In a speech as part of the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Dean’s Speaker Series in October, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good discussed change and transformation in the energy business, and shared her advice for a successful career. These excerpts have been edited:
Courage is something that speaks to me, because there have been many times in my career where courage and perseverance have been really important. I don’t know that business leaders are often looked at as courageous people.
As you go through a period of change and transformation and as you face a 20-, 30-, and 35- year career, there are going to be points where you’re digging pretty deeply to do courageous things. And I think about transformation where we are being impacted throughout the value chain of energy, whether it’s customers or grid or generation. We’re having to wrestle with complex issues. There are no perfect solutions to big, complex problems. You have to think about them deeply.
View Lynn Good's speech to the Kenan-Flagler school.
You’re going to have to make some judgments as you explore the boundaries of all this change and transformation.
How far do I go?
How fast do I go?
How much money do I spend?
What is the pace?
And you’re going to have to make some tough choices. And as it turns out, not everyone is going to be happy with the choices that you make. Whether it’s internal or external, there are lots of critics.
And there are opportunities to make mistakes and you’re going to make them or your organization is going to make them. And so, at those times, having an opportunity to call on some courage and perseverance and say, “I am going to do the right thing and am committed to moving forward,” is what a leader needs to do.
Courage has been something I think about – not only the transformation that we’re undergoing and the choices we have to make, but also career detours, which I’ve experienced, and which I suspect many of you have or will.
I was a partner at Arthur Andersen accounting firm during the middle of the Enron scandal and bankruptcy. And six months after I became Duke Energy CEO, Duke Energy accidentally released coal ash into the Dan River. We needed to address that immediately, take responsibility, and improve our operations, and use that as a catalyst for change.
And so, those are times when I also have had to look inside and really focus on perseverance and doing the right thing. In a period of change, transformation, and just the detours that a career will lay in front of you, I suspect there will be an opportunity for you to demonstrate courage.
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