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Texas A&M has more Fortune 100 corporate CEOs than any other university?

Aggies and leadership go together like a “howdy” and a firm handshake—a natural fit. That’s why it is no surprise that there are more former students of Texas A&M University leading Fortune 100 companies than graduates of any other university in the nation. The University of Michigan and Penn State University follow Texas A&M with three CEOs each in the Fortune 100. We asked these four Aggie CEOs about their leadership philosophies, staying relevant in changing industries and how the companies they lead are building a better world.

Darren Woods ’87, CEO, ExxonMobil

It’s an exciting time in the energy industry. As the Earth’s population continues to grow, more people than ever need access to affordable and reliable energy. However, that energy must be produced in new, more sustainable ways. This is the dual challenge that ExxonMobil faces—and the work that Darren Woods undertakes as its chairman and CEO. The solutions won’t be easy, but they will make a lasting impact on the world.

ExxonMobil is working to reduce its emissions and is helping consumers do the same. “Ultimately though, to achieve society’s ambitions, new technologies are needed,” Woods said. That’s why ExxonMobil is conducting breakthrough research in lower-emission technologies, working with a variety of partners: 80 universities around the world, technology companies, private venture funds and the U.S. Department of Energy. “We believe ExxonMobil has an important role to play in helping solve the dual challenge,” he said.

Leading the company during an unprecedented time in the industry has its challenges. “How do you know what you don’t know?” Woods often asks himself. “Good leaders don’t need all the answers, but they must ask the right questions.

“I believe informed, thoughtful, challenging and constructive debate across the organization is essential,” he added. “The best results are achieved when you have talented people with the right mindset and a common set of values working together.”

Solving these important challenges motivates Woods.  “Our commitment to raise the bar, hold ourselves to the highest standards and find better ways to meet the needs of communities all around the world inspires each and every one of us,” he concluded.   

Greg Garland ’80, Chairman & CEO, Phillips 66

A simple leadership philosophy guides Greg Garland’s work: “Pursue excellence, build the capability of your team and always do the right thing.”

Garland began working for Phillips Petroleum Company soon after graduating from Texas A&M with a chemical engineering degree. During the next 39 years, he grew with the company, starting as a plastics engineer, taking on management responsibilities and eventually stepping into executive positions within different subsidiaries of Phillips around the world. In 2012, he assumed the preeminent position at Phillips 66, leading all of its global operations.

“Leaders set the tone at the top, and that’s why it is so important to do the right thing,” said Garland. “If you don’t, others won’t either.” Part of doing the right thing is building communities and giving back. The company is dedicated to funding STEM and literacy programs, health and human services organizations, and environmental improvement.

A vital component of his leadership style is to create intentional interactions at all levels of the organization. “I try to be very accessible,” he said, which includes sharing meals with various employees to hear their concerns and feedback. “We are working to build an environment of trust, where everyone feels they are valued and their voice can be heard.”

Bruce Broussard ’84, CEO, Humana

As a leader in health care for nearly 30 years, Bruce Broussard has seen numerous technological changes that have reshaped the industry, but one thing has stayed the same: He’s still leading an organization that has a measurable impact on improving people’s lives every day. Doing work that serves a greater purpose is what keeps him engaged.

“Health care is undergoing a significant transformation, so it’s a wonderful time to be part of shaping its future, with the goal being a much more personalized and simple system for our nation’s health care consumers,” he said. Leading through these seismic shifts means he must stay informed to stay relevant—not just about health care, but also public policy, technology and global influences.

Curiosity is key. “The world is changing faster than humans can mentally keep pace. It requires everyone—leaders and non-leaders alike—to have a learning mindset,” he said. “As a leader, you’re no longer the ‘expert,’ and it’s more imperative than ever to look to employees deeper in the organization for answers. The most powerful leadership skill is the ability to ask insightful questions.”

In 2015, Broussard led Humana’s launch of its Bold Goal, a plan to improve the health of the communities it serves by 20% by 2020.  The program started with seven major U.S. cities and has now expanded to 14. This goal serves as the company’s North Star. “I’m proud that it has not only been a rallying cry for our organization, but also that we’ve made great progress in making a difference in many communities,” he said. “I’m inspired by improving the health of our society, as health enables individuals to fully live their lives.”

David Cordani ’88, President & CEO, Cigna  

There’s a hint about David Cordani’s leadership style embedded in the way he talks about his team: He never mentions his 74,000 employees, but he frequently talks about his 74,000 colleagues.

“Leadership is not an organizational chart,” he said. “It’s not correlated to hierarchy. I deeply believe leadership is a gift you are given by those you lead.” Cordani asserts that the continuing success of his global organization is dependent on how his team is challenged, rewarded, equipped and inspired. The inspiration comes naturally. “Our company’s mission is to improve the health, well-being and peace of mind of those we serve. Every day, we try to make a difference in people’s lives and in the communities we operate in around the world. To me, that’s wildly energizing.”

He’s also inspiring others to succeed when he’s off the clock: Cordani serves wounded veterans as a marathon guide, helping them with their prosthetics, nutrition and hydration, and motivation to get them across the finish line. He recently coauthored the book, “The Courage to Go Forward: The Power of Micro Communities,” about this experience. The core message is that when a small group of like-minded people unite to support a person with a dream, impossible things become possible. “You don’t need a huge infrastructure to make a difference,” he added.


Dunae Reader '15

Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications/Spirit Editor/Maroon Co-Editor