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The CEO Forum: The Ultimate CEOs: Jeff Sterba

Chairman, President, and CEO, PNM Resources

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2006

and that facilitates an Internet connection. It doesn’t come through the meter.

Too much of our demand-side management stuff has always had a customer interface. Let’s get the customer out of the middle and provide technology with the information about prices so that a piece of equipment with its PLC can determine how [it] should run. For example, the customer [says], “Between these hours when I’m not here, the house can go up to 80 degrees or 85 degrees, but when I get home at this time I want it down to 74 degrees.” You can do that today with a programmable thermostat. The problem is that you are just telling it when to come on as opposed to it being able to figure out, given these prices on an hourly basis, how to use the piece of equipment most economically.

That kind of stuff is not rocket science. It can be done today. It’s an issue of creating the demand pull and the supply push to make it available at a cost-effective price.

Fortnightly: What is your definition of leadership? How do you affect the company?

Sterba: I think it’s three things. First, it’s the ability to identify a future state for a company and an organization with enough specificity that people can relate to it, yet enough flexibility that others are able to create within it.

The second one is [to] communicate. I know of no person that I consider to be a strong leader who isn’t an even better communicator. You have to be able to help people not only understand where a company is going but how you are going to get there. Some of that is values, some of that [involves whether you] are going to be a quality-based company, be an innovation-based company. What are the things you build as elements that help not only make you distinctive but really help provide that competitive advantage for the long term?

The third one is all about execution. Any leader who thinks their job is only about articulating a grand vision is sadly mistaken. Success is 20 percent planning, 60 percent execution, and 20 percent luck. As a leader, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and really help understand the changes.

And I propose a fourth [thing], which I struggle with all of the time. To be a leader, it is less important what decisions you make, [and] more important what questions you ask.