by Jenn Lofgren

    Daring Leaders: 5 Qualities they MUST have

    The year was 1994. The place was Pretoria, South Africa.

    Amid widespread unrest over apartheid, Nelson Mandela stood on the podium and took over the presidency from F.W. de Klerk.

    Amongst the dignitaries and world leaders, a few men stood out. Unlike those around them, they had no real power, attainments or any reason to be there except that their new president — oncetheir prisoner at Robben Island, where they were guards – had invited them to the ceremony.

    It was a small gesture of forgiveness that ricocheted around the world. And it cemented Nelson Mandela’s reputation as a daring leader who was not only an exemplary communicator and determined lifelong learner, but one who championed accountability, embraced his own vulnerability and inspired others through the strength of his passion.

    Titan though he was, Mandela was not alone in demonstrating those five qualities that we see today in daring leaders in oil and gas.


    When it comes to true thought leadership, vulnerability is all about shelving fear and accepting uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. A leader who embraces vulnerability creates an atmosphere in which a team is allowed to work through issues to find the answer, rather than being pushed to accept a pre-mandated solution. What’s more, if a leader acknowledges their imperfections, their team feels the safety of being allowed to admit their own limitations too.

    Vulnerability leader: Mac Van Wielegan, CEO, ARC Financial.

    An award-winning business leader, Mac Van Wielegan has made his name by daring to take an ethics-first approach at a time when ‘best practices’ was all about ‘bottom line.’

    “It is about understanding that enduring success must include the quality of human experience as an essential outcome of success,” Van Wielegan said upon receiving Calgary’s Distinguished Business Leader Award last spring. “It is about both results and relationships; both financial values and human values.”


    Daring leaders own their Big Hairy Audacious Goals – and help others see the ‘why’ of it, the ‘what’ that should be achieved and the ‘how’ needed to make that vision a reality. These are not mere dreamers staring out the office window; they are facilitators and doers at the frontline. They are both inspiring orators leading the charge and cheerleaders on the sidelines. They can explicitly detail how that dream will functionally improve the industry and identify the milestones along the way.

    Inspiration leader: Suzanne West, CEO, Imaginea Energy Trust

    Innovative and creative, Suzanne West’s passion and vision is inspiring a new way of approaching green energy, amidst oil and gas. As she recently remarked in the press: “I don’t know the rule book that says you can’t make a ridiculous amount of beautiful, sustainable profits and not wreck the planet at the same time.”


    As a character trait of leadership, accountability is about keeping your word—and so much more. Every aspect of a leader’s behaviour, decision-making and strategy reflects a consistency that engenders confidence and inspires others to take ownership. And although not everything will go right every time, a true leader acknowledges mistakes without laying blame, then follows up on what went wrong and what needs to change.

    Accountability leader: Ian Dudas, CEO Enerplus

    By focusing on the risk elements of business and challenging those around him to take ownership for managing risk and producing results, Ian Dudas has ushered Enerplus into a whole new era. He takes the lead on transparency in organizational strategies and projects by holding himself accountable, asking questions, and openly discussing the path to results.


    When it comes to communication, the daring leader is always the one starting the tough conversation no one else wants to have. Clear in both their thinking and how they deliver it, their way of connecting with those around them balances assertiveness with empathy in asking the hard questions and delivering messages that need to be heard.

    Communication leader: Rob Symonds, Senior VP, Western Canada Production, Husky

    Both clear in his thinking and expectations, Rob Symonds has a reputation for fearlessly stepping into rocky terrain with confidence and determination. Upfront, realistic and respectful, his communication style creates trust and engagement with those around him.


    Every day is a lesson, every moment an opportunity to engage, learn and grow. For daring leaders, those words are a mantra. Endlessly curious and interested, they take a learning orientation to everything they do. They’re also humble enough to know that they don’t have all the answers and wise enough to realize they make the best decisions when they rely on the knowledge and expertise of those around them.

    Learning leader: Ashley Dunfield, CEO, Petrofeed

    Ashley Dunfield eschewed a traditional formal education, preferring to gather his wide-ranging knowledge first hand and hands-on. His unconventional approach has paid off: his innovations in oil and gas data has not only attracted top talent to Petrofeed, but the support of inspiring industry leaders too.

    Jenn Lofgren is a leadership and executive coach with clientele in a range of industries including oil and gas, business services, and small business. She is passionate about inspiring and developing the leaders others dream to follow. Find out more at http://incito.ca.

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