4 key leadership lessons from Bruce Chinn, CEO of Chevron Phillips Chemical

BY Preta Peace Namasaba October 2, 2023 11:52 AM EDT

Bruce Chinn serves as the president and chief executive officer of Chevron Phillips Chemical, a prominent global petrochemical manufacturing company with a reported 2022 revenue of more than $14 billion. He first joined Chevron in 2006, where he held several executive roles in refining for the company’s operations in Venezuela, Richmond, Calif., and Pascagoula, Miss.

Since then, Chinn has held various roles in manufacturing, technical, commercial, and business leadership, both in the United States and internationally. He was president for Chevron Chemicals, overseeing its Oronite business, before being appointed president and CEO of Chevron Phillips Chemical in 2021.

Here are four key leadership lessons from Bruce Chinn to help you take your career to the next level.

Embrace Authenticity

At the outset of his career as a young Black engineer, Bruce Chinn attempted to blend in by shedding external markers of his identity, such as gold chains, in an effort to assimilate into the corporate environment. After investing considerable time and effort in this endeavor, he realized that authenticity was key to his professional growth.

This notion of authenticity is a bigger part of my vocabulary today. Because when you’re authentic with yourself and with others, you figure out pretty quickly whether the place you’re working is an environment where you want to be or not. People always have choices, and there is a lot of emotional stress that comes with not being yourself at work.” Bruce Chinn in ExCo Group

Trust with Verification

In his initial role as a supervisor, Chinn was responsible for ensuring workplace safety. He learned a crucial lesson from a shift leader: trust your employees to fulfill their duties but verify that they execute them correctly. This lesson stayed with him as he ascended the organizational ladder. Chinn entrusts his employees with their responsibilities but understands the importance of validating that these tasks are carried out correctly.

The Power of Active Listening

Early in his career, Bruce Chinn attended a multicultural awareness workshop where he had the opportunity to share his experiences. As a leader, he fosters an environment where diverse conversations can take place, and people from different backgrounds can share their stories. Chinn recognizes the significance of open discussions in implementing inclusion and equity frameworks within organizations. He has discovered invaluable insights by practicing active listening. Chinn advises emerging leaders against feeling compelled to have all the answers. Instead, he advocates viewing feedback as a gift and encourages leaders to be receptive to feedback, regardless of its source or tone. Openness to feedback is essential for personal and professional growth.

When people move into leadership roles, they might think they have to have all the answers. And so I tell them that feedback is a gift, and that they have to be able to receive the feedback and actively listen to it, regardless of where it’s coming from and even if it sounds like it’s not constructive. It’s always up to you whether you decide to do something with it, but you should always be open to it.” Bruce Chinn in ExCo Group

Cultivate Strong Relationships

Chinn’s father faced adversity when he lost his teaching job during desegregation and subsequently secured employment at a hospital by reaching out to a new superintendent. This experience left a lasting impression on Bruce Chinn, emphasizing the importance of maintaining connections and nurturing relationships. Even in his role as CEO, Chinn prioritizes investing time and effort in building strong relationships with directors, suppliers, team members, and customers.