By Joe Petrowski

If there is anything I have learned in my 47 years at all levels in business from trainee to CEO it’s that great businesses and financial success are driven by people. And, that starts with great leadership. Market conditions wax and wane as quickly as the climate. Opportunities and challenges occur at random intervals, but great people led by great leadership is the only sustainable advantage in business. So what makes a great leader? I will use a few baseball analogies. A great leader possesses 5 tools:

  • The ability to analyze
  • The ability to organize
  • The ability to sell or persuade
  • Great communication skills
  • The ability to collaborate in all situations

All great leaders must possess the highest character composing:

  • Trust
  • Reliability
  • Resiliency (to adverse events and criticism)
  • Sense of humor
  • Curiosity
  • The ability to attract, train and retain SAPS (smart, aggressive and poor individuals)

Now for the baseball analogies:

  • Business is a nine-inning game (a marathon not a sprint).
  • Always play for the big inning.
  • Avoid the very bad inning
  • A great TEAM has all the skills. It is impossible for all players to possess all the skills.
  • Make sure your talent is playing in the right positions.

Finally, understand on a daily basis that all strategy and tactics is situational, or as the Greek poet Archilochus said: “The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing.” A great leader needs to be both a fox and a hedgehog simultaneously. The one big thing is knowing what you want from the end game, but constantly adjusting to situational needs is critical to achieving that goal.

Abraham Lincoln, maybe our greatest leader, replied to criticism that he made several unsavory deals to pass the amendment outlawing slavery remarked: “A compass, I learnt when I was surveying, it’ll point you True North from where you are standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what’s the use of knowing True North?” All of our Great Presidents have displayed the traits of both the fox and hedgehog, notably FDR, George Washington, and JFK. In US business John Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Jack Welch and Alfred Sloan come to mind.

If you surround yourself with a team with all the talents, skill sets and personality listed above, and they in turn recruit, train and retain the individuals who will be  in front of your customers, investors and counter parties then success is guaranteed.


Joe Petrowski has had a long career in international commodity trading, energy and retail management and public policy development. He currently serves as the fuel director of Yesway convenience stores and an adviser to their Chairman on Operations and Merchandising, as well as a director of Xebec, a Canadian manufacturer of Clean technology and Green Print, a carbon mitigation firm. Petrowski previously served as the president and CEO of Gulf Oil LP and was elected to the Gulf Oil LP Board of Directors and then as CEO of the now combined Gulf Oil and Cumberland Farms. He is Managing Director of Mercantor Partners, a private equity firm investing in convenience and energy distribution.