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Don Evans: Leaders Need to Go to Their Core Values to Make Hard Decisions

June 23, 2016 3 minute Read by Donald L. Evans
Don Evans, Chairman of the Board of the George W. Bush Foundation, spoke last month to the second class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program. In this Bush Institute interview, Evans, who served as Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush, discusses the importance of using core values and thinking long-term when making difficult decisions as a leader in any walk of life.

The second class of Presidential Leadership Scholars will graduate next month. What would you like these scholars to take away from the administrations they are studying?

I hope one takeaway is the importance of staying true to enduring truths that stand the test of time. The truths of trust, honesty, integrity, hard work, and that the true measure of an individual is a life with a caring spirit and a humble heart.

As a leader, everyone is looking at you and your character. You set the tone. You are the one in the organization people are looking to for their guidance, direction, vision, and mission for the enterprise.

As a leader, everyone is looking at you and your character. You set the tone. You are the one in the organization people are looking to for their guidance, direction, vision, and mission for the enterprise.

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Applications for the 2017 class of Presidential Leadership Scholars are now open. Learn more and apply today.

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As a leader, along the way, you have to make some really tough decisions. Any President has to make some really tough decisions where he is getting advice on both sides of the issue. At moments like that, a President has to make a decision for the nation.

It has always been my hope that anyone making those decisions will go to their core values to decide what is in the long-term interest of whoever is involved. If it is a country like the United States, the decision is about the citizens of America. If it is a decision based on the company someone leads, the decision is about the best interest of the overall enterprise and its stakeholders.

It’s about not getting too wrapped up in the near-term, the short-term, or the easy way out. In an administration, think first and foremost what the right policy is, not what is best politically.

Politics thinks very short-term. It’s near-sighted. We have elections every two years. When you are making the most difficult decisions, I hope leaders will always think about what is in the best long-term interests for the general well- being of those impacted by the decision.


Author

Donald L. Evans
Donald L. Evans

Donald L. Evans was the 34th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and a core member of President George W. Bush’s economic team from 2001 - 2005. Evans oversaw a diverse cabinet agency with some 40,000 workers and a $5.8 billion budget focused on promoting American business, both at home and abroad.

Evans previously served as CEO of the Financial Services Forum, resigning at the end of 2007 to take on his current role as Chairman of the private utility company, Energy Future Holdings, formerly known as TXU Corporation.  In addition, Evans is a senior partner with Quintana Energy Partners and a senior advisor for Energy Capital Partners in New Jersey. 

Evans is a self-described optimist who believes the highest calling in life is serving others. As a result, he has been very active in community service over the years. In 1995, Governor Bush appointed him to the Board of Regents of the University of Texas; he was elected chairman of the board in February 1997 and served two consecutive terms. Evans was a board member of the Scleroderma Research Foundation for eight years and was a driving force behind Native Vision, a program that provides services to about 10,000 Native American children. In addition, he was involved with the United Way for many years, serving as a past president and campaign chair of the Midland chapter.

Born in Houston, Texas in 1946, Evans attended the University of Texas at Austin, receiving a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering in 1969 and an M.B.A. in 1973. His passions in life are his family and friends.

Evans resides, with his wife Susan Marinis Evans, in Midland, Texas. They have three children and four grandchildren.

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