoud have? First of all you need the aspiration to be a leader, and you must also have the respect of the people that you lead. People will not follow people that they don't respect. There is no recipe for getting their respect. I think you need to treat people well and treat people equally."
As a successful entrepreneur and business leader, Chester Engineers President and CEO, Robert O. Agbede personally thanked Usher for his continued support throughout the years as a mentor, business partner and a friend. Mr. Agbede said that he met Usher about 18 years ago when he became the President of the African American Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh. At that time, Agbede says Usher was very helpful in providing corporate access and business opportunity for Chamber members. "I can't forget Tom, he was very diplomatic, and he helped us gain access to opportunity by helping African Americans get placed on corporate boards. Tom took a special interest in me, and when I was buying Chester, Tom called a few banks for me. That's the kind of person Tom is, he will lead you, guide you and stand by you. "
Usher emphasized to the group how proud he was of Agbede's accomplishments and the entire team at Chester for all that they have accomplished in helping to make Chester a great company.
THOMAS J. USHER BIO
Non-executive Chairman of the Board Marathon Petroleum Corporation
Mr. Usher graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering, a master of science degree in operations research and a doctorate in systems engineering. He joined United States Steel Corporation (later renamed USX Corporation) in 1965 and held various positions in industrial engineering. From 1975 through 1979, he held a number of management positions at U.S. Steel's South and Gary Works. Mr. Usher was elected Executive Vice President of Heavy Products in 1986, President of U.S. Steel Group and Director of USX in 1991, President and Chief Operating Officer of USX in 1994 and Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer effective July 1, 1995. He retired from United States Steel Corporation as Chief Executive Officer in September 2004 and as non-executive Chairman of the Board on February 1, 2006.
Mr. Usher serves on the Boards of Directors of H. J. Heinz Co., The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. and PPG Industries, Inc. He previously served, within the past five years, as Chairman of the Board for United States Steel Corporation. Mr. Usher is a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pittsburgh, a Board of Directors member of the Extra Mile Education Foundation, and a member of The Business Council.