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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 appointed as the 34th Secretary of the Commerce by President George W. Bush in 2001, where he served until 2005. He was a strong advocate for the free-enterprise system, free and fair trade agreements, and responsible corporate stewardship. To encourage job creation, Evans worked closely with President Bush to reduce taxes, open markets for American goods and services, and promote a level playing field abroad. A trusted friend and advisor for more than three decades, Evans worked on President Bush’s successful Texas gubernatorial campaigns in 1994 and 1998 and served as chairman of the 2000 Bush-Cheney Presidential Campaign.

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. During school breaks, he worked in a Texas steel mill.  In 1975, Evans moved to Midland, Texas from Houston and began his career as a “roughneck” working on oil rigs for Tom Brown, Inc., a large independent energy company. Ten years later, he took the helm of the company as CEO, continuing in that position until being tapped by the President to lead the Commerce Department. He also served as the Chairman of Energy Future Holdings Company, formerly TXU Energy, from 2007-2018, and currently he serves as Chairman of The Permian Strategic Partnership.

In 1995, Evans was appointed to the University of Texas Board of Regents; he was elected chairman in February 1997 and served two consecutive terms. Evans was also a board member of the Scleroderma Research Foundation for eight years. He was named a University of Texas Distinguished Engineering Alumnus and inducted into the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business Hall of Fame in 2002.

Currently, Evans serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Visitors at MD Anderson and is an Independent Director at Extraction Oil & Gas.  Also, he is a senior partner at Quintana Capital Group, senior advisor at Energy Capital Partners, and member of the advisory board of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.  Evans has remained active in his hometown community of Midland, Texas where he resides with his wife, Susan Marinis Evans, and serves on the Midland Memorial Hospital Board of Governors. His passions in life are his faith, family, and friends. They have two daughters, one son, and five grandchildren.

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