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Leadership Style at Hunt Oil Company

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Leadership Style at Hunt Oil Company
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Netra Shetty
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Leadership Style at Hunt Oil Company - May 10th, 2011

Hunt Oil Company is an independent oil and gas company headquartered in Dallas, Texas. It has its main oil production activities in the United States, Canada, and Yemen.[1] It also participates in the liquefied natural gas production projects in Yemen (Yemen LNG) and Peru (Peru LNG).[2][3][4]
Together with Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation the company drills wells at the Eagle Ford Shale.[5]

Ray L. Hunt is a Dallas businessman whose association with Hunt Oil Company began in 1958 as a summer employee in the oil fields. He graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1965 with a degree in economics where he was designated a Distinguished Scholar. Hunt serves as chairman of the board, president, and chief executive officer of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., and is also chairman of Hunt Consolidated Energy, Hunt Consolidated Investments and Hunt Consolidated Equities. Additionally, he serves as a member of the boards of directors of Bessemer Securities Corporation, King Ranch, Inc., and PepsiCo, Inc.

Within the oil and gas industry, Hunt is a member of the board of directors of the American Petroleum Institute. He previously served as president of the Dallas Petroleum Club and the Dallas Wildcat Committee.

Hunt has received several awards that are related to the energy industry. In 1988, he was elected an All-American Wildcatter by the national organization of the same name, followed in 1989 by the John Rogers Award, given by the Southwestern Legal Foundation - "for distinguished service to the petroleum industry and civic institutions." Additionally, he received the Public Service Award of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the Distinguished Service Award for the Texas Oil and Gas Association, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the North Texas Energy Council. In 2007, he received the Distinguished Service and Leadership Award of the 25-Year Club of the Petroleum Industry. In 2009, he received the American Petroleum Institute Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. In 2010, he was the inaugural recipient of the L. Frank Pitts Energy Leadership Award, given by the SMU Cox School of Business and the Maguire Energy Institute “to an individual who exemplifies a spirit of ethical leadership and innovative impact on the energy industry.”

Hunt has received three awards that his father, H. L. Hunt, had previously received. In 1992, he was elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame (an honor which Hunt's father had posthumously received in 1986) and in 2005, he received the annual Chief Roughneck Award (an award his father received in 1966) which recognizes "the one individual whose accomplishments and character best represent the highest ideals of the oil and gas industry." In 2008, Hunt was awarded the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers Legends Medal (an award posthumously given to Hunt's father in 2002), given to those who "have distinguished themselves in their profession and been a tribute to their communities and country."

Active in civic affairs, Hunt has previously served as chairman of the board of trustees of Southern Methodist University, chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council, chairman of the North Texas Commission, and chairman of the Central Dallas Association. He is currently chairman of Dallas Medical Resource. Hunt also currently serves as a member of the executive committee of the board of trustees of Southern Methodist University, the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., the board of trustees of The Cooper Institute and the board of advisors for the George W. Bush Institute.

With respect to government service, in October 2001 – and again in January 2006 – Hunt was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board in Washington, D.C., where he served until January 2009. Hunt was also appointed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in 1998. Hunt served as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas for four years (2002-2006) until rotating off of the board on December 31, 2006. Additionally, he is currently a member of the National Petroleum Council (an industry advisory organization to the Secretary of Energy) and served as its chairman from June 1991 to July 1994.

Hunt has also received a number of other awards in the past. He was the first recipient of the J. Erik Jonsson Award, given by the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce. He also was the recipient of the Order of Marib, given by the government of the Republic of Yemen; Hunt is the only non-Yemeni ever to be so designated. In 2000, he received the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies Award for Corporate Citizenship. Other awards include the H. Neil Mallon Award, given by the Dallas Council on World Affairs "for promoting Dallas as an international city"; the Distinguished Business Leader Award, given by the Texas Association of Business; and the Heath Award, given by the Dallas County Medical Society “to honor and recognize a layperson that has provided outstanding leadership and service to medicine and to the community of Dallas.” Hunt is a the recipient of the Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award given by the Southwestern Medical Foundation.

In 2007, Hunt was a recipient of the Linz Award, presented by The Dallas Morning News. The award recognizes a Dallas County citizen whose community and humanitarian efforts created the greatest benefit to the city during the decade without receiving monetary compensation.

The old autocratic leadership style is long past its use by date. A different leadership style is needed if you really want to connect with your people. You may be able to gather some leadership lessons from horses....

One of my enduring passions is horse-riding, in particular dressage. In fact, some of my life's peak moments have been when I've been riding.

Moments where I have felt total unity with an animal that is 100 times stronger than me and yet together we have danced magically. They are moments of absolute connection and inspiration. These moments result from many hours of partnering with my horse, listening carefully to what he wants from me and my horse listening carefully to what I want from him.

I've also had some terrible moments on my horse. Times when nothing has gone right and it has been a ride that neither of us has enjoyed. Neither of us have seemed to connect and be able to communicate to each other.

Different Leadership Style Lesson: Don't expect peak performance every single day - Olympic Gold Medallists don't run/swim etc at a gold medal standard every time they compete - but you can expect consistent high performance. To inspire peak and consistent high performance you must dedicate yourself to many hours of consistent action, caring and service as the leader of your people.
In dressage every movement you would ever ask a horse to perform is within their potential, it is part of the horse's innate capability. The trick is to be able to get the horse to perform the movement when you want. When you first start a horse, even though it has the capability to perform, it doesn't know what each of the aids (use of legs, seat and hands to guide the horse to do what you want) means and it can be a very confusing and challenging time for both parties.
Over the years we have designed and created many bits and pieces of equipment that manipulate and force the horse to comply and help us to quickly get the horse to do what we want, when we want. For example nosebands to hold their mouth closed (it give us more leverage on the bit), spurs and whips (to make them go forward more 'willingly'), martingales (to hold their heads down). These tools (and many others) have become an accepted part of the horse-riding game. Most riders use or have used them at some time to get a quicker, faster, easier result with their horse and generally don't question what could be going on for the horse that causes them, the rider, to resort to the use of these tools.

Different Leadership Style Lesson: What tools do you use to get someone to perform at the speed, pace and level you want? Every person has the innate capability to perform, but in our microwave society we usually look for quick results and attempt to manipulate and force performance through the carrot and stick method of performance management: motivation (e.g. bonuses, promotions, raises) or fear (e.g. poor performance appraisal, demotion, job loss) rather than taking the time to nurture and engage a person's spirit and inspire them to want to consistently deliver high performance.
Jess, my horse, mostly wants to please (the reality is that Jess is 400 kg heavier than me and his head is about 2 feet higher than mine and the minute he decides he no longer wants to comply there will be absolutely nothing I can do about it). Over the years he has picked up a number of bad habits and avoidance tactics that need to be overcome in order for me to get the best from him ...when I want it. Because I was struggling to get him to do what I wanted, when I wanted, my riding coach advised me to use a noseband, spurs and carry a whip. So now I have a horse (that 80% of the time wants to please) being forced to perform, by having his mouth tied closed and bits of steel stuck in his ribs, simply because I was struggling and my riding skill and my ability to connect with him had not been good enough to guide him to release his potential.

Different Leadership Style Lesson: When there's a problem with someone's performance we often blame them and look for an easy solution, rather than look to how we can improve as a leader so we can guide them to their potential.
About a week after I'd added all this additional riding gear (to make my job easier) I noticed, as I tightened up the noseband, that he ever so slightly pulled back from me and his ears flickered. I thought to myself "You hate this don't you, you feel trapped into doing what I want". So in that moment, I decided to listen to Jess and abandon all the gear.

Rather than forcing performance from him I chose to ride him that day by listening to what he was trying to communicate to me with his resistance. I then worked to discover what I the rider could do to help him avoid that problem. Long story short ... it was one of the best rides I've ever had on him - calm, relaxed, content, he did everything I asked of him with an ease and grace that until that day I hadn't felt from him.

Different Leadership Style Lesson: Firstly, trust your own wisdom and listen to yourself. If you feel unhappy using the traditional methods of leading people and getting them to 'perform' then have the courage to move away from 'accepted practice' and do what feels right. Secondly, listen to your people, find out from them what they need from you to help them release their potential. (Take the time to 'read' others by going beyond their words - the power and the truth is what sits in their unsaid.) When you show that you truly care people open up. By listening to yourself and your people you open both of you up to a breakthrough in performance.
Since that day I've pulled out my books on natural horsemanship - many of you may remember the movie "The Horse Whisperer" with Robert Redford that brought natural horsemanship into the mainstream - in which rather than forcing the horse into behaviour, you work with the horse and engage its spirit so it wants to work with you. Horse whisperers such as Monty Roberts and Ray Hunt in the U.S and Australian's such as Phil Rody and John Chatterton teach a different leadership style: that it is up to the leader to create the environment in which the other can learn and perform. Horses (like people) are proud, spirited, independent animals. Put too much pressure on them, back them into a corner and their flight or fight instinct comes to the fore. Just like humans, horses really do want to please, they try and try and yet when their leader doesn't reward, acknowledge, and take the time to become aware of their needs they do one of two things.

They become a problem (fight) or they succumb and lose their life force (flee) they do what they have to, but nothing more. You see both types at dressage competitions.

Horses showing their displeasure by rearing and bucking, fighting every inch of the way (they tend to be in the minority, because sadly they end up as dog-meat).

More often you see the flee type of horses. They perform well-executed tests, but there is no sparkle or energy to their performance.

Every now and then though, out comes a partnership where the horse and rider are in total unison, the horse emanates a presence of life, energy and delight in what it is doing - there is a real spring to its step and a joy in its movements that the horse who is just doing its job cannot emulate.

That you have read this far is a good indicator that you are the sort of person who want's to release people's potential and to ignite their life-force and spirit you are open and willing to use a different leadership style. You are not a Jack Welch or Donald Trump type who fires the bottom 10% and rules with dominance, force and manipulation (if you were you would have gone to another page). If you have people in your team who have either fled or are fighting ask yourself "What can I change about the way I lead to inspire and engage their spirit?"

These past few weeks have taught me that Jess has been under-performing because I had been very much self-focused and self-absorbed. My focus had been on my desires to compete on him and get him to do it right quickly. I hadn't given thought for his need for trust, respect, caring and compassion from his leader. As soon as I took the focus off me and I cared enough to listen to his wants and his fears and responded to them with a different leadership style his performance changed.

Different Leadership Style Lesson: People yearn to be heard and engaged. They yearn to know that someone cares about their needs and desires and sees them as important. Once you connect with their spirit rather than try to break it or bend it to meet your needs then and only then can you inspire their best and ignite their passion.
And finally, what Jess reminded me of is: If I don't remain focused on why I am doing something I end up doing and being something I don't want. Why do I ride and in particular practice dressage? Because I love the feeling of connection that comes when you are in total unity with your horse.

Different Leadership Style Lesson: Remember why you became leader - I'm sure it was for something more than the increased $ and status. Knowing this and staying focused on it will make all the world of difference to your leadership.
Make the decision that this is your year to bring a different leadership style to your workplace. The year to truly connect with your people, using values such as honour, caring, compassion, listening, empathising, connection and contribution. When you do this you will truly make a difference and transform yourself and the people in your world.

Let's finish with a quote from Lance Secretan's book Inspire! What Great Leaders Do

"As Joanne Gordon wrote in Forbes, "For those executives that still don't give a hoot how their employees feel, ask yourself this: If you needed a heart transplant, would you want the surgeon who feels good about his job or the one who complains about hospital policy while you're under anaesthesia? Just asking.""

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