The leaders of two Calgary energy-based companies don’t hesitate when asked about the secret of their success. Perhaps surprisingly, the answer doesn’t come from the oilpatch, but rather from what they’ve built within their organizations—a culture of shared values, vision and purpose backed by an unswerving belief that people are their greatest natural resource.
As Mac Van Wielingen, a founder of energy investment firm ARC Financial Corp., and oil and gas company ARC Resources Ltd., says: “ARC Financial and ARC Resources are very different businesses. Yet, both have demonstrated incredible results because they share a common cultural heritage that is attributed to the strength of their culture and to leadership.”
To Van Wielingen, the responsibilities of a good leader go far beyond growing the bottom line. It’s about leading ethically, respectfully and with integrity. It’s also about fostering an environment that attracts exemplary employees and doing what it takes to retain the best.
“Yes, you want to go out and hire great people, but leaders need to ask themselves if they are creating the conditions where each of us can truly be our best in order to contribute from areas where we have natural gifts and capabilities.”
ARC Resources Ltd. CEO John Dielwart, BSc’77, agrees. “People are not commodities. If a leader can build a culture of integrity, commitment to the community and respect for one another into his or her organization, it’s magic. The results take care of themselves.”
Dielwart and ARC Financial Corp. CEO Kevin Brown cite Van Wielingen as their mentor. They are passing on to the next generation what they’ve learned from him as a leader, and what they’ve emulated in their roles within their own companies.
“Leaders need to inspire trust,” says Brown. “A big part of what I’ve learned from Mac is that you inspire trust by demonstrating that you truly care about the people you work with, not just through words, but through actions.”
Those actions have led to their most recent venture—a gift of $9.5 million to launch the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business at the Haskayne School of Business. An initiative spearheaded by Van Wielingen, the donation was made by Van Wielingen, his wife Susan and their family (through the Viewpoint Foundation), ARC Resources Ltd., ARC Financial Corp., and Kevin and Nadine Brown (through the Brown Family Foundation).
“We need to give young people the opportunity to be exposed to deeper levels of understanding about leadership, so that they can take on leadership responsibility more effectively, more competently and more ethically,” says Van Wielingen.
The centre, set to open this fall, will embed leadership skills and ethical business standards in the curriculum, research and culture at the Haskayne School of Business, impacting every aspect of the student experience.