Ask the NAEM Board: What’s the Best Leadership Advice You’ve Ever Received?

Stephen Evanoff

NAEM President, Stephen Evanoff

My best career advice came from my father-in-law, who is a Korean War era veteran and was among the first group of United States Air Force fighter pilots to fly supersonic jets. The stereotype of such people is that they tend to be ego-driven. This is absolutely not the case with him.

His two pieces of invaluable advice were first, to believe in the power of teamwork and second, to evaluate a job applicant based more on how they personify their core principles, and not so much on their academic pedigree, professional certifications, or previous job title.

When he was a corporate manager, he approached every assignment as a team effort. He engaged, empowered and rewarded his people. He would guide and facilitate the decision-making, project planning and implementation processes, rather than impose his opinions on his team, and he avoided being judgmental.

Also, and most importantly, he always looked to hire young people who came from hard scrabble backgrounds, who demonstrated self-control, self-discipline, initiative and commitment to the work. His philosophy was to look for the young engineer who, as he put it, was raised working on the family farm in North Dakota, or who had a paper route as a kid and later put his/her self through college. He believed that these are the type of people who have a strong work ethic and who don’t quit when the going gets tough.

These principles have been useful anchor points for me particularly in corporate-level leadership roles, where it is tempting to use the perceived power of the position to act autonomously and to make hiring decisions expeditiously and based on a superficial evaluation of people. The wisdom of my father-in-law’s philosophy has proven itself, time after time.


About NAEM Staff

The National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM), is a non-profit professional association that empowers corporate leaders to advance environmental stewardship, create safe and healthy workplaces, and promote global sustainability. As the largest network for environmental, health and safety (EHS), and sustainability decision-makers, we provide peer-led educational conferences and an active network for sharing solutions to today’s corporate EHS and sustainability management challenges. Visit NAEM online at

View all post by NAEM Staff »

No Comments

Leave your comment