BASF board chairman discusses sustainability, leadership at Penn State Smeal

Andy Elder
April 11, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Kurt Bock, chairman of the board of executive directors of BASF SE, discussed an array of business and leadership topics April 8 as part of his participation in the Penn State Smeal College of Business Executive Insights series.

Executive Insights brings high-profile business leaders to the college to connect with students, faculty, staff and administrators. Past guests include more than 25 leaders from a diverse array of organizations.

Bock started his career with BASF in finance in 1985. He left from 1992 to 1998 and held several management positions with automotive supplier and electronics company Robert Bosch. In 1998 he returned to BASF and assumed the role of chairman of the board of executive directors of BASF SE in May 2011.

During Bock’s visit to the Business Building, he participated in a moderated discussion with Charles H. Whiteman, the John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal, in front of an audience of students, faculty and staff in the Struthers Auditorium.

Some highlights of Bock’s conversation with Whiteman include:

Sustainability
“We look at three dimensions of sustainability: economic success, social responsibility and environmental responsibility. Most people, when they talk about sustainability, talk about the environmental aspect. You have to look at all three components. It’s a complex process, which drives our agenda, essentially because we believe that this planet does not have enough resources to accommodate a growing population.”

Leadership
“You have to make sure you have the right systems in place so people understand what are the objectives or targets and how are they incentivized. This comes down from the executive board all the way to the rank and file on the shop floor. We have a very, very consistent incentive system. The same metric applies to the executive board and for the blue-collar people around the globe. Everybody gets higher pay if the company is doing better.”

Being the chairman
“I’m one of eight guys. I’m not the boss of my executive board. They could outvote me. You have to make sure everyone’s aligned. At the same time you have to make sure that all views are presented and really discussed in depth. From my point of view, it’s very, very important that you have different personalities around the table and everyone is able to bring in his view of what we are discussing.”

Evaluating job candidates
“Today’s generation has such perfect resumes, you wonder what’s missing? You look for the differences. If everything looks the same, you really try to understand what the differences are in a person’s personality and character. How broadly based are they?

“Did they focus on a very narrow field or are they willing to really branch out and experience something completely new and feel uncomfortable and have to work much harder to prove themselves? Are there entrepreneurial instincts? Those instincts, for me, are a combination of creativity on the one side, but also courage to test something, to try something that nobody else has tried before.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 11, 2016