Agribusiness CEO cultivates ‘wholeness’
ADM’s Patricia Woertz talks leadership during Kellogg visitBy Aubrey Henretty
4/3/2007 - While Archer Daniels Midland President, Chair and CEO Patricia Woertz extols the virtues of “integrity” in leadership, she says the word’s popular usage doesn’t quite do it justice. To have integrity as a leader is to be honest and upstanding, but perhaps more than that, “it’s really about wholeness,” said Woertz on April 2. “It’s about bringing your whole self to the job.”
Woertz spoke at the James L. Allen Center as part of the Kellogg School’s Dean’s Speaker Series. The event, also sponsored by the Kellogg Women’s Business Association and the Business Leadership Club, was a structured question-and-answer session moderated by Kellogg School Clinical Professor of Management and Strategy Harry Kraemer.
Wholeness, continued Woertz, is not always encouraged in business: “I remember once someone said to a colleague of mine, ‘I wish you were more like Pat. You can’t even tell she has a family.’ Isn’t that sad?” Since then, Woertz said, she has made a special effort not just to bring more of herself — including her family experience, which is a large part of her life — to her work, but also to encourage others to do the same and establishing a culture of open communication.
ADM is a Decatur, Ill.-based agricultural processor with offices and operations around the world. Woertz attributed much of the company’s growth to its ability to innovate: “Innovation is an interesting word. Some people think it’s just for scientists,” she said, but everyone from entry-level worker to engineer to farmer to manager can change the industry if they keep their eyes and minds open to new ideas. “If you think about what innovation is, it’s thinking outside our ‘heads-down’ mentality.”
When asked to comment on the still uncommon experience of being a woman and the president and CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Woertz, who joined ADM last May following a long career at Chevron, observed that successful women in business are often said erroneously to be successful “because of or in spite of” their gender. “I don’t think it’s either of those things,” said Woertz, ranked No. 4 on Fortune magazine’s 2006 list of the “50 Most Powerful Women” (she ranked No. 7 on a similar list produced by Forbes last year). “I think it’s all about leadership, period. I’m not sure gender comes into it a whole lot.”
Woertz also said great leaders go beyond launching successful products, increasing profits or whatever their stated goals may be. “It’s always a cross between getting the right results and getting them the right way … I don’t think you can give up on either side of that.”