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The CEO Forum: The Ultimate CEOs: Peter A. Darbee

Chairman, President, and CEO, PG&E Corp.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2006

weakness, I spent a lot of time. In fact, it has been the center of my focus on leadership.

My business focus has been: What does it take to be a great leader, and what is the difference between great and mediocre in life? The conclusion that I came away with is that a visionary, a leader, needs to first be able to dream great dreams, and establish a vision. Our vision has been to become the leading utility in the United States. And the nature of that is aspirational, but achievable. Like John Kennedy, who said we’d put a man on the moon and bring him back before the end of the decade, the people at NASA said, “How the heck are we ever going to do that? We don’t know how to get there.” The nature of a leader is that they set targets that you can’t accomplish by extending a ruler over the past track record in getting there. They set targets that are a quantum leap. They not only set those targets, but they understand how to translate those targets back in to specific things that have to be done to move an organization from point A to point B.

What you need to do is get that vision and translate it into objectives and then into specific goals and metrics. You have to have strategy for getting there. And the strategy has to deal with the culture and very substantial process of re-engineering. The glue that holds this all together is your values. You have to lead from your values. To the extent you do that, and you do it consistently, and you do it with perseverance, and you are also a great communicator who communicates honestly, you can inspire the hearts and minds of people. And you can move 20,000 people.

When I finish after being in a room with people, [they] come up to me and say, “You know what, Mr. Darbee, I believe in you. Keep doing what you’re doing.” That is what fuels me each and every day.