The chairman of Mars shares a simple piece of advice that can make you a better leader

  • Mars Inc is one of the biggest family-owned companies in the world, with more than $US35 billion in annual sales.
  • The 106-year-old company is known for its iconic candy brands, including Snickers, M&Ms, Milky Way, and Twix. But the company’s biggest business is its pet-care business.
  • Business Insider spoke to Mars chairman Stephen Badger, the great-grandson of founder Franklin Mars, about what he has learned about leadership during his role at the company.
  • Badger said that the best things you can do when stepping into a new leadership position are to keep an open mind and engage others. He also said it’s important to not think you must have all the answers.

With some $US35 billion in annual sales, Mars Inc, which is known for its iconic candy brands like Snickers and M&Ms, is one of the biggest family-owned businesses in the world.

But the family doesn’t just own the company. Some family members play key roles at the corporate giant.

One of those family members is Stephen Badger, the great-grandson of Mars’ founder, Franklin Mars.

Badger currently serves as the company’s chairman, but he has also worked as the global director of corporate affairs and served as the president of Seeds of Change, a Mars subsidiary that makes organic food.

While all of his positions at Mars have come with their own challenges, Badger said that becoming Mars chairman was by far the most difficult role to move into.

“The biggest challenge that I’ve had in my career was when the second of my uncles stepped off the board and I stepped into being chairman. The difficulty in that is you are moving from a dynamic where you had two individuals who had run the business for over 40 years and really fundamentally were playing the role of both a governance role as well as an operational role in management in terms of running it,” Badger said.

“And so all of a sudden it was a significant shift in the dynamics of the board and in the dynamics of the family, in terms of really a generational transition.”

Badger said he was able to get through the transition by being open with his family and building a collective vision for what the company was trying to do.

While stepping into the chairman role was a challenge, Badger said he learned a lot about leadership. And he said if he had to give one piece of advice about how to grow into a new leadership gracefully, it would be to listen.

“The biggest thing that I have learned is to not think that you do or need all the answers. I find it more powerful to approach a situation if I can get my ego out of the way and engage people with questions and an open mind and without a preconceived notion. That really helps,” Badger said.

“That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have an opinion and at a certain point need to make a judgment and a call, but to really approach it with an open mind, and not thinking that you need to or that you do have all the answers in advance.”

Read more about what Mars has planned for the future:

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