I met Sue Ellerbusch while she was leading BP's Biofuels business unit several years back. After seven years at Shell, and new to BP as a senior leader in a global group role, it wasn't unusual to make time to connect with leaders across the company. Meeting with Sue and talking through the biofuels value chain was a real learning experience given that the risks in her part of the business were very different than those of Upstream or Downstream.
At BP, Sue's experience was impressive, spanning Chemicals, Refining and Marketing and Biofuels. She held roles such as director of Strategy and Business Development within Chemicals, VP of Retail Marketing both in the US and Europe, and president of Biofuels North America. She was also the executive sponsor of BP’s 2,500-member North American Women’s Network.
As life and work would have it, I left in 2014 to start Pink Petro, and Sue moved on and was named president of Air Liquide Large Industries U.S. business unit in September of 2015. In that role, she led a team of over 700 employees in the delivery of the strategy, operations, business development and financial delivery of a gas and energy supply business responsible for 35 manufacturing facilities and over 2,000 miles of pipelines.
Not too long ago, I ran into her at a board meeting and learned she was about to take on an even bigger role. As of the beginning of June, she was promoted to CEO of Air Liquide USA. I took the opportunity to sit down and talk with her about her new role. Here's an excerpt of that conversation.
What's exciting about your new role?
I'm excited to continue to grow my knowledge of the industrial gas business and have a broader impact on the organization and our future direction.
What do you hope to learn?
One new element of my role is responsibility for our Electronics business. Since I don't consider myself a big "techie," it will be great to learn more about the electronics industry and how our unique products contribute to the ever-advancing technologies we all use each day.
What is your biggest learning to date?
As I've matured as I leader, I've recognized that leading isn't about telling or giving the answer. Leadership is about listening and understanding and getting people to trust in you so they can feel confident in your vision and their role in successful delivery.
What words of wisdom do you have for aspiring leaders?
Being a leader isn't about knowing the most or trying to be the smartest person in the room. As a leader, you need to recognize talent, encourage development, and promote your teams and team members. Give them the trust and autonomy to be creative and do excellent work. As the leader, you define the direction and ensure there is a shared purpose amongst the team.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in genetics and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Illinois, and has been recognized by “Biofuels Digest” as one of the top people in Bioenergy.
Stay tuned. We hope to have Sue on Pink Petro TV in the near future. In the meantime, hearty congratulations to her for this well-deserved promotion.
Pictures from my visit: The view from Sue's office overlooking Houston.